Universal Mentors Association

Dang, We Wish We’d Read This Random Teaching Advice Years Ago


When someone asks for teaching advice, we tend to think big. Which pieces of advice can apply the broadest and most effective advice? In these conversations, many of the same timeless maxims and wisdom tend to appear. Things like:

“Greet your students at the door with a smile.”

“Invest in comfy shoes.”

“Take the time to get to know each child.”

And while these are all completely valid, we decided to ask teachers for the lesser-known secrets, tips, and tricks they’ve acquired along the way. Here’s what they said are their most random pieces of teaching advice.

Classroom Setup

“Keep nail clippers in your drawer.”

—Iris S.

“I seldom spent time at my desk during a period of teaching high school students, but during my prep time I found it inviting to have an extra chair by my desk. Some of the best conversations with students happened when they sat down to chat.”

—Marcia H.

“If you can, don’t use the overhead lights.”

—Amy P.

Teaching and Classroom Management

“Teach productive struggle!”

—Becky F.

“If you think students are complaining about each other for no good reason other than to try to get each other in trouble, say to them ‘I’m more than happy to help you figure this out. Just stay at recess/lunch/after school and we’ll have a chat.’ If it was silly stuff, they won’t stay. If it really matters to them, they will.”

—Alice X.

“Be the teacher you needed when you were a little kid.”

—Marc K.

“Explicitly show/tell when you are confused, don’t know something, or something is difficult for you. I talk about my love for vocabulary but my difficulty in spelling, and have them see me look up the spelling of words. I also discuss my struggles with technology. They need to see that all people struggle with one thing or another.”

—Nickie E.

“Build lots of art into your week. If it connects to the curriculum, all the better. It helps them connect to the ideas, creates joy, teaches problem-solving, and grows fine motor skills. It helps them be creative thinkers. But please leave the activities a bit open-ended.”

—Becky H.

“Don’t make the sub lessons too difficult—for your students or for your sub.”

—Bob G.


“Each day is a fresh start with no mistakes in it.”

—Shelby W.

“Instead of being proud of them, tell them they should be proud of themselves. That is longer lasting and adds intrinsic motivation.”

—Irene D.

“Don’t be afraid to cry when you read a book that gives you all the feels—human emotion is a powerful connection!”

—Geneva G.

“Don’t take their negative comments personally. They are kids, and they live in the moment.”

—Joyce H.

“Listen to the story. About the ant they saw waiting for the bus, the brother who knocked over their LEGO set, the aunt who died before they were born. … My experience is grown-ups are moving too fast to stop and listen to the little stories. If we can make them feel seen, that jump-starts the beginning of all those important feelings of self-worth and pride that they need to develop.”

—Amy F.


“Always have a set of thank-you notes for special little gifts students bring in.”

—Stephany R.

“When you find your favorite pen, buy 100 of them! You’ll always be able to find one!”

—Kate E.

Binder clips make fantastic fidgets for kids who really need something to keep their hands busy.”

—Betsy L.

“Stickers. My seniors fight over stickers. Also, when something memorable is said, write it on the walls (Post-it paper, dry erase, on glass, anything). They love to ‘make the wall.’ Say yes sometimes when they ask ‘Can we …?’ A few minutes buys you hours down the road.”

—Julie F.

“Label your favorite stapler!”

—Anna A.

“Never let them use your nice Exacto pencil sharpener!”

—Lynn J.

(Note: Or put a second one on your wish list!)


“Never tell a child to give you something without knowing what they have. It could be mom’s little vibrator.”

—Lanell B.

“TMI but true: Do your Kegels. A strong pelvic floor for bladder control is a must.”

—Jessica C.

“Never tie wet shoelaces!”

—Kazz B.

Traditions and Rituals

“Kids of all ages like to go outside from time to time. I try to do it at least a couple times a semester with my high school students.”

—Jenny K.

“It is perfectly justifiable to schedule a work day once in a while. They deserve the mental break, and you deserve the time to catch up. Make sure there is some structure, but you’ll see they handle this much better than you’d predict … and so will you.”

—Gabriel D.

(In response to the above post)

“I call this our ‘K & R’ Day …. Ketchup and Relish. They can ‘ketchup’ on any past due work or ‘relish’ their free time. For those who are caught up. I have Uno cards, mini jigsaw puzzles, etc.”

—Debi B.

“Get a class pet! After 20 years in the classroom, I finally got a rabbit and it was such a positive motivator and wonderful addition to our classroom culture.”

—Lori B.

“For attendance, give a topic for the kids to respond to instead of here or absent—you can learn a lot about your students. For example, favorite cereal, candy, restaurant, board game. I did it every day, and the kids looked forward to it.”

—Teresa M.

(Note: Learn more about attendance questions here!)

“Grow plants on the windowsills. Let the kids water them. (Each of my students had their own plant, and it was a surprise as to what they were growing). They loved this!”

—Susan L.

“I have a board in my classroom where I staple the sports schedules up, and I make sure I get to at least one game per team.”

—Heather M.

“Keep the rosters from each year organized by class. I wish I had done this starting at the beginning of my career. I put the printouts in the front of that year’s yearbook.”

—Rhonda M.


“Hire a house cleaner and go out to eat on Friday nights!”

—Amanda H.

“My favorite thing to say to parents: ‘I won’t believe everything they say about home if you don’t believe everything they say about school.’”

—Holly L.

“Always take your cell and car keys out with you on a fire drill, just in case.”

—Julie Q.

“Figure out what is important to your principal and try to do it. If you’re not a problem, they will leave you to yourself!”

—Lori Ann P.

“Don’t put your house and car keys on the same ring as your classroom keys. Experience taught me this.”

—Patricia O.

“You can erase crayons with a big pink eraser. Game. Changer.”

—Candace H.

What’s your favorite piece of random teaching advice? Let us know in the comments!

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