New Teacher Toolkit / Aug 01, 2023

First Year Teacher Survival Guide

New Teacher Survival Guide

Paperwork is done, and you are the proud owner of your very own classroom… but now what? There’s so much to do! Decorating, seating charts, lesson plans—and that’s only the beginning. Before your head starts spinning, take a few minutes to let us (with the help of some veteran teachers) get you ready for your first year of teaching in this First Year Teacher Survival Guide.

First Things First: Take a Breath, Get Some Coffee, and Think

Feeling Overwhelmed? Start Here.

We’ve all been there, but it’s not as bad as you think. Yes, there are many things to do and plan, but you can do this. You just need to break it down into tasks. Take it one step at a time and you’ll be ready for that first day before you know it.

Okay, so what should you do first?

  • Meet your co-workers. They are your greatest resource!
  • Set up your classroom.
  • Figure out the curriculum. Your district or school might already have a rough plan for you so make sure you ask.
  • Make friends with the copy machine. You’ll thank us later🤣
  • Get your supplies ready for day 1

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you need help. We teachers love to help one another. We promise there are people in your building that will help you!

You’ve Got This.

The first several days will feel like you are drinking through a fire hose, but don’t let that get to you. Take notes in training and meetings and don’t feel like you are failing if you reach the end of the day and have no clue what you just spent 8 hours doing. That’s what the notes are for.

In general, remember… you’ve been through the classes and the training and are ready to lead a classroom. It’s okay to feel those jitters, but you can do this. Will questions come up along the way? Absolutely. The teacher next door is going to be your best friend this year, so get to know them.

Decide What You Want Your Classroom to Look Like.

Before you bust out your Cricut or head to the Target dollar spot, we need to get some things settled… starting with the type of classroom you want to have. The first question to ask yourself is what a day of learning in your classroom should look like.

Are your students sitting in groups, with partners, or by themselves? Are they up and moving around the room?

These questions will help you determine what kind of furniture you might want and how to lay those tables out. It also helps you figure out what types of procedures you might need.

Get inspiration on classroom decor and set-up here. 

Classroom Layout

Now that you know what type of learning environment you want, we can move on.

How to Earn Your Students’ Respect From Day 1

1. Build a Collaborative Classroom Culture

What you do on the first day of school can help set you up for success all year. Students don’t want to learn the rules of a classroom on day one. They don’t want to sit through multiple lectures about where things are in the room.

They want to talk to their friends and get to know you. The first few days are a perfect time for getting to know your students and letting them get to know each other. These few days help you to build lasting relationships with your students and also help you know how to teach them. So what can you learn from your relationship-building days?

  • What your students are interested in
  • What they are good at
  • Who they should and shouldn’t work with
  • Who your natural leaders are

2. Get Students Talking With Icebreakers

Icebreakers are a great way to get your students talking to each other and you on the first day of school. Choosing a few simple ones will ensure that no one gets bored with a long and drawn-out activity, and that everyone can participate, no matter what their learning level is. You can find so many ideas for icebreakers on Pinterest or even Google. But before you go searching, here are a few tips to help.

  • Keep it simple—the less steps involved, the better.
  • Be cautious with food! Day one is not a good day for food activities in case you have kids with food allergies. If you really want to do an activity with food (they REALLY are fun), check with kids and parents BEFORE planning that activity to be safe.
  • Vary your activities with different classes—this helps you pick the best ones to use for future classes

Here are some great icebreaker ideas to get you started.

3. Create Reasonable Expectations

The key to creating expectations for your classroom is to keep it simple, and let your students help. Having them involved in the process will help them buy into the expectations of your classroom community. If you teach multiple classes, be sure to have a set of expectations for each group.

It’s okay if they are different! Discuss a few things with your class when you create your expectations. Talk about what they want the class culture to look like and what they don’t want it to look like. Then think about your own non-negotiables. All of those things should go together into your classroom expectations.

Teacher Survival Guide (1)

You did it! You took the first steps towards starting the new school year. You have made it this far, and we have much more to come to help you.

Need more resources to help? Here you go!


