New teachers always feel stressed-out during the first year in the classroom. For many, it is really too late to be reading books on stress reduction. Anyway, many of these books are really geared to the situations that new teachers regularly find themselves in. More importantly, how does a new teacher evaluate which of the suggestions to be found in stress-management texts will be most appropriate, and which will work.

In my work with new teachers, I have made many suggestions as to how they can reduce the stress of the first months of their careers. In discussing the end results with them the following 10 suggestions seem to have been the most effective.

  1. Thorough lesson preparation. It may be part of the job, but it seems to markedly reduce anxiety. Being clear in your mind about what you are going to do during the class period, means that you do not have to think on your feet. This frees up your mental resources to deal with the unpredictable. Remember that the unexpected will usually happen, so build a little flexibility into your plans. Also bear in mind that either you or some member in the class may not be in top form that day. One or more of you may not be able to give 100%. You are the leader in the classroom, so have some fallback plan to bring into operation should the need arise. For example you may carry a set of special worksheets to accompany an emergency video or audio tape that you are holding in reserve.
  2. Ensure that you understand the work you are about to teach. The last thing that you need to happen is to be suddenly stuck in the middle of a math problem on the board. With your back turned to the class, trying to see where you have gone wrong, you make a very inviting target. Being seen to be in command of you subject area is a great boost to the confidence of the students that look to you as their instructional leader.
  3. Keeping the paperwork up to date. The students in class are far from the only source of stress. Heads of Department, Principals, Parents, Education Councils, all quite rightly need to know how things are progressing. Record keeping, correction, worksheet preparation and general paperwork may be the bane of the profession but well worth keeping under control. Falling behind and letting the paperwork mount up is a great source of stress in many professions and occupations including teaching.
  4. Make an effort to get to know your students as individuals. Each of us finds it more difficult to operate in front of an audience of strangers. Students that realize you are interested in their welfare, are more likely to treat you with some understanding and respect.
  5. Ask the advice of other more experienced teachers. Care and diplomacy may be needed here. Advise from teachers tends to fall into three categories. First is the “ignore-it-at-your-peril” advice that comes from your Head of Department, follow this at all costs. Then there is the advice that is offered whether you want it or not. This kind should be listened to politely, and forgotten. The genuinely useful advise that you will receive usually comes in response to a request from you. However just talking about a difficulty seems to help make it seem less of a problem. A trouble shared is a trouble halved and all that.
  6. Ask your friends among other new teachers their advise. They are closer to the problems than more experienced teachers are. Teaching and holding the attention of a class may become second nature to an experienced teacher. S/He may not even be aware of the new techniques that are being used to motivate the students. Your peers may have come across the same problem as you, and may have found a solution already. Again, just talking about it helps.
  7. Make lists of the things that you hope to get through in a day or through the week. This can be very useful in taking the strain from your overloaded brain. Beware the trap inherent in making lists. Don’t think that you will get through every point on your list. Learn from last week’s list and plan to get through less this week.
  8. Encourage your students to be more independent. Suggest that the more able among them work on into their topic when they have completed their assigned work ages before the rest. This can help take the strain of finding extra work for them from your shoulders.
  9. In the staff-room chat with colleagues about recreational activities. There are other things in life to talk about other than school.
  10. Above all, accept that you will make mistakes. Accept them as a learning experience and forgive yourself. Do not spend long hours worrying how things might have been if only you had acted differently or if only you had not said what you did.

One factor worthy of note is that most new teachers by the end of their first year felt that working harder did not decrease their stress levels.

Obviously what works for these new teachers might not work for you, for reasons of gender (most of these were female), personality, situation, age and so on but they may be worth a try in this difficult first year–before reaching for the Yoga manual or the tranquilizers.

Good luck!

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A new teacher at my school had a lot of trouble because she flunked an unusual number of middle school students. However, these weren’t “bad” kids–in fact, her class was usually the only class in which these students received a poor grade. When I sat with her, she showed me typical student’s test grades: 25, 80, 40, 95, 90. She then did a straight average of these grades to determine a final grade. Now, even though this student had received 2 A’s, 1 B, and 2 F’s, the final grade given by the teacher was a 66%, “D”. The student and her parents could not understand how this was possible.

