A few years ago, I made this video for my cohort:

As my cohort began their first year or two of teaching, I’ve asked them the question, “What do you wish you had learned that I didn’t teach you?” The responses have been great. It’s why I now cover things like technology policy or how to build partnerships with parents. But I also ask them, “What advice did you get when you started teaching that turned out to be wrong?” In many cases, they have described the same kind of tried and true advice that I tried but found to be untrue . . . at least for me.

So, with that in mind, I would like to share some of the worst advice I was given as a new teacher.

#1: Stay Away From the Staff Lounge

When I was in college, they warned us to stay away from the staff lounge because of the “lounge lizards” who do nothing but complain. While it’s true that some schools I worked in had a toxic culture and certain teachers would vent about students, most of the time we talked about movies, t.v. shows, and sports. We discussed books. We geeked out teaching. I learned that the staff lounge could be a place to be known. In a few cases, I could even be vulnerable. Although I promised myself to never complain about students, I would admit my mistakes and say, “I yelled at my class today,” and there were amazing, supportive teachers who would listen and offer support.

#2: Don’t Smile Until Christmas

Actually . . . smile from day one. Laugh. Play. Humor can be one of the best preventative classroom management strategies. We used to have inside jokes and I would sketch out ridiculous “dad jokes” on the whiteboard, like these two bad jokes from breakfast time:

You’d think this would be a distraction, right? Actually, humor led to deeper thinking and more engagement. It prevented classroom management issues before they happened.

The following  is  a video I created on this topic:

#3: Do “Whatever It Takes” to Reach Every Student

This advice sounds great. However, teachers can easily slip into Superman Syndrome, where we feel the need to do everything for everyone. Students need well-rested teachers who have a vibrant life outside of the classroom. While you might give up an occasional lunch period to help tutor a child, you also need to recharge. You don’t have to grade every paper and volunteer for every committee. You can be an amazing teacher and still have boundaries.

#4: Don’t Do Any Epic Projects Until Your Classroom Management is Great

One of the best pieces of advice came from my mentor teacher. We’ll call her Nancy, since that was her name. She gave me a “New Teacher Card” that worked as an invitation to innovate.

Still, I was worried to pilot project-based learning, student blogging, or design thinking because I was scared that the classroom management would get crazy. I was wrong. I soon learned that student-centered,  authentic learning could work if I thought strategically ahead of time about classroom management. In fact, PBL often meant students were more engaged and less likely to cause disruptions because they were intrinsically into the learning.

#5: Don’t Apologize.

I worked with this tough drill sergeant type of teacher who said, “Never, ever, ever apologize to your students. It makes you look weak.” He told me that students wouldn’t respect my authority if I apologized. Another teacher said, “You’re the adult. You have nothing to apologize for.” However,  I quickly learned that apologies are necessary.  You will lose your cool with students. You will accidentally shame them.  You will explain things poorly. But when you apologize,  you set the tone for a positive classroom climate. You’re not being weak. You’re showing strength through humility and you’re restoring the relationship with your students.

Your Thoughts?

I’d love for you to share the worst advice you received as a new teacher as well. Chime in on the comments below.

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