New Teacher? Here’s Help and Inspiration

Is your first classroom brimming over with middle grades students just weeks away? Teachers writing at MiddleWeb have ideas to help you launch your new endeavor. (In a hurry? Check out 22 of MiddleWeb’s Best New Teacher Resources.)

What makes middle graders special?

The developmental needs of tweens and young teens are unique, says popular professional development consultant and former teacher Rick Wormeli, and flourishing as a middle grades teacher requires special skills. In this MiddleWeb post he starts by offering five strategies tailored to young adolescent learners. (Find lots more from Rick – from handling homework to befriending students – here at MiddleWeb.)

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Middle school students, in particular, are a unique breed, says teacher and consultant Jennifer Gonzalez, and they need teachers who are tuned in to the intense dichotomies of adolescent life and learning. She offers teachers new to the middle level helpful tips in 8 Things I Know for Sure about Middle School Kids.

After 20+ years of teaching, Cheryl Mizerny knows middle school is where she’s meant to be. In her MiddleWeb blog, It’s Not Easy Being Tween, Cheryl shares six aspects of young adolescents that make middle-level teaching the toughest job she’s ever loved. (Also see her article “How to Become a Tween-Centered Teacher.”)

In a MiddleWeb interview, Tween Teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron notes that while many teachers avoid the middle grades, others like herself are captivated by the energy and emotion of young adolescents. She suggests strategies for building a classroom community to suit the young adolescent mind and body.

Find more of our favorite MiddleWeb posts highlighting the remarkable qualities of young adolescent students and the ways we adults can best support them as they grow in this collection of our post popular posts for novice teachers.

What’s ahead in the classroom

We asked teaching consultant Annette Breaux to write about three of the most pressing questions new teachers have in the weeks before they open their classroom doors to students for the first time. Here’s her advice on discipline, classroom management, and daily procedures. Annette teams with Todd Whitaker in one of our most popular articles, What an Effective Teacher’s Classroom Looks Like – not physical layout but classroom culture.

Teaching expert Regie Routman has written a delicious article for MiddleWeb readers, blending two of her greatest passions: teaching and cooking. Her Optimal Learning Model will be of special interest to new teachers looking for a solid foundation as they launch their careers.



When teacher Marsha Ratzel writes her Welcome Back to School letters to parents and caretakers this fall, she will include some basics. But she also wants them to know exactly what their children can expect in her classroom: challenge, support and concern.

To get the latest news from MiddleWeb, drop by the website for our weekly additions and subscribe to the MiddleWeb SmartBrief for free, trice weekly emails for grades 4-8 educators.

Content area prescriptions

Several MiddleWeb bloggers share ideas gleaned from their subject area practice. Here are their suggestions for new teachers.

As school begins this year, quite a few educators will face a new and potentially daunting assignment: Teach STEM – Science + Technology + Engineering + Math. In her STEM by Design blog former teacher and curriculum expert Anne Jolly offers help – six essential tips that can help “sudden” STEM educators survive a challenging start and achieve success.

LearnNC-SSprojectsOur three original Future of History bloggers – Jody Passanisi, Shara Peters, and Aaron Brock – got together to brainstorm what they wished they had known during their first year of teaching. They tackle curriculum, classroom setup, teachers toolkit, and more.

Too often co-teaching teams, no matter the content area, simply take turns as they focus on general student needs, rather than blending their strengths to serve all the learners in the room. Co-teaching coach Elizabeth Stein, our Two Teachers in the Room blogger, shares ideas and resources to build strong partnerships.

In a MiddleWeb guest article, Vermont science coordinator Kathy Renfrew shares her vision of how middle grades teachers and coaches can be NGSS Superheroes: leaders in developing science classrooms that are student-driven and focused on teaching scientific subjects in ways that relate to the real world.

