Professional Practice

12 Important Things I Wish I Knew My First Year of Teaching

As this school year winds down, I began reflecting back to my first year of teaching. I asked myself:

–       What sorts of things dominated my thoughts, actions, and teaching?

–       What is the same?

–       How have I grown?

–       What would I change?

I decided to compile a list of advice.

Here are 12 important things I wish I could tell my first-year self.

12 Important Things

1. It’s going to be a wild ride, so buckle up.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll become better because of it.

2. You don’t know everything.

Don’t be hard on yourself because of it.

3. Seek out advice, and build positive relationships and rapport with your colleagues.

Don’t isolate yourself. There are personal and professional opportunities when connecting and bonding with your colleagues.

4. Say “yes,” but also be prepared to say “no.”

Stick up for your time and talent, but don’t always be a naysayer. There may be unforeseen opportunities in your “yes’s.”

5. Talk to someone who cares…

or at least knows what the education world is like. Every aspect of education can be hard and complicated at times. Not everyone knows or realizes this fact. Talk and problem-solve with someone to work towards relevant solutions.

6. Take it one day at a time if you need to.

Yes, long-term planning is great and all, but it’s overwhelming. Do what you can control and what needs to be done immediately.
first year teaching

7. Balance your life.

I’m honestly still working on this piece of advice. Set limits and stick to them as best you can.

8. Remember your purpose and your passion.

Always go back to your passion. Ask yourself if you are fulfilling your goals. If not, you may need to re-prioritize.

9. Do what you do best.

Capitalize on yourself and your talents. Your strengths, no matter how singular, can inform every part of your teaching day. If you’re efficient and organized it doesn’t just translate to your physical space. It also informs your teaching environment, interactions with colleagues and students, and curriculum. Your strengths will help you tackle your weaknesses.

10. If you make a mistake, admit it. Grow from it, and move on.

There’s no sense in dwelling.

11. Fail forward.

Take chances and challenge yourself. Like mistakes, you can only grow from them!

12. Have fun.

Seriously. Give yourself a break and have a little fun.
While these tips are great for first-year teachers, I find them to be great reminders for myself now as well! If you want even more advice, in addition to the guidance above, be sure to check out these great articles:


What do you wish you knew your first year of teaching? How have you changed? 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received about teaching?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek

Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek, an elementary school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She is passionate about teaching and reaching students through an innovative and meaningful arts education.

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