Teaching Advice from Experienced Educators

Hey y’all! Welcome back to another post, today we are going to talk about some advice that experienced educators would give first year educators. I began teaching in August 2021 and reached out to my online community on Facebook and Instagram asking teacher friends to give me their best advice. I have posted the wisdom they shared below.

If you have other advice that you would give to a first year teacher, please feel free to send me a message and I will add it to the list of advice. I hope this post continues to grow!

Facebook Community

“The very first thing every baby teacher must not just know, but internalize as holy writ, is that the support staff in the office can make or break you. Be kind, polite, and thankful to them, seek their advice, and remember that it is they and their friends at central administration who have the ears of the bosses and control what goes in those bosses’ inboxes.” -Jack K.

“So, I think that for me, I started out trying so hard to be lenient and “cool” that I made things harder on myself…I also spent too much time trying to perfect everything I did. All I did was stress out and have anxiety. Eventually I learned what was the most important and necessary for my classes, and I learned to go into a class with the skeleton of lesson plans and let the class evolve naturally. I also believe that whenever possible, spend the shortest amount of time lecturing as possible and use more time to workshop assignments in class where you are there one on one to help students as needed. You’ll get better quality work, they will learn better, and less homework is better for everyone.” – Felicia P.

“Relax and go easy on yourself. It’s common to want to be perfect but teaching is a lot of trial and error. Every new lesson takes twice as long as you think to execute so give yourself some wiggle room. Before creating the class, write down your top 3-5 goals for the class and then design the course around those goals. Too much homework is bad for everyone. There is no award or extra pay for giving yourself extra grading. So when you think about homework think about how this fits within the goals for the class. Are your goals to help them improve their written communication skills? Is it to provide them with diverse viewpoints throughout history? Is it to help them find value in the subject of study? In my own teaching feedback I have found that a clear and well organized class makes everyone happier regardless of major. I also share with them why I assigned the homework I did. Don’t take it personally if a math major just wants to make a C in your course to get the credit and move on. Sometimes these students get the most out of your course because they walk away realizing they don’t hate history class. Some of us coming out of graduate school are used to being high achievers so we can assume everyone wants an A+. Also reach out to the failing students every once in awhile and try to help them along. We never really know what’s going on with them and some will rise to the occasion if they think someone cares. But remember you cannot save them all from themselves or whatever is preventing them from succeeding. Lastly, seek out the guidance of seasoned teachers as much as you can. More often than not, they have had similar experiences and can help reassure or guide you through the rocky weeks.” -Amanda J.

Instagram Community

“Have grace for both yourself and your students. No one’s perfect. Also, honesty is super important 👍” -Miachael L.

“Don’t stress about trying to develop your own curriculum. Your first year is the year to get into a rhythm for how you teach and manage your classroom. The last thing you need to to stress yourself about having 100% original lessons.” -@runningtohistoryclass

“Whenever I would go to my favorite mentor teacher for advice/input, he would always ask “what do your students need?” In the fury of everything we need and want to accomplish as teachers, knowing our students and what they need should come before everything else! You’ll never regret building those relationships. 💛” -S. Baker

“Establish your rules and your tone early and often. Save all of your assigned work to students they will come back and challenge you on this. Have fun when you can.” -@hist10950

Concluding Thoughts

I am so thankful to be surrounded by awesome educators who were willing to share their advice. I hope you learned something from this post and will share it with other teachers!

Good luck friend and thank you for all that you do! The world wouldn’t be the same without teachers like you 🙂

How I Use Old Newspapers in the Classroom

Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today, I am going to talk about how I use old newspapers in my classroom lectures. But first, let’s take a step back and talk about why I do this!

Right after I finished my master’s program I began my Active Historian blog and instagram. I had an awesome opportunity to work with the Remedial Herstory Project for a few months and was doing some research for them and stumbled across a JSTOR article that talked about how a teacher utilized newspapers in the classroom. So, I took the idea from the article and modified it to fit my own classroom needs. I will put the article name and title below! You should be able to make a free account on JSTOR to read the article 🙂

Erica A. Morin. “Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Structuring the U.S. History Survey Around the Motif of the Newspaper.” The History Teacher 46, no. 2 (2013): 283–92. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43265165.

Daily Newspaper Readings

Alright, let’s talk about how I implement newspapers in my daily lessons and for a special projects. I think one important thing as educators is relating to the students in terms they understand and one thing students understand today is social media. Newspapers were considered to be the social media of the day!

Newspapers were the social media of the day!

I asked my students on the first day how many of them use social media of any kind and they all raised their hands. I had their attention and they were interested in hearing more. I explained to them how newspapers were essentially the social media of the day. That’s how people spread news quickly – kind of like a tweet on twitter or a viral tik-tok video!

At the beginning of every class, I put a slide on the screen that has actual headlines clipped from real newspapers about events I plan to discuss in class that day. I ask my students to read the headlines out loud – we don’t continue until all the headlines have been read aloud. Having my students read the headlines aloud gives them a chance to participate in the class.

Then, I ask the students what they think we’ll be talking about that day. Somedays they answer with the events that were read aloud and other days they put together the big picture and are able to connect all of the concepts to a movement or larger ideology.

Below is an example of one of the newspaper slides that I begin class with every day.

This is an example of one of the slides I use in my US History class.
*I don’t own the copyright to any of the newspaper articles and clipped them from a database.

I asked my students whether they like this activity or not and most students have responded positively. They like that they can come into class and read the headlines to themselves before class even begins. One student said they liked this because they knew what class would be about that day and it wasn’t necessarily a surprise.

Newspaper Project

My students liked the newspaper headlines at the beginning of class so I wanted another way to introduce more primary source materials into my lecture. For one class, I decided to have my students use the free newspaper database – Chronicling America – to look at old newspapers.

I divided the class into four groups. I gave each group a topic to research and had them prepare a “5 o’clock new broadcast” about the topic using actual headlines from the period. I had the students look up topics like the Vietnam War and the Red Scare. The topics need to be broad to give the students room to talk about topics which interest them. I did this activity at the end of class after lecturing so the students also used information from the lecture in their presentations.

Each group designed their own “news anchor” who read the group’s “news story” to the entire class. It was a fun way for students to engage with primary sources, work together, and grapple with the topics we discussed that week. Most students seemed to like the activity!

Concluding Thoughts

Hey friend, I hope this article gives you some inspiration to try using old newspapers in your classroom! If you use newspapers in another way in your classroom – let me know! I am always looking to try new activities! Also, if you give the newspaper slide a try drop me a message too – I’d love to hear about it! You can also tag me on Instagram (@the_active_historian) or on Twitter (@ActiveHistorian).

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