Books for newbies, reviewed here

MiddleWeb’s book review collection is a gateway to the knowledge and know-how of expert educators. One to read right now is the review of Julia G. Thompson’s The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide: Ready-to-Use Strategies, Tools & Activities for Meeting the Challenges of Each School Day 3rd ed. Find lots more timely suggestions in the review of another classic, What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know, 3rd ed. by Dave F. Brown and Trudy Knowles. And discover The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day in Bryan Goodwin and Elizabeth Ross Hubbell’s book.

You Can Do This: Hope and Help for New Teachers features Robyn R. Jackson looking back at her experiences as a novice teacher, considering school/life balance, relationships with parents, and more. For a look at using technology to help build relationships, read the review of Standing in the Gap: Empowering New Teachers Through Connected Resources by Lisa Dabbs and Nicol R. Howard.

Beyond MiddleWeb

Speaking of Lisa Dabbs, don’t miss her #ntchat (New Teacher Chat). Find details on the six year old chat at Lisa’s website, Teaching with Soul. By following #ntchat through the school year, you can stay in touch with other novices and reap lots of helpful web links. (Seriously, this is one of the smartest things you can do to help yourself!)

ander tchr stress 7425When your first year of teaching turns really stressful, remember to email Roxanna Elden. The teacher and author of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers recalls her challenges as a first year teacher and has developed a series on free emails to help newbies. Launched last year, the New Teacher Disillusionment Power Pack will appear every few days for a month. Roxanna tackles a necessary if less frequently addressed topic in Is the first-year teacher in your life crying in the car? Here are five things you should know (Hechinger Report, December 2015). Something to share with family and friends.

Larry Ferlazzo, teacher, author, and tireless curator of his Websites of the Day, recently added What Educators Wish They Knew When They Began Teaching to his Education Week Teacher blog, Classroom Q&A. The three-part series featuring comments by education leaders joins earlier posts Advice to New Teachers From Veterans and his classroom management collection. In a June 2016 post, Ferlazzo shares the views of four veteran educators in Classroom Rules – Ways to Create, Introduce & Enforce Them. Content at EdWeek Teacher is free with guest registration.

Discover a treasure trove of video advice about managing those first critical classroom weeks (and beyond) at the Teaching Channel. The free site is packed with videos featuring teachers in action, including a series, The New Teacher Survival Guide, that’s well worth viewing. You can search the website by the guide title or age or subject area. Also at the Teaching Channel is Back-to-School Countdown: How to Build Classroom Culture, a vlog series from Sarah Brown Wessling.

1st-day-smile-squareGet a taste of ASCD’s Educational Leadership journal with What I Wish My Professors Had Told Me by Jennifer Collins. Also in the May issue is Caring for Teachers by Carol Ann Tomlinson. The free, online-only summer issue of EL should be available soon. Among other things, ASCD also offers a twice-monthly email newsletter, ASCD Express. You can check out the ASCD Express “Tips for New Teachers” archive here.

Selecting from their vast collection of freely accessible blog posts, videos, and much more, Edutopia offers its Resources Toolkit for New Teachers.

Tune in to BAM! Radio to catch helpful discussions from educators, for educators.  Conversations include New Teachers: Three Things They Didn’t Teach You in Education SchoolWhat Savvy Teachers Know About Managing Disruptive Student Behavior, and Rethinking  Boundaries Between Teachers and Students: Tough Teacher, Trusted Friend  Or…

Do you have favorite free or low-cost new teacher resources? Please share them in a comment, below.

Susan Curtis

Susan Curtis is co-editor of In a long career, she has taught middle grades students, worked in human services, edited a variety of publications and wrangled the reference desk in libraries.

8 Responses

  1. MiddleWeb says:

    Interesting Teaching Secrets article at Education Week – in-depth discussion of classroom seating arrangements.

    Arranging Optimal Classroom Seating

  2. ngubane jp says:

    I need mathematics papers

  1. 07/30/2012

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    […]  In fact, over the years, they’ve developed an incredible collection that they call New Teacher 911 designed to point rookies to resources that they can use to tackle all of the common challenges […]

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