Wise Words

Want to share your own words of wisdom? Click here.

“The true measure of a great teacher does not come from test scores; it comes from the relationships you build. Sharing the love of learning is far more important than being able to identify and name an appositive phrase!”

-Kibbie Jensen, Middle Section

“Learn to say ‘no’ even when it scares you, even to those people who are in positions of power. If the decisions being made are not right for the students, they are not the right decisions. We must remain strong advocates for our students, and in this role, we must also be prepared to feel the most heat.”

-Nicole Warchol, Lead Ambassador – Middle

“Read your students’ writing as you would read published literature. Read it expecting meaning, structure, and voice. Do this before you read looking for deficits. You’ll be amazed at what good writers they are, and prepared to show them what they’re doing well first.”

-Nadine Feiler

“Keep a photo of your class, of your students close by when you’re planning. It helps you stay close to your WHY and grounded with your ideas and their true possibilities.”

-Stella Villalba, Lead Ambassador – Elementary

“Not only is it important to admit when you don’t know an answer, but it’s also important to follow up by looking for the answers. Have students see you research or ask them to do it. We do these tasks regularly, but so many students don’t realize that and think of it as schoolwork to avoid. This will help build relationships with your students, too.”

-Marianne Deitche

“Be open and honest. Do not be afraid to take chances. Sometimes the students are just as afraid as their new teacher.”

-Rafael Castillo

“I tell new teachers that they will struggle. They will feel as if they have failed on numerous occasions. And when they do it means they care, which means they’re invested in their students’ learning. That investment is worth the struggle.”

-Terri Pantuso, College Section

“Being an educator has taught me to be reflective and teachable. I realized that I could model myself after great teachers and grow.”

-Johnny Allred

“If you want better classroom management, start by loving your students. When your kids know you genuinely care for them, they will work hard for you. Do not fake this love. They will know. How do you love your kids? Get to know them, ask them questions, discover the human being they are when they are not your English student. Appreciate them as a human being. Not a human doing. Do this, and they will soar and exceed your expectations of them.”

-Mallory Heath, Secondary Section

“Teaching is a passion for sharing knowledge with tools for learning and the advancement of technology. Teaching has become a profession of necessity, and the need continually rises. While international trade has widened to a global scale, English teachers become one of the most in-demand professions in the world.”

-Lou

“How quickly students can recover. They are ready to move on after an apology in the blink of an eye. As the professional, I have learned how to recover quickly as well. One must not take anything personally!”

-Alison Reed

“Be yourself. Show empathy for your students and get to know them. It’s about more than what is in the book. It’s about what is inside you, your students, and helping them become capable of facing the real world.”

-Denise Duguay

“Look to Don Killgallon, (some) chapters of ‘Teacher Like a Champion,’ and ‘The Writing Revolution’ to help structure student thought — not just grammar. Urban educators often lament the perceived deficits of adolescent writing, settling for a narrative product or an oral presentation over the taxing pedagogical work required to develop elegant analytic sentences. The work is worth it, but so few still do it. Commit yourself to making these skills, to making syntax and style a priority.”

-Everett Epstein, Secondary Section

“The best piece of advice I can give is to slow down and breathe. Everything is going to feel terribly rushed all the time. It is completely acceptable to step back and bring things to a complete stop when you need to. You will get there, and everything will be fine.”

-Kirsten Foti, Middle Section

“For new teachers, the best piece of advice I have is to never be afraid to admit that you don’t know all of the answers. It’s okay to allow your students to see you struggle with some of your content or to not have all of the answers to their questions. In the joint process of finding those answers, you model life-long learning as a positive thing.”

-Terri Pantuso, College Section

“Treat your students the way that you wanted to be–and, hopefully often were–treated as a student at that same age.”

-Bill Younglove, Secondary Section

“Our work is the most important work there is. It is joyful, fun, challenging, hard, energizing, tiring, and worth every bit of energy you give to it. You never know the impact you have on a child, but you always have one. Find joy in the work every day and learn from your students.”

-Franki Sibberson, Elementary Section

“As a preservice teacher myself, I would give a new teacher the same advice I give my colleagues who are moving into student teaching with me next semester: be confident! We are all in this profession for a reason, and having faith in yourself will help you to embody your best teacher personality. Let yourself shine!”

-Monica Soulsby, Student Member

“As a new teacher, it is important to prioritize and collaborate with colleagues. Having a seasoned mentor and support system to bolster your educational journey will lead you to success.”