One of the skills that are usually NOT taught in teacher education programs is “how to grade.” Unfortunately, new teachers are expected to “pick this up on their own”. However, it is also an area where new teachers are closely scrutinized by administrators and parents. The following are some basic tips that can be used by new teachers to guide them as they begin to develop their own grading systems:


A teacher should always “role-play” as he/she formulates the grades. I role-play that every parent of a negative grade is going to come in to complain. I then ask myself if I can objectively justify the grade. If I can, if the numbers add up correctly so that it makes sense, then the grade stands and I go on.


I know that this sounds VERY basic, but a calculator helps make your grading MUCH more “objective”, more “defendable” (see the section directly above), and EASIER to figure.

USE A SYSTEM OF 100 (a percentage system)

Always convert all grades and numbers to a system of 100. It will not only be easier for you to figure out overall grades, but it will simplify your explanations to parents and administrators if they can see your grades in terms of percents.


You gave a quiz worth 30 points. The student received 27 points. 27/30 gives a percentage of 90%. A score of “90” is written in your grade book.


This was where the teacher in the anecdote above made her mistake. By averaging in any failing mark, as is, you unfairly weigh the mark in the overall grade. For instance, if a student takes 2 tests, scores a “0” on one (F) and a “100” on the other (A+) it would be logical that an “A” and “F” average out to a “C”. However, by purely using their numerical values, the student’s average with these two tests becomes a “50”, which usually translates into an “F”! Let’s once again look at the example of the new teacher above:


The student in the example received: 25, 80, 40, 95, 90. Average = 66%, Grade = D
The student’s grades should be converted to 50, 80, 50, 95, 90. Average = 73%, Grade = C, which is a better representation of grades of A, A-, B-, F, F.


It is always easier to average numbers; it is always more understandable for other adults to see a percentage/number total. There are two ways to work with the numbers, a percentage system (based on 100) and a grade-point system (based on 4.0 points, as done in high school and college). Here are how they work:


All letter grades are converted to a numerical equivalent, equi-spaced from each other, based on a 100 point system. Then they are averaged as you would with other grades. Here is a chart you can use:

A++ = 100 (perfect paper with extra-credit)
A+ = 98
A = 95
A- = 92
B+ = 88
B = 85
B- = 82
C+ = 78
C = 75
C- = 72
D+ = 68
D = 65
D- = 62
F = 55


All letter grades are converted to a grade equivalent, based on the 4.0 system. Then they are averaged and converted back into a letter grade (as is done in high school and college GPA’s). Here is a chart you can use:

A+ = 4.3
A = 4.0
A- = 3.7
B+ = 3.3
B = 3.0
B- = 2.7
C+ = 2.3
C = 2.0
C- = 1.7
D+ = 1.3
D = 1.0
D- = 0.7
F = 0.0

After the point values are averaged, they are converted back into a letter grade. Here is a chart you can use (“borderline” grades are of course up to the discretion of the teacher):

4.0-4.3 = A+
3.7-4.0 = A
3.5-3.7 = A-
3.3-3.5 = B+
2.7-3.3 = B
2.5-2.7 = B-
2.3-2.5 = C+
1.7-2.3 = C
1.5-1.7 = C-
1.3-1.5 = D+
0.7-1.3 = D
0.5-0.7 = D-
0.0-0.5 = F


Determine ahead of time the weight given to each of the sections of your grade book. Here’s an example:


Using these percentages, this is how I would figure out a student’s grade:

TESTS = 86% = 86 X 2 = 172 (Tests are worth twice as much as the other two, therefore, doubled)
QUIZZES = 79% = 79 X 1 = 79
PROJECT = 92% = 92 X 1 = 92
172 + 79 + 92 = 343 divided by 4 (4 parts, Tests twice, Quizzes, Project) = 85.75 = 86 = “B”

Here’s a much more complicated example, using possible percentages and an imaginary student’s grades:

TESTS 30%: student score of 80% = 80 X 3 parts = 240
QUIZZES 30%: student score of 90% = 90 X 3 parts = 270
PROJECT 20%: student score of 75% = 75 X 2 parts = 150
HOMEWORK 10%: student score of A- = 92% = 92 X 1 part = 92
CLASS PARTICIPATION 10%: student score of C = 75% = 75 X 1 part = 75
TOTAL = 240 + 270 + 150 + 92 + 75 = 827 divided by 10 parts = 82.7 = 83 = “B”

It may be a little extra work, but it’ll go fast once you get used to it. More important it will be FAIR and DEFENDABLE! And those are the two most important components to grading, especially for new teachers!

