The 3 Biggest Mistakes I Made as a New Teacher


As I begin my ninth year as an educator in a new role as instructional coach, I am able to reflect over the successes that I have had due to the many failures I encountered.

Unfortunately, I have also had so many errors.  I can now admit I am grateful for what these mistakes have taught me because I know I would NOT be the educator I am today without learning from these three Big mistakes.

My Way or The Highway Mentality3

As a new teacher, I believed that being the ‘tough’ teacher meant the classroom was all mine.  This brought out the worst in many of my students; defiance and a dislike for English language arts.  I had chairs thrown at me, students hide under their tables, and very upset parents.  I didn’t know that what I was doing was causing these behaviors.  I didn’t know that I had to earn the respect of my students or the buy-in from my students. I didn’t know that to have a class of students that would do just about anything for me, I needed to FIRST, and foremost, share the classroom with them.

Lesson Learned- So now…

I had to first learn that it was not the students that were causing this, it was me.   I now build my class as if we were a family.  Choices, Voice, and mutual respect are high on my To Do list at the beginning of every school year. The classroom Mission is written with my students, in my students’ language and vocabulary.  Classroom Norms are written by my students.  The Two Sisters who wrote The Daily Five taught me the importance of student choice.  Eric Jensen taught me how to create a positive class climate with ‘we are a family’ mindset.

These students are now my family.  I know I am not the only teacher out there that claims her/his students has ‘their kids’ because they are.  Every year, teachers, including myself, put our hearts and souls into making sure OUR KIDS become the best that they can become. My first group of students are now Seniors in High School, and I enjoy watching their successes in sports and honor roll on Facebook.  It makes me proud to know that I was allowed to be apart of their world, even before I knew what I was doing.

Teaching my Butt off EVERY DAY!!!!

This was a mistake I did not learn until my fifth year as a teacher. I would take work home, grade papers on the weekends, and stay at school preparing lesson ideas until eleven at night.  I was working harder than the students. I wanted it more than my students, and I know that at the end of the day, I was exhausted!

Lesson Learned- Now

In my fifth year of teaching I had to find a balance between work and home. I had just had my first son, and my time at school had to be productive and focused. I had this amazing Instructional Coach that gave me permission to not work as hard.  That didn’t mean I had to stop innovating new lessons, fun experiences in the class. What that meant was, I had to find a way to get my students to work harder than me.

  • reflective over data
  • student-centered learning opportunities
  • Focused on research based pedagogy

I started to become more reflective as a teacher.  My guided lessons in whole group became more intentional with research based pedagogy.  Marzano, Rich Allen and Marcia Tate allowed me to focus on engagement and instructional strategies.  These strategies moved my data and my students toward higher achieving levels.  After reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, I learned that I needed to give students time in class to work independently to discover and problem solve.  Giving students time to read, try new strategies and work through comprehension breakdowns became the center of our classroom learning.  My Close Reading protocols allowed my students to read, problem solve and reflect to become stronger, successful, more independent readers. These are research based answers to student success.

My classroom stopped being Teacher centered and became a Learner -Centered classroom.  The students started working harder, and I started going home to play with my own children.  I was happier and the balance in my life allowed my classroom to be more purposeful, fun, and an exciting place to be.

Not Seeking Help/Advice 4

At first, I thought I was supposed to be a Lone Ranger.  Why?  I have no idea.  I didn’t take advice from veteran teachers, I didn’t even seek advice from colleagues.  I guess I thought I needed to fail by myself instead of succeed with others.  What was I thinking?

Lesson Learned

After failing miserably for about two years, I started to seek help.  I began my partnership with mentors through the Barnes N Noble teacher aisle, and then found myself asking for help, clarification and feedback from my instructional coach.  Just sitting across from her and bouncing ideas back and forth made me feel not so alone, not so dumb, and not so crazy.  I found family in my peers.  I found strength in my colleagues.  I found knowledge in administration.  2

If you are a new teacher or a thirty year veteran, teaching pedagogy and our students are ever changing. Without reflection and the ability to admit your mistakes we will never acquire the  knowledge that will allow our students to become the successful people we want them to be.



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