Advice to the first-year me

by 8:00 PM 3 comments
This is my first post in a series of posts for the "#CBCSD Blogging Challenge" in our district. 

The Challenge: During the month of November, teachers, administrators, counselors, superintendents, curriculum directors, janitors, activities directors, coaches... everyone, is invited to participate in a blogging challenge. We want to create a culture in Council Bluffs that emphasizes and honors being reflective and sharing. And, we want to use the tools at our disposal to model for our students and our community what a modern reflective professional, thinker, and life-long learner looks like.

I am in my 6th full year of teaching at Thomas Jefferson in Council Bluffs, IA. I student-taught in the fall of 2008 at Underwood High School, then subbed for about a semester (a majority of that time as a long-term at TJ). It was a busy year. But boy, I had no idea what was coming for my first year as a teacher on my own. 

This was me (far right, polo) on my last day of student teaching an Eng 9 class at Underwood HS. Photo by my co-op teacher Shelley Brown.
But, as the saying goes (I'm paraphrasing because I don't actually remember the wording): Teaching is the one profession that gets easier as you go. The first few years are the hardest, and then you find your stride. That is, unless everything changes after those first few years. So, to make things easier for my first-year teaching self, here are 10 pieces of advice:

1. Hang on. No really. It will go really, really fast. Try to get as much information as you can. But don't fret on things you may have missed.

2. Plan, then over plan. It helps to know where you're going.

3. Work with other teachers. Even out-of-content teachers. I was really lucky to have a wonderful co-op teacher help me getting started with what teaching was like. Then I was able to be paired with the perfect teacher at TJ on 9th grade team (it's you Haney!) and she showed me the ropes of content and organization. Then, throughout the years, other teachers have shown me how to manage my classroom even more efficiently than I did.

4. Get to know every administrative assistant and custodian as soon as possible. The nurse is also good to know. But these people keep the building alive. They have a tough job, so get to know them. They will help you and you will help them.

5. Reflect. It doesn't matter how you reflect. You could do a blog, Tweet nightly, *gasp* write in a journal. Reflect on how your day went right, and wrong, and what you can do to be better. This will also help you do #2 better.

6. Work with parents. I wish I did more of this in the beginning. It would be easier for me now. Not that I don't work well with parents, but I don't have my time managed accordingly for parental contact.

7. Keep a calendar. I started doing this way too late. I now have my Google calendar synced with my iPhone. I (try to) keep school work separate from personal stuff (like putting a dentist appointment in my school calendar), but sometimes they overlap. It's worth the time investment to learn the calendar.

8. Put in the work. Every job I've ever had, from dish washer to radio DJ, I've started from the bottom of the totem pole. It's worth it to do all of the work, because it will create a more well-rounded person.

9. Don't be afraid. Of students. Of administrators. Of Parents. They're all just people. If you act professionally, responsibly, and respectfully you will be heard and treated fairly. And don't be afraid of learning! Continually change. Be fluid. Don't become static, and don't settle.

Twin Day for Homecoming Week 2014. 
10. Enjoy it. Teaching really is a wonderful job. Don't get caught up in all of the paperwork or politics. You're there to help students realize their potential. It's a great and wonderful profession.

Oh, and as a bonus. You get to be goofy, sometimes, too.

Rob Lindquist


I do a lot of things. The best thing I do is fathering (I think). I'm the ol' "Jack of all trades, Master of none." I teach aspiring journalists. I run. I play guitar(s). I also host a running podcast. Oh, and I dabble in drawing. And I dabble in authoring... children's books no less. I just dabble. Sometimes I ramble.


  1. Rob,
    I love your advice here! I enjoyed reading it because even in my 4th year of teaching (I know... I'm getting up there in age) I benefit from these reminders! I really like your "Plan.. then over plan..." There is so much truth in that... having a plan is never overrated, even if you deviate from it! Great first post for the challenge!

  2. Love it! As a mentor to the newer teachers in CBCSD, I could suggest many of these things in your list, but I think that it means so much more coming from you. Thanks for taking the time to write this post. Although your intention may not have been to share it with new teachers, I think it is very appropriate to do so as the high demands of the work that we do are starting to really set in!

    1. Absolutely! I wish I had realized these a little sooner as well!