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  • Think of your relationship with the parent as if you are the parent discussing your child with you. If it would make you upset with a teacher, don,t say it!! In other words, put yourself in the parents shoes. 
  • Be an active listener. Understand the parents, frustrations as well as your own. General Rule: Keep calm and make sure you listen and not only hear. The parent may give you clues to a solution of a problem without even realizing it (soccer practice, latch key, goes to a friends house until I get home, etc.). 
  • Let the parent vent his feelings and emotions. Ask open ended questions rather than getting defensive. Try to get the parent to see the problem, state your point of view in a friendly manner, then offer to work with the parent for the child’s benefit. 
  • Be sure to introduce yourself in a warm manner, no matter what you really think of the student. You set the tone. The parent should feel comfortable. 
  • “I’m glad you’re here.” (Not a bad way to start the conference) 
  • Be prepared: Be sure that you have the student’s grades, work samples, copies of notes sent home and copies of any office referrals. Will you need an interpreter? Arrange for this in advance. 
  • Check out the student’s cum. Make notes of previous problems. Use this only if the parent tries to make you out to be the bad guy. “My child has never had problems until this year. If you teach at the secondary level, ask a counselor or dean if the student has been referred for disciplinary reasons from other teachers. It’s not important to know why, it’s just to keep everyone honest. 
  • Don’t put the parent on the defensive. Be objective, not subjective. As Jack Webb use to say on Dragnet, “Just the facts, mam.” 
  • Let parents know that education is a partnership between the home and the school for the good of the child. 
  • The very existence of a problem does not mean that there is a solution. Causes of many problems can be deep seeded. Trying to solve every problem is not possible. Your role is to demonstrate to the parent what you have experienced with the child. 
  • Never tell a parent that the child needs therapy or that they should seek medical advice. You can refer the parent to the school nurse or counselor if they ask for your opinion on such matters. 
  • Never say something like this: “This is a pretty bad class and when your child acts up, it just makes it more difficult for me. Don’t ever let the parent think that you’re having management difficulties. Don’t ever look for sympathy. 
  • Be sure to tell the parent some positive things about the child. 
  • Quite often, we most remember the last thing we heard. Conclude your conference in a positive manner. Review any solutions or courses of action that were discussed and agreed to. Sometimes the conference could be the beginning of the solution. If the parent seemed hostile during the conference, you might need to tell parents that now that you’ve met, you’d like to think about the things discussed and meet again the following week. If the parent accepts the conference, it will almost guarantee a positive atmosphere. During the time in between, you could ask for advice, if necessary. If the parent declines a second conference, don’t get angry, just realize that you’ve done what you can. 
  • Remember to thank the parents for sharing their concerns and listening to yours.
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There are times when teachers need their students to be quite quickly. For instance, when you are getting ready to go out into the hall and transition into a new environment. I learned this simple trick in the school I student taught in from one of first grade teachers… 

  1. First you need to inform the class of a game called “Still Waters”. Tell the class that you will be playing this game often and they will know when the game starts by whenever you say, “1,2,3,3,2,1 Still Waters has begun. (This should become a regular routine for your class) 
  2. When they hear this statement they are to freeze and not say a word or move. 
  3. You will be timing them to see how long they can stay still as a team. The goal is for them to break their best record. 
  4. You will hold your fist in the air and each time you see someone move or talk, you put a finger up and stop when you have all five up. Then check your watch and give them the number of seconds they lasted. 
  5. By this time you will have their attention and can give them directions for the transition…
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My kids always love using the overhead projector. There are many learning activities that require patience from the children. It is hard for the children to wait their turn. Doing activities on the overhead projector allow the children to participate, as they wait for their turn. 


  • as listed in the various sections 


Here are some of my favorite fun hands on activities for the overhead projector that take little preparation. They can be brought out on a weekly basis or whenever another activity runs “short”. They would also be great materials for a substitute to keep in their “bag” to be used in any class. 

