5 Ways for New Teachers to Mentally Prepare for Teaching

A new teacher standing in front of her class
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Overwhelmingly, teacher education programs prepare new teachers to develop and utilize effective pedagogical strategies, support student well-being, and assess learning with an eye for continuous improvement.

While these are core skills needed for teachers to be effective practitioners, there are other factors, particularly for new teachers, for which they must be prepared. Teachers must be mentally ready with the capacity to handle the colossal undertaking of “all the things” that are related to teaching and learning beyond the primary focus of instruction and assessment.

To that end, here are a few ways that new teachers can mentally prepare for teaching.

1. Prioritize and Plan for Self-Care

When preparing for any airplane travel, you are reminded to take care of your own oxygen mask before trying to assist children and other passengers. The same can be said for teaching, except that the oxygen mask is the focus on your overall mental health and wellness.

Prioritizing and planning for self-care in advance is an excellent way to center mental wellness. When days are tiresome and stressful, you will know that you already have strategies prepared to help cope. Similar to how our students require their physiological, physical, and other needs met (think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs), teachers need to have their needs met to be mentally ready to be the best version of themselves.

Engaging in mindfulness activities can be helpful as well.

2. Avoid Taking on Too Much, Too Quickly

After several years of preparing to become a teacher, it is exciting to be ready to jump right in and try all the learning activities and technology tools that you have learned about in your own teacher preparation programs. But remember, in addition to your list of action items, the school administrator and/or school district will have other priorities and policies that you must adhere to and focus on handling.

Instead of taking on too much, and too quickly when starting, choose one instructional item and one technology tool that you want to incorporate in your teaching, and gain fluency with it. This way, you will not have to stress about getting everything done at once and trying too many new teaching strategies in the beginning of your teaching journey.

3. Prepare to Pivot

Even the best-laid plans do not always come to fruition. In education specifically, there are so many elements of life that enter the classroom for students and for other teachers that we co-create with, as well as environmental impacts, that can contribute to the need to change well-planned lessons.

When lesson planning and developing activities for each day, have a backup plan and prepare to pivot to something else, if necessary. By mentally preparing yourself to be flexible for when these things do happen, it can make the difference in how you feel during that time and what actions you take to ensure that learning still happens.

4. Connect With Colleagues

Starting with new teacher orientation, make connections with other teachers, both experienced and novice. It can be helpful to also connect with front office and administrative staff members who may be knowledgeable of the interworking of the school. Find time to share what is going well in your first days of teaching and areas that you need support.

By networking and communicating with your colleagues, you will not feel alone and can enjoy being in community with other individuals who have a shared experience. Beyond your school, try to connect with others in the field. This can be done by joining communities of practice in social media spaces, at conferences and training, and as you continue your own teacher education.

5. Utilize Mental Health and Wellness Resources

Along with self-care, knowing what mental health and wellness resources are freely available to you is key. Some of the mental health resources used during the pandemic may still be relevant in your work today. Discover all of the resources available to you through your health insurance plans and through the district human resources office employee benefits. Some districts even have embedded mental health days in the academic calendar, and your district may have similar programming.

These are just five of the many ways to prepare mentally prepare for teaching as a new teacher. If one, some or all of these interest you, try it out and see what works for you.


Dr. Stephanie Smith Budhai is an associate clinical professor in the department of Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum at Drexel University, in Pennsylvania. She holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies and K-12 teaching certifications in Technology Education, Instructional Technology and Business, Computers, Information Technology, Special Education and Elementary Education. She is also the 2021 Emerging Leader for the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) and the 2017 ISTE Awardee for Excellence in Teacher Education. Dr. Smith Budhai is a Nearpod, and VoiceThread Certified Educator.  Dr. Smith Budhai has more than a decade of online teaching experience, and has published myriad books, articles, and invited editorials surrounding the use of technology and online learning in education. Her publications include: 

- Leveraging Digital Tools to Assess Student Learning 

- Increasing Engagement in Online Learning: Quick Reference Guide

- Culturally Responsive Teaching Online and In-Person: An Action Planner for Dynamic Equitable Learning Environments 

- Teaching the 4Cs with Technology

- Best Practices in Engaging Online Learners through Active and Experiential Learning Strategies

- Nurturing Young Innovators: Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom, Home and Community