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New Teacher Survival Kit

We’ve all been there. The beginning of the first year of teaching can be daunting, to say the least. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. First year horror stories abound. The number of teachers who quit after the first year or two of teaching matches or exceeds the number of teachers who stick with the profession.

My theory is that teachers leave the biz for lack of knowledge. College only can do so much in preparation. We hear of how much better student teaching was back in the day than it is now, and how poorly prepared prospective educators are these days. There may be validity in that, but lamenting these things doesn’t solve problems. We need solutions. Here is my attempt to offer some solutions. We’ll call it the New Teacher Survival Kit.

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Periodically throughout the school year, I intend to offer some articles about how to be a successful first year teacher. These articles can apply to first year teachers as well as those who seem to be teaching their twentieth first year. Hopefully there will be a beneficial nugget here and there for everyone.

To begin with, I want to look back at some of the articles I have written that I wish I would have known about when I was starting out. Even if you don’t read them all at one time, I recommend bookmarking this page and returning as time permits. Even read the ones that don’t seem interesting. Especially read the ones that don’t seem interesting. The things that seem least interesting often appear so because of our own personal weaknesses…

Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting.

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He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

20 thoughts on “New Teacher Survival Kit

  1. Joel, I love this idea. I scream the virtues of blogging to all of my teacher friends who are new to the profession. I explain that its a network where you can collaborate. You can get help, answers or even a quick laugh. Let me tell you where the problem lies for new teachers, if you are even remotely TRYING to do your job right. Its very difficult to find time to get on here read what others are saying. Ex: In the last few weeks I’ve increased my time at school prepping my classroom, running errands, getting my syllabus together and lesson planning. This means I’ve not had enough time to keep up with the blogs I love so dearly. I have over a 100 articles to read when I finally get the time.

    I’ll say it again and again, this is an excellent idea, but new teachers are struggling through it all. I hope they find time to visit your site and grow from your words of wisdom.

  2. It’s a matter of know exactly what to look for. This is why I have set up the First Year Fridays category (including this post with lots of links to articles) so new teachers can come in, find the important information, and get back to work.

    As I’ve written before, being efficient or getting a lot done is not NEARLY as important as being effective. Too often we work too hard, only to find we are working on useless things…

  3. I read your blog regularly and thought you might be interested in a program I work with called Teach Kentucky – – it recruits ivy league college grads or simply those that ace their praxis exams and give them alternative certification, masters degrees and teaching jobs at full salaries – focus is on special/exceptional ed., science and math. They teach about 1/4 the students here in Louisville.

    These teacher wrote a field guide to the first years teaching field guide:

    that has some very resourceful information in it.

  4. One aspect of teaching that I was totally unprepared for my first year was supervising other adults. I was ready (or at least as ready as I could possibly be) for the student, but I didn’t really know what to do with my paraeducators in the classroom.

  5. This is really good information. My sister just got done student teaching and I know it was a very stressful time for her. I will send this along her way.

  6. Our school board has a teacher induction program called POINT (professional orientation something new teachers??). New teachers meet periodically throughout their first year for PD and conversation. They are also provided with a mentor at their school. I’m going to pass this list on to the coordinators. I think they will find it useful.

  7. @Tracy Rosen – Thanks! I would love it if you use some of these articles. I will update this list to include links to some of my more recent articles. Thanks for reminding me!

  8. Hi all,

    This is a really great site! Thanks so much for contributing your ideas about starting out as a new teacher.

    I also run a website full of great ideas, resources, strategies and coping mechanisms (!!) for newly qualified teachers, so check it out too at

    All the best,
    Nadia :)

  9. Joel, This is something that I definitely think I will be able to use in the future. I appreciate you taking the time to come up with this. I look forward to being able to implement everything that I have read. As I grow in my knowledge of teaching, this is something that I look forward to using as a reference. I hope that when I am a teacher someday, I will be able to explore the entire page and see how i can improve as an educator, thanks again.

  10. Nadia and Jeff: I’m glad you’ve found the site. I aim to help you out as much as possible. Let me know if there are any specific questions you may have that I can guide you through somehow. :)

  11. Great post. We posted our own teacher survival kit, although we approached the topic in a completely different manner — more focused on changing mindsets and attitudes than providing hard-hitting tips on teacher survival.

  12. I have looked through all of the links for the website and I definitely think it will be helpful to me in my first year of teaching. Have any of you actually tried any of these specific ideas? How did they turn out?

  13. Joel, I really enjoy your blog. You have written some amazing articles that I have printed and put in my first year file. I am currently student teaching right now. I appreciate your honesty about how scary and hard it can be sometimes, but also the greatness in the experience. I am having the time of my life, and I hope the enthusiasm I have stays with me. Your blog is helping, so thank you! If you could give one single piece of advice to a beginning teacher, what would it be? Just curious!

  14. Joel, thanks for taking time to put together this survival kit for new teachers. I’m still in college preparing to be a teacher, and I feel like there is so much I need to know that really can’t be taught in a college classroom. I appreciate when teachers take time to give advice to us future teachers so we can have some idea what to expect when we enter our classrooms for the very first time.

  15. WOW! I love this blog! I stumpled across this site while looking for a blog to join for a Computers in Education class. I have been really frustrated that nothing has been interesting enough for me to want to read further than the first page I open. This is such a good place for me… a stay-at-home mother working towards her teacher lisensure. I just started my first few practicums. Being in the classroom and seeing the ‘craziness’ of a 2nd grade classrooms day is rather scary! I can tell that being organized is a top priority and a few of your post, right off the bat, tell me this is a site I HAVE to read more of!

  16. I, Seth, am a college student at Malone University and am learning how to be a future middle school teacher that will be licensed to teach social studies and language arts. i am very appreciative of your hints and suggestions to becoming a teacher. I am unsure on some of the things i will be facing, but your entry has helped me know what i will face in the future as a teacher. Thank you for your work in preparing me to be teacher. please post a comment on my blog,

  17. Thank all of you for the comments. I’m glad that you find So You Want To Teach? helpful. That has been my goal since starting out.

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