  1. Money math: Using overhead projector coins start developing your student’s money comprehension skills. Start by teaching the basic equivalences of coins. Five pennies equal one nickel, two nickels equal one dime, etc. Then, put a small box of coins next to the projector for the children to use. Start with five pennies and ask “What other coin can I use and still have five cents?” Call on a student to this problem by moving the coins on a blank overhead projector sheet that has this equation. ____________= ___________________. All the other children will be able to see what the student does. To make it nicer, give all the children their own set of coins to do the activity with the student who is at the overhead projector. ( I make up ziplock bags of coins for each student to use during money activities) As the children’s skills advance make the money amounts more difficult. This activity can easily be used with a class with varying skills. For the advanced student, Ask:” Can you make 55 cents using nickels only?” “Use any coins and make $1.15”. As the skills of the students become advanced, they are able to addition and subtraction with money. Use this equation for the children. 25 (quarter) + _____= 50 (half dollar) _____ +______+ 50= $1.00 
  2. Geometry and Fractions. Cut up colored transparent sheets (the 98 cents store has report covers in blue and green) into shapes such as: circles, squares, rectangles, and more. Be sure to cut multiples of each shape. In a large group have the students identify the shapes. Call students to the projector to find (complete) matching shapes. On another day, take the transparent shapes and cut them into halves, quarters and thirds. Ask a student to come forward and construct a square, circle or rectangle using the pieces in the box. At first, only put pieces into the box that belong with that shape. After a few days leave more than one shape in the box and allow the students to remove and place the correct shapes on the overhead projector screen. These activities can be done at the children’s desks with colored paper shapes. Later, an activity to do with the transparent shapes, is to talk about fractions. Use one rectangle that is cut into thirds, and another whole rectangle. Ask the children if they are the same. Discuss how one rectangle is cut into three pieces but it is still the same size as the other rectangle. Go even further and cut another rectangle into fourths. This same activity can be done with circles, squares. I used an extension of this activity by drawing the same shapes on the chalkboard and used the same process to explain the values. The children then drew their own fractions on their papers using values I assigned. I incorporated these money and fraction activities into my Daily Board Math Problems. 
  3. Science and more. There are many more activities that can be done on an overhead projector. Many activities we do in class are so hard to copy onto the blackboard. It is easy to copy to transparencies and use them over and over again. During a unit on MY FIVE SENSES, I copied charts of the ear, eye nose, tongue and more onto transparencies by photocopying them. The children then could add the names and other features to their chart, creating a neat book to take home at the end of the unit. Developing the eye hand coordination to look on the board and then onto their own paper is a skill children will need as they get into the upper grades. 
  4. Other ways to use the overhead. Draw lines on a transparency. Using rulers (paper clips, etc.) allow the children to measure the lines. Model handwriting Practice handwriting. Write a sentence and allow several children to write under yours. Let the children vote on who did the neatest job. Create group stories by allowing each child to add one sentence at a time. The whole class can then write the story on their own papers. Scramble words (or sentences) and allow the children to unscramble them. Make lists of words that the children can combine into compound words. Copy worksheets for a small group (center time) to work on while you work with another group. 

These were just the beginning ideas for overhead projectors. 


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One of the best behavior management techniques I have learned is the one I am about to share. I learned this from my cooperating teacher when I student taught. It is great for getting your class to stop what they are doing and pay attention. It is so simple and they love it! 


  • none 


  1. Inform your class of a new game you will be playing. Tell the class that whenever you have something important to say or you want the class to have their eyes on you, you will clap a beat and they will mimic the beat you clap. Once you stop clapping their eyes should be on you and their mouths should be zipped! 
  2. For instance, (you – clap, clap, snap, clap) and (they-clap, clap, snap, clap) 
  3. You keep clapping beats until you have everyone clapping with you and eyes on you. Now you can start a lesson or so on. 

I found that when I used this it was most effective if as I was making the beats I would say, “I bet you guys can’t do this one!” They loved the challenge. Also, it worked best when I would praise the students on how nicely they clapped along. Especially if there is one student who always claps along with your beat as soon as you start. Positively reinforce that student and others will follow as quickly.