-Kate Baker, Secondary Section

“Remember to model behaviors that you want your students to exhibit: be a reader, writer, and lifelong learner! You have to walk the walk . . . not just talk the talk.”

-Karen DiBella

“I felt like my ideas, and my goals made me an outcast in my school where most people seem content to uphold the status quo. When I go online and read about the experiences and experiments of other teachers, it encourages me to continue to innovate in my classroom and create a better experience for my students. Support is out there; you just have to look for it.”

-Jessica Gadaleta

“Love your work. Believe in your passion. If it ever just becomes just a job, do everyone a favor and get out of the profession.”

-Jodie Scales, Secondary Section

“Too often, I see teachers and other adults shake their heads at the ignorance of their students, asking how a student could not know this or that. Once upon a time, I was a part of that group; I was genuinely shocked at some of the ignorance I encountered. Today, I remember my youthful ignorance. While I am hardly a veteran teacher, having only five years under my belt, this lesson has continued to stick with me. It has taught me patience and forced me to develop a keen eye toward student awareness.”

– Sherri Williams, Secondary Section

“Teach what you love, love who you teach.”

-Mandy Stewart

“In all too many cases, you are the only real parent/guardian the child in your classroom has on an ongoing basis. Act like one at all times.”

– Bill Younglove, Secondary Section

“Ask for help. Visit other classrooms to get ideas.”

-Nicolet Diaz, Middle Section

“Never underestimate the element of surprise. Focus your teaching on adventure and discovery–on the sparks that fly when people and language meet. Let language and literature surprise you. Let them surprise your students. Let your students surprise themselves. Most of all, be open to learning from your students. They will absolutely surprise–and teach–you. In all this, you’re sure to surprise yourself, too.”

-Corinne Viglietta, Secondary Section

“Take risks! Beg forgiveness. Don’t ask permission (I’m not the first to say this, but I love repeating it). Don’t be afraid to veer off of the curriculum map. That’s where all the fun happens — on the bumpy roads.”

-Terri Pantuso, College Section

“As teachers, we need to be comfortable handing the reins to the students. We need not be — and are not — the keepers of all the knowledge. Each student brings important knowledge with them to school. When we become real human beings, respect begins to flow in the classroom.”

-Suzanne Rogers, Secondary Section

“Never forget that your words can sting, humiliate, punish, diminish, or they can lift, support, praise, and motivate. Our ultimate goal is to get our students to learn, so be careful how you speak to children.”

-Richard Fanning

“Never give up on a student. Allow all of your students to experience success. Once they experience success, they will work hard to reach whatever goals are set. Also, get to know your students’ interests and hobbies. When they feel you genuinely care about them, they will strive to learn.”

-Pamela Miles

“Open your mind to the possibilities. . . but, by all means, be not a seeker, but a finder.”

-Cary Harrod

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many new teachers see asking for help as a sign of weakness or are afraid of being perceived as not doing a good job. Teaching is hard and we all need help from time to time. I’ve been teaching for 23 years, and I still seek out advice from others who are skilled in areas where I feel less than confident.”

-Mindi Rench, Elementary Section

“There is a lot of noise going on in the world, for good and for bad; don’t be afraid to give students a chance to be silent with themselves and their literacies.”

-Keith Newvine, Member

“I urge you to be advocates for public education. I have spent my career as an advocate of public education in urban poor regions of our country. And I am more convinced now than ever that good public schools are the foundation of our democracy. They are the best pathway to productive adult citizenship. Push back against the negative perceptions that pervade the public. You are fighting for democracy when you do.”

-Ted Kesler, Elementary Section

“Find an older teacher with a positive attitude and become his/her little brother or sister. These people have a lot to offer that you won’t find on an app.”

-Iris Csimbok

“1) Listen to your students; they have important things to say. 2) Find a master teacher in your building; you will need help. 3) Have fun; teaching and learning should be filled with joy.”

-Joe Seitz, Secondary Section

“Be resilient. You have an important role to play, so don’t let the small stuff dilute your purpose. Someone is waiting for you to be the inspiration he/she needs to discover the joy and wonder of what you are teaching.”

-Xia Zuckert

“Find an older teacher who can mentor you at your school. Keep a work/life balance. You’ll be a better teacher for it.”

-Shannon Powers

“If you do not get a hold of classroom management from the start, you are bound to fail. It’s why so many new teachers decide to leave the field. Read The First Days of School  by Harry and Rosemary Wong. It will really help you to become an effective teacher.”

