Calling all new teachers! I know from experience that the first couple of years in the classroom can be quite challenging. Here are some tips to help you stay in the game, and become great at one of the most important and rewarding jobs you’ll ever have!

Always Say Hello

Try and say hello to each student at the start of each class. Does it sound overwhelming? Sure! Especially if you’re a high school teacher with hundreds of students. But the benefits far outweigh the costs. It gives you one moment each day to connect with each student, to look him or her in the eye, smile, and say hello. This will not only have a transformative effect on the mood of your class that day, but on your individual relationships with each student as well. Teacher Tom Loud says that kids ask three things of their teachers everyday: “Can I trust you? Do you believe I can succeed? Do you care about me?” Saying hello can be one simple way to answer all three with a resounding YES!

Be a Warm Demander

It’s as Rita Pierson says in her famous TED Talk, “kids don’t learn from teachers they don’t like!” Is it possible to be well liked and be a tough cookie at the same time? The answer is yes! One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was: Don’t be afraid to demand things of your students. The idea of the being a warm demander indicates that though your standards are high, you consistently love and support each and every one of those kids. It means you’ll show kindness and respect for each student as you push them toward becoming their best academic selves.

The Way We Talk to Kids Matters

Whenever you’re speaking to a student, imagine that their parent is standing directly behind them. If it’s something you wouldn’t say in front of their parent, don’t say it to them. Find out how you would communicate your expectations in a way that would be acceptable to a parent standing in the room. This not only protects you, but it also protects our students. They may push our buttons now and again, but at the end of the day, they are still children and comments from adults—positive or negative—have an immense and lasting impact on their self-image and belief in themselves. Remember: words matter!

Find a Mentor

No teacher is an island. Find someone who you respect, who has experience, and learn as much as you can. Have a grumpy parent email you’re unsure how to respond to? Reach out. Have an idea for a lesson and want to share it? Reach out. Need to know how to order supplies for your classroom? The time and location of the staff meeting? Reach out! Not only can these colleagues give you great feedback, but also they can guide you to the tricks of the trade that can save you valuable time and energy.

Prioritize

Districts, administrators, colleagues, even Pinterest can unintentionally make you feel like you have to do it all. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities, stop, breathe, and make a To Do list. Write down all of the things that you need to do, then prioritize each item. Complete just enough tasks to get you through the day (maybe even the next day if you’re feeling ambitious) and then call it. Preserving time for yourself will actually make you more emotionally available and energetic teacher. Do the items that are top priority; then stop, go home, and live your life.