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no school yet–just graduated




  1. In order to teach, you must have control over your classroom. This does not mean you should act like a dictator. If you try to teach without establishing control, then the quality of teaching will suffer. 
  2. In order to have true respect, you must give it. This does not mean that you accept undesirable comments in the classroom nor does it mean that you can run a classroom without some consequences. 
  3. In order to have discipline there will be consequences for bad decisions. This does not mean that consequences must be harsh to accomplish its job. Harsh consequences do not accomplish much except for breeding hatred. Consequences should fit the offense. Often the natural consequence is the best. 
  4. In order to be the authority figure in a classroom, there is an imaginary line that you shouldn’t cross. Does that mean you cannot be a friend to your students? No, it means that if the friendship gets in the way of education, then it has crossed the imaginary line. (For instance, others may see such conduct as playing favorites and it could undermind your relationships with them.) 
  5. A teacher cannot always be fair, but should strive to fairly apply the rules. 
  6. A positive classroom will accomplish much more than a classroom that is filled with negativism–don’t threaten your students. 
  7. If you discipline in anger, your judgment can be in error. Learn to be calm in the face of problems. It will be a healthier approach for you, and your students will learn from your problem solving abilities. Don’t take your students’ remarks personally–students at this age may hate a teacher one day and love him/her then next. It is a sign of their age, not their overall opinion of the teacher. 
  8. It is important to act, not react. Give students choices–for example: 1. You may leave the room and go to . . . . .(a pre-selected place–maybe another teacher can provide a time out corner if you don’t have a time out room). 2. You may stay here and make changes in your personal choices. 3. You may stay in the room, but change your seat to an area where you agree there will be fewer problems.—When you give students choices, they have power–power to make a good choice and continue receiving instruction. 
  9. If the emotional and/or physical well being of a student is at risk, then the offender should be removed from the room–no choices. 
  10. If teachers copy the discipline style of another, it may not fit them or their classroom. Classroom control, like teaching, requires personalization–what works best for your is what you should do. 

The above list is generalities that work. Think about using them…. Whatever you choose, keep a positive atmosphere in the classroom. 


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Statureland is an island nation with one major industry – purple fruit. Since purple fruit picking is essential to the welfare of the whole society, the Statureland school’s basic curriculum is intended to train effective purple fruit pickers. Because purple fruit grows only at the top of 8 foot trees, the most important and critical course within the curriculum has been “Growing”. All children are required to take “Growing” and are expected to complete six feet of growth which is the minimum criteria for graduation as purple fruit pickers, and is the average height of Staturelandians, based upon standardized growing tests. The course content of “Growing” includes stretching, reaching, jumping, tip-toeing, and thinking tall. 


Each year, each child’s skill and abilities in Growing have been assessed and each child assigned a grade. Those children who achieved average scores on the standardized Growing test were assigned C grades. Students who, through their commitment to Growing, exceeded expected levels, received A’s. Slow Growing students received F’s and were regularly and publicly admonished for their lack of effort and inattention to task. These latter children often developed poor self-images and anti-social behavior which disrupted the school program and interfered with children who really wanted to grow. “This will never do!” said the people. “We must call a wise man to consider our problem and tell us how to help the children grow better and faster and become happy purple fruit pickers.” 


So a wise man was sent for and he studied the problem. At last he suggested two solutions: 

  • Plant pink fruit trees that grow only 5 feet tall so that even four foot students may be successful pickers. 
  • Provide ladders so that all students who wish to pick purple fruit can reach the tops of the trees. 

“No, no, no!” said the people. “This will never work. How can we then give grades if 8 foot trees are goals for some students and 5 foot trees are goals for other students? How can it be fair to the naturally tall students if children on ladders can also stand 6 feet tall and reach the purple fruit? However shall we give grades?” 


“Ah,” said the wise man, “you can’t. You must decide whether you want to grade children or have fruit picked.” 


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Although I am organized, I always felt like my lessons were disordered and a substitute may have trouble locating copies, etc. (especially if my absence was unplanned). To solve that problem and to have all of my plans, worksheets, etc. all together, I did the following: 

  1. Get a LARGE 3-ring binder. 
  2. Design a cover for the front: Name, Room Number, LESSON PLANS (any substitute could find it) 
  3. Photocopy the lesson plan pages from my school’s adopted plan book. 
  4. Write plans on the photocopy sheets and place in 3-ring binder. 
  5. Put all worksheets, keys, spelling words, etc. in 3-ring binder behind the week’s lessons. 

Now a substitute never has to search for keys, spelling lists or master copies – and neither do I… I can easily look back and find all the copies I used for a certain week. My units are together, keys are with originals and my year’s worth of lesson plans are in one handy binder for reference next year. No more file folders here and there; everything is all together! It’s been a lifesaver! 


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