-Kayla Roush, Secondary Section

“The most important thing I could say to a new teacher is to remember who you’re doing this for: the students. Find other teachers on campus with your passion; avoid those who respond to your ideas with the cynicism of “we’ve always done it this way” or “my students just won’t do that.” Bring your enthusiasm and energy to your students; empower them to be their best selves, to try new things, and to believe they are strong enough to succeed. You will find the passion and courage it takes to push through those things you have no control over. I promise it will be worth every moment you spend making a positive difference in the lives of your students.”

-Julia Peacock, Secondary Section

“Find a teacher whose style seems to work – one who the students respect and engage with – and emulate them. Seek out mentors and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. People who like to teach like to talk about teaching – engage them!”

-Elizabeth Shults, Secondary Section

“Being an educator taught me advocacy. As a Secondary English Education major, I first learned tolerance. My program built on that tolerance, teaching me not only to advocate for change, but how to teach my students to advocate for the things they believe in. Being an educator has forced me to examine my beliefs closely and then take action to translate these beliefs into tangible change in both my classroom and the world.”

-Sydney Palmer

“Be yourself. Be genuine. Kids can spot a show from a mile away and when they do, they will lose respect for you. Kids will have a lot more respect for you if you are genuine and honest. I admit my mistakes. I share my educational struggles. In many ways I had a very privileged upbringing so I do not try to pretend that I know what my students experience growing up in adverse situations. They appreciate that.”

-Rachel McMinn, Secondary Section

“No matter how new to the profession you are, you will never know the impact that a constant reminder of love will have on a child. I have made it a point to tell my students that no matter what they do or don’t do, they will be loved by me and that without fail, at the end of the school year, I will miss the privilege of teaching and learning from them.”

-Kasey Stetcher

“Pedagogy and engaging activities are important. However, the priority is to be your authentic self as much as possible with the students. This is really the only way to connect them with the subject matter. “

-Susan Blythe-Goodman

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Try not to feel defeated after a bad day. Also, it’s ok to cry!”

-Anne Toussaint, Secondary Section

“Find your own way. Sure, getting advice, assignments, and classroom management tips can be exceptionally helpful. However, sometimes those things may not work for you and you may feel like a failure because of it. Develop your own style that feels right for you.”

-Kelly Franklin

“Remember to take care of yourself! If you lose yourself (physical, mental and emotional health), you cannot be your best for those you love.”

-Lisa Scherff, Secondary Section

“Being a teacher has ignited my desire to learn more. I have been taught, inspired, and motivated just as much as my students have.”

-Johnny Allred

“Every day, students should be creating, solving, or playing. ‘Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.'”

-Alison Reed

“Don’t be afraid to try new things, even if you fail spectacularly.”

Jennifer Leighton, Secondary Section

“Teaching has become my identity; learning my mission. I can not imagine ever doing anything else.”

-Matt Skillen, Middle Section

“Breathe. It’s that simple. Once those sweet, smiling faces enter the classroom, all your worries fade away! Embrace every moment, even the sharp twists and turns. Smile; you’re about to be an everlasting memory in the life of a child.”

-Cameron Carter, Lead Ambassador – Elementary

“Keep doing your homework and never stop learning. Prepare to the best of your ability, but perhaps even more importantly, don’t be afraid to throw everything out the window if it isn’t working for your students.”

-Jessica Mitchell

“Embrace the awkward. Lean into the weird. Look for opportunities to grow out of discomfort.”

-Liz Schults, Lead Ambassador – Secondary

“Invest in two things: becoming a lifelong learner and lasting relationships with those you teach.”

-Joseph Ferraro

“Keep doing your homework and never stop learning. Prepare to the best of your ability, but perhaps even more importantly, don’t be afraid to throw everything out of the window if it isn’t working for your students.”

-Jessica Mitchell

“Don’t go into teaching expecting to ‘teach.’ Go into teaching expecting to share what you know and to learn just as much, if not more, from your students. Learning doesn’t end at graduation or upon the receipt of your teaching license; it’s a lifelong process, and your students can teach you as much as you can teach them.”

-Sherri Williams, Secondary Section

“Learn to teach and live with radical love.”

-Melissa Marini Svigelj-Smith

“You don’t need all the answers. Someone will have them, and they just might come from the places you least expect. So be watchful. Be mindful. And once you’ve found it, share it!”