Here are some amazing books you can incorporate

Our Class is a Family 

Beginning of the year: A Letter From Your Teacher: On the First Day of School 

End of the year: A Letter From Your Teacher: On the Last Day of School

Setting Up Your School Support System

You’ve read the books, taken the classes, and probably overprepared for the first day of school. Does that mean you are going to have all the answers? Of course not! Whether you are teaching your first day or your 10th year, you will undoubtedly have a question or two you need help you answer.

But don’t worry! We’ve got the tips you need to set up your school support system.

1. Find Your People

To begin, your school is full of other teachers and staff that are more than willing to help when you need it. You just need to meet them. It’s not as scary as it might sound if you start small:

  • When you are working on setting up your new room, pop into the room next door and say hi to your new neighbor. They are going to be a great resource for you (and you for them) so get to know them.
  • Talk to other staff members during the beginning of the year school trainings. You’ll probably find others at your table that are new too. Those teachers can also be a resource as you are going through this together.
  • Introduce yourself to the other grade level or subject area teachers. You’ll probably meet with them before the year starts.
  • Make sure you say hi to your school secretary. They know EVERYTHING and I can not stress this enough.
  • Your school librarian or media specialist is another person you should definitely meet.
  • Tech teachers are another fantastic resource, especially if technology is not your forte.

Whew, that’s a LOT of people! Don’t feel overwhelmed though as you don’t have to meet them all in a day or even a week. Get to know others as you can because that human connection is essential as a teacher.

2. Ask Questions!

Next, so many of us are afraid to ask the dumb question, but as we tell our students, there are no dumb questions. Ask questions and ask a lot of them. It’s okay to look up answers, but don’t sink too much time searching for one answer. Someone in your building can help you.

3. Know Your Resources- First Year Teacher Survival Guide Tips

Later, sources like Google and Pinterest can be great for finding things in a pinch, but there are a lot of websites out there claiming to be great teacher resources. And, sometimes they aren’t.

Vet your resources and know what to look for. You can also ask teachers in your content areas where they go to get ideas and resources. We also have a list below to get you started!

Useful Websites


Training Resources

Avoiding Burnout During Your First Year

To continue, try to step back at times and keep it all in perspective. What you’re feeling is normal!

There is so much to do during your first year of teaching, and it can get pretty overwhelming if you let it. Nine-hour work days turn into twelve and before you know it you spend more time at work than you do at home. Take it from an experienced teacher: You are never going to get everything done… and that’s okay! This job is all about knowing how to prioritize.

Undoubtedly, reach out to those teacher friends and colleagues throughout the school year to pick up their tips for working more efficiently, and setting up tasks in a way that allows for quicker/easier grading.

1. Make a List of To-Dos by Priority

There are many ways to do this, but color coding or multi-column lists seem to be the favorites among educators. You’re going to be adding to this list constantly so consider making it electronic if that works for you. If not, get that pen and paper and get to listing.

💡 Pro-Tip: Google Tasks is a great way to track tasks right from your email and you can make multiple lists in one place. Prefer actually writing? Try using our priority list template!

Task Priority List

2. Set a Hard Time to Stop

This step is crucial to your success. It’s so easy to say 5 more minutes when you are in the middle of a project, but next thing you know, two hours have passed! Don’t let this be you. Set your stop time before you start working.

Then, when that alarm goes off?

Mark where you left off and schedule the time you will come back to it later.

3. Try Not to Take Work Home

We know how hard this is, and honestly, sometimes it’s impossible. You will inevitably take work home at times, but try not to make a habit of it. Generally, you need time to relax and recharge, and working all day and night is not the way to do that.

4. Accept Your Never Ending To-do List

Finally, one of the hardest things, in the beginning, is to accept that you’re leaving things undone and going home, but you have to accept this reality. This to-do list will very rarely be 100% complete and those are the unicorn moments. Above all, make peace with an ongoing list and save your sanity! 

This is just the start of beating the burnout, but we’ve got more resources to help. Check them out the added resources from this first-year teacher survival guide below for added support.

Self Care Apps

Useful Websites


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