Secondary Speaks: Our Best Teaching Advice

Are you a new teacher getting ready to start in your first teaching job? Do you know a new teacher? This post takes the best teaching advice given to a variety of secondary teachers, so click through to read the post and then bookmark it to come back to - often!
Welcome back to Secondary Speaks! Today we're sharing the best tips and advice we've been given as teachers.

(If you want to catch up on previous posts from us, make sure to click on the Secondary Speaks tag at the bottom of this post.)

I don't know who first compared the month of August to feeling like "one long Sunday night", but most teachers I know are feeling a combination of excitement, nerves, and apprehension about the impending new school year, so perhaps we can help each other out a little!

Remember: Stay tuned for more posts, and comment below if you want to join in!

Q: "What's the best teaching advice you've ever been given?"

  • A mentor has repeatedly told me to "Give it the time that it deserves." There are so many things we could worry about in teaching, but some things deserve our energy more than others, and it's important to prioritize AND to know when to let things go! Secondary Sara
  • I teach with several amazing teachers who have worked to find creative ways to add activity and movement into their classes. While none of them gave me "advice" they modelled a way of teaching that inspired me to do the same. Now, every class, I find ways to get my students moving, even if it's just a stretch break.  Room 213
  • Build a connection with your students first, then teach curriculum. This teacher lesson was from my Special Education Resource Teacher in my second year of teaching. I asked her how she got any student to produce work for her. She then told me that she focuses on getting to know her students, building a connection over a common interest (TV Shows, Music, Books, Pets, Cars, etc.) then once she shows the students she cares, they want to do their work. Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog
  • My best advice comes consistently from my students! The jump at opportunities in every class to emphasize: Respect us, engage us, interest us, listen to us, guide us, remain patient while we grow, laugh with us ... Students hold all we need and they love to speak up and feel heard. Ellen Weber
  • Teach from your heart - that's when you'll be the most engaged & the most effective. Not sure where I got this advice - maybe from a college professor? Science Chick
  • "A book does not a teacher make." Said to me many times when I student taught in the 60's. Scipi
  • I am not irreplaceable. If I died today, they'd have another teacher in my classroom tomorrow. This was from a veteran teacher to remind me to set my priorities. Yes, I should care and put effort into my teaching, but it should not be my entire life. I need to take time for myself and for my family. History Gal 
  • The best teaching advice I've received lately has been from my students. I always ask three extra questions on the final exam in every course I teach. They are:
    1. What was the best activity we did?
    2. What was the worst activity we did?
    3. What is your fondest memory of this class?
    It is amazing to read the responses of the students and it puts me in a great mood even though I'm stressed out to reach the final grade deadline.  
    Madame H
  • Spend the first 4-5 classes building community in your classroom and it will pay off later on in the year. Don't worry about missing curriculum because the time you save later on will make up for it. (Advice from my Dad, who just retired after 45 years in the classroom!) Addie Williams
  • Kids aren't mini-adults. They think and act differently and shouldn't be treated as just shorter versions of grown ups, because they're not. I don't actually remember from whom I heard this--I might even have read it somewhere--but it was after I'd been teaching in a public school for several years and it really helped me understand why I couldn't and shouldn't treat my middle school students the same way I interacted with the adults I taught at universities in Asia.The ESL Nexus
  • Breath in... Breath out... Count to a 100 (because 10 doesn't take long enough!) The Lab
  • The students that can be the most difficult are usually the ones who need you the most. They may not even need the lessons as much as they need the attention. Many of the older staff at my first job passed this on to me during my first year as a teacher. What is also true is the students who require your most work are the ones you always remember fondly, even if they are trying at the time. Gina
  • A former professor of mine used to say, "All will be revealed in the fullness of time". Now when my students ask questions, filled with anxiety, I ask them to have faith on the learning journey I am taking them on because - you guessed it - "all will be revealed in the fullness of time". Allyson's Creative Corner
  • Once you have established a learning environment in your classroom that makes students feel welcome, safe and secure, the learning comes naturally. (based on experience) Creative Couple
  • If you can't manage them, you are not teaching them anything. Larissa McMahan
  • The best teaching advise I ever received was from my favorite math teacher. He said, " Don't be afraid to get it wrong, as long as you are willing to admit it and get it right the next time." This was spoken to me as a student, but I apply to my work as a teacher we well. weatherly
  • You set the tone of the class every day.  Lauralee
  • Many experienced teachers have told me to never let the students see you sweat. This is sooo important to remember. When students see their teacher falling a part, or can tell that something isn't working as it should be, they feed off of that energy. If it all possible, do your best to stay cool, calm, and collected.  Lit with Lyns
  • "Don't start out too nice, because they need to know you are serious about teaching."
    I think I heard that right when I started teaching from so many people. I worked in a very urban school, so this made sense. However, I think I was always very nice, but I had clear rules from day one, and there were consistent consequences for those rules.
    If I had to change this advice, I would change the wording:
    "Don't be too relaxed in the beginning, because they need consistency to learn your procedures." Mme R's French Resources
  • It was during my student teaching from a social studies teacher who worked waiting tables with me: Have one awesome lesson a week; the rest just survive. The next year add another awesome lesson; before long you will have awesome lessons all the time. Sarah from Kovescence of the Mind
  • The best piece of teaching advice I ever received came from my mentor teacher when I was student teaching. She told me to always over plan each day -not with the intention to get to everything, but just to always be prepared. If a certain lesson just doesn't work, you have something to fall back on! The Daring English Teacher
  • My cooperating teacher when I was student teaching said never give up your lunch period. David Rickert  
  • The best teaching advice I eve received was from a teacher that I had in high school who I went back to talk to just after I got my first teaching job. She simple to just be myself. I am not ever going to be any other teacher than who I am. There will be teachers who loved more than I am and teachers who "hated" more than I am. But ultimately, for the majority of students who I am is exactly who they need me to be. I display pictures of my husband and children (and their artwork) because they are an integral part of who I am. I share my own experiences and struggles with class in high school because they have shaped who I am. I try really hard to meet the needs of each student - pushing some to fly higher and catching those who need a safety net when they fall. I cannot be anyone other than that. SecondaryMathShop
  • From my mom's brother (who became my guardian after my mom passed away when I was 13); his advice was . . . "plan your work, and work your plan." Brian Dalton
  • From a college professor: "You may not be able to make a difference in the lives of every student in every class. But something you say or do today will make a difference in the life of at least one student today. Make today count!" Literary Sherri
  • Care so you can continue to care. This actually came from my mother's mentor fifty years ago or so, but it applies so well. No one can learn from a teacher who burnt out and quit, so take care of yourself AND your students. Betsy Potash  
  • The best teaching advice is from my Father. He was an English teacher turned administrator. The one main thing he told me that was when the going got rough, to just be ready for the next day and go home. Sometimes, you just need to remember that "it" will still be there tomorrow but today, you're done. :) Lisa @ Mrs. Spangler in the Middle
  • Don't forget that they are kids and they need love. My district serves a very large low income population and a lot of my students don't get the love, care, and concern they should at home, so I try to remember to provide that as well (or maybe even more than) the subject matter. The Math Factory

What other great teaching advice have you been given? How have these tips above resonated with you? Tell us below! :-)

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts from Secondary Speaks!


  1. "Do not take it personally" My niece who I took in at 13 was very passive aggressive. A psychologist gave me that advice and it has worked in the classroom as well. A lot of times that childs actions are not really directed at you but something that happened at home or in the hallway.


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