-Amanda Lucas, Secondary Section

“I’ve learned that I always have so much to learn from my students — every day, every hour. Also, I’ve learned that as a planner who loves to know all that is going to happen next, I love the fact that every day in the classroom brings surprises. The joy is in the surprises.”

-Franki Sibberson, Elementary Section

“Make connections with your students.”

-Cherylann Smith, Middle Section

“Every day is full of both challenges and rewards. The biggest rewards come from stepping beyond the classroom walls to make an impact on your students and your community.”

-Melody Niesen

“To risk cliche, Shakespeare said it best, ‘This above all: to thine own self be true.'”

-Jenna Kober

“Be prepared and willing to do whatever it is you are asking your students to do. Watch a documentary? You watch it with them. Write a poem? You write one too. Give a presentation? Show them what a good presentation looks like. You can’t be the teacher who sits at her desk and expects her students to engage in something she clearly doesn’t find important enough to join them in. “

-Maria Whitley, Secondary Section

“Keep it simple and ask for help when you need it. Stay focused on your goals and make a plan. When you feel like things aren’t going quite right, seek out a mentor teacher to help you.”

-Sarah Fitzgerald, Secondary Section

“Embrace the career you have chosen, but be mindful that it is a challenge worth taking on.”

-Samantha Chase

“Take the time to build mutual trust and respect before you worry too much about delivering content. Develop an authentic teacher persona that works for you and your students. Remember that students don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

-Daniel Yowell, Secondary Section

“Overprepare as much as possible. Something will always go differently than expected – more discussion or everyone freezes up, the reading takes too long or happens too quickly, they all did their homework, or no one did – and the more you have ready to go, the better you will be able to roll with the changes as they occur. Plus, it makes lesson planning for the next day easier with all of the materials you have already collected and prepared.”

-Megan Jones, Student Member

“Listen to hear and understand, not to respond.”

-Jenna Kober

“Collect informal data in a structured way from your students about their perception of your teaching strengths and what could be improved. Do not focus solely on what they like, but what you are doing to help them learn and retain knowledge and skills. Then select ONE aspect of your practice to work on for a short period (one month, one unit, etc). Break the fourth wall and tell them when you are trying something new. Get data from them on how well they think it worked. Share your reflection on the change process. They will not only see your commitment to teaching, but as someone who is brave enough to share the process of continual improvement, not an easy thing to do. You are modeling the messy challenge of learning. That’s more important than any content you teach.”

-Cathy Leogrande, Secondary Section

“Do not be afraid to ask for help. Your more experienced colleagues are there to guide and mentor you. Take one day at a time.”

-Cassie Alber

“Listen to your students’ voices. Their voices are your voices.”

– Jackson Mak

“As John Dewey reminds us, when I make the best decisions I can to set up an experience for students that I believe will optimize learning, and then get out of the way, the students astound me!”

-Charlene Mendoza, Secondary Section

“Use writing and response to reading (yours AND theirs) to get to know your students. Teaching and learning happen in relationships, so you must build relationships actively and explicitly so they can learn and succeed.”

– Debra Schneider, Secondary Section

“Don’t overthink plans or stress out when plans don’t go like you thought. If students are reading and writing, they will be making gains.”

-Susan Barber, Secondary Section

“I have my students bring in a personal artifact to decorate the room throughout the year, but they have to research the item to understand more about its history, its creation, and how it provides a link to the world. Many of them really struggle with what to bring at the beginning of the year, but comment on how much it transforms the classroom and becomes “their” space. At the end of the school year, after students take their artifacts home, I know it was effective when they make comments like, ‘Awww, now it feels like a classroom in here.'”

-Ron Hustvedt

“Remember always that you are a teacher first. Before you are a district employee, you are a teacher. When you see your students floundering due to weaknesses in your adopted curriculum or organizational culture, it is your ethical duty to meet them where they are and find creative ways to scaffold, enrich, and engage them in the learning experience that only you can provide. You are their teacher.”

-Lenecia Kinney Gordon

“Be versatile. Know your students, their needs, and their abilities. Respect them and make sure they respect each other. Lead by example and uphold high standards while not compromising on support.”

-Rita Kranidis, College Section

“Explore, explore, explore. Do not be a boring teacher. Be creative, inspiring, and innovative. It works.”

-Augurie Herring

“As an educator, I must be willing to work and learn right alongside my students. To be uncomfortable, to struggle, to pick myself up from missteps, and especially to celebrate successes while I’m next to the kiddos. I can’t lecture them about what to do from a podium at the front of the room and then expect them to find success in an authentic task. I have to talk, demonstrate, model, teach, and learn with them. And that’s when teaching and learning are especially rewarding.”

