Table of Contents » Chapter 4 : Employment » Chapter 4 : Being A Teacher – Tips for Your First Year

Chapter 4 : Being A Teacher – Tips for Your First Year

Calvin and Hobbs, Bill Watterson

Layce Nichols Tips for Your First Year

Lacye Nichols is a first year high school teacher who has quickly learned that it is easier to apologize than ask for permission. Originally from Alabama, she has somehow found her way up north and has quickly learned how to master driving and biking in the snow. She has been working in clay for the past 10 years, mastering decals and covering her work in gold glitter.


  • Get to work a few minutes early. Lock your door and sit in silence with a cup of coffee. Relax before students begin to come in because once they walk through that door it is go time.
  • Share a funny story. Each Monday I show my students random cat videos, or tell them about something funny our dog did. They now get angry if I forget to do this. It just starts the week with a smile.
  • Allow your students to know you are a human being. If your pet died, share your grief with them. If you got engaged, tell the story of how it happened. You will be surprised at the inspiration you will give your students when they understand that you are human and don’t live in the dungeon at your school.
  • LISTEN. Listen before you talk. You will gain respect when you have open ears.
  • Learn about your students. Memorize their first and last name, schedule, check their attendance periodically, talk about their fashion, where they work, learn about what their parents do, etc.
  • Pick a time to go home AND GO HOME AT THAT TIME! I have open studio hours on Mondays and Thursdays until 4 pm sharp. Every other day I go home at the hour stated in my contract no matter what.
  • ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU ARE A GREAT PERSON AND ARE LOVED NO MATTER WHAT SOMEBODY SAYS TO YOU. Kids can say horrible things and will do anything to make you upset. If a student is giving you a hard time it is perfectly ok to calmly tell them “this conversation is over and can continue during lunch.” Then turn around and walk to a student who makes you smile and compliment them. Their smile will automatically make you smile. For each student who “hates you” there are a minimum of five students who look up to you, look forward to your class, and cannot wait to see YOU. I struggle with this still to this day.
  • When driving home, say aloud two positive events about your day. When somebody asks about your day say the positive. During my first semester I would go home and only complain about my day. My boyfriend finally told me that he could not take the negativity anymore and it was ruining out relationship. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE AND WRITE IT DOWN.
  • SAVE EVERYTHING YOU ARE GIVEN. I have drawings, letters, and cards from students hanging behind my desk. During a hard day I read the letters from students, and my students love talking about artwork created by their peers, and little kids.
  • Find out who is in charge of your PTA immediately. Before school started I knew I needed a few materials for the studio in which my budget couldn’t afford. I sent out a mass email to the faculty and PTA asking for these items. I also hand out letters to parents during any conferences stating a list of things that could be donated. I have had everything from 10 gallon buckets, spray bottles, newspaper, drying cleaning bags, and yogurt containers donated.
  • Make connections with parents and share the positive and concerns you have with their student.
  • The janitor is your best friend. Bake him or her cookies.
  • Make time for you. If exercising is your thing then make sure to exercise, bake cupcakes, do yoga, paint your nails, go to the batting cages. This is SO hard, but SO important.
  • DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Conversations with parents, students, admin, incidents, and taking pictures of student artwork.
  • If a student gets into an art show send an email to the entire faculty inviting them to the show. Attach a picture of the work.
  • Have assistants and give classroom jobs. Students feel good about helping. My students make the studio slip, glazes, clay, clean and organize tools, repair tools, load and unload kilns, and a few know how to fire the kilns as well.
  • HAVE VERY HIGH EXPECTATIONS AND HOLD ALL STUDENTS TO THEM. A lot of kids dropped my class in the beginning because I would not allow them to just make whatever they wanted, and treat the studio with disrespect. Now there is mutual respect and it is a safe and caring environment.
  • Set clear and precise rules and do not falter. If no cell phones are allowed in your studio, then take them away. If you allow one student to get away with breaking a rule, everybody will.