-Julie Swinehart

“Find your tribe; locate other professionals who will help support you in the early years. It takes a village to raise a ‘teacher baby.’ Places like your State Affiliate, NCTE, ALAN are all going to provide you with mentors across the country. Get involved and stay involved!”

-Pauline Schmidt, Secondary Section

“Give yourself grace. You are learning so much so quickly. It’s normal to be frustrated that you aren’t living up to your own standards. You will get there.”

-Amanda Brewer, Middle Section

“Don’t be afraid to be silly with your students. Do what you have to do to get an adequate response.”

-Kelly Maze

“Make a list of three things you enjoy doing. Those are the first three things you will stop doing. When you realize you have stopped doing these things, reorganize how you are approaching teaching, because losing yourself is a sign the occupation is creeping into parts of your soul reserved for endurance.”

-Jami Greer

“Do not dictate. Do not pretend you have all the answers. Tell students they are smart. Tell students they have not made a mistake until they have been taught a specific method. Be flexible. Give students two minutes to think about what they want to say.”

-Angela Hooks

“My advice to new teachers is always to strive for progress, not perfection. Teaching is always a matter of trial, error, and revision. Always take the time to capitalize on a teachable moment, seek out student feedback and praise those contributions when they help shape the learning experience for the class, and never be afraid to fail or admit when you’re wrong. Students are more forgiving when they know teachers are taking risks to shake up the status quo.”

-Andrew Easton

“Know who Shakespeare really was then, not who we think he is now. He was popular, accessible, and a country boy at heart. Present him as someone with whom you would hang out.”

-Joe Sicilian

“Your first year will probably be the toughest. Don’t give up! Give yourself several years in the classroom to get your feet under you. Our kids need great educators, so keeping pushing yourself be the best version of you!”

-Suzanne Gibbs

“Become part of learning networks. Especially with expanding social media, there are so many that are easily accessible…But also, nothing can replace face-to-face meetings to discuss new ideas, to problem solve, to hone your practices. For ELA teachers, NCTE is a great organization that provides it all: virtual meetings, local affiliate groups, and an inspiring national conference with plenty of opportunities for face-to-face meetings.”

-Ted Kesler, Elementary Section

“None of us are perfect, but on the things that we can make conscious decisions about, do what you would want the student you are going to be teaching to do. Integrity and ethics are everything…”

-Jodie Scales, Secondary Section

“My advice for a new teacher is to find the wiggle room between what your district or department wants you to do and what you know as best practice. Hopefully those two overlap, but if they don’t, please find ways to weave in best practices. Don’t get stuck on what you “can’t” do, but find a way to work in what you can do.”

-Caroline Lehman, Middle Section

“I would advise new teachers to talk to colleagues who they find themselves agreeing with, but also seek out colleagues with different perspectives. This approach will lead to a much more creative and fulfilling first couple of years.”

-Sean Hackney, Secondary Section

“Don’t give up, especially when you’re teaching urban youth or students who live in abject poverty. They may behave like they don’t care, but they do. They’re simply accustomed to people giving up on them so they try to head us off at the pass. Don’t give them an out. All they need is one consistent teacher in their lives. That will change everything. Don’t think about saving them. Give them the tools to save themselves!”

Yolanda Whitted, Secondary Section

“Keep going. Try new things and ask lots of questions. Your first few years will be full of mistakes, but if you bounce back stronger then you will turn into a fantastic educator.”

-Anthony Greer

“You can learn a lot from others. Observe good teachers in action – not just in your subject area!”

Aubrey Lee

“Be a kid watcher. Watch them for their passions and what they are trying on as learners. Watch them to learn about the books they love and the characters they identify with and those that help them see a world from a different perspective.”

-Stacey Ross, Elementary Section

“Respond to your kids. Follow their lead. Learn alongside them.”

Brennan Cruser

“The biggest rewards come from stepping beyond the classroom walls to make an impact on your students and your community.”

-Melody Niesen

“I am an advocate for success for all students, but as long as there is a grading scale, differences should be anticipated and welcomed.”

-Martha Joseph Watts

“When times are hard, remember that everyone – parents, other teachers, administrators – all want the same thing: for our children to succeed and feel loved.”

-Lauren Huddleston

“Ultimately the students sitting directly in front of you need to guide the lesson and your teaching–not the curriculum guide or lesson plans you wrote last week.”

-Elizabeth Bell