24 Simple Rules All Teachers Should Live By

Rules for successful teachers. Five scenes depicting teachers at work, labeled with the following rules: Act in your students' best interest. Provide clear rules and expectations. Never stop learning. Always be willing to listen. Come to class prepared.
ThoughtCo / Lara Antal

There is no single blueprint for success when it comes to teaching—instead, there are about a million different approaches to teaching. In general, no two teachers are alike. Each has their own teaching style and routine. But while there is no blueprint for teaching, there is a certain code that teachers must live by if they want to be successful.

The following list is a general set of rules that every teacher should live by. These rules encompass all facets of teaching, both in and out of the classroom. 

Rules for Teachers

  1. Act in your students' best interest: Always do what you believe is best for your students because as are your number one priority. Whenever making a decision, ask yourself, "How does this benefit my students?" If you can't come up with an answer, reconsider your choice.
  2. Build important relationships: Focus on establishing meaningful, cooperative relationships with everyone you encounter. Building strong relationships with your students, peers, administrators, and parents will ultimately make your job easier.
  3. Be explicit about rules and expectations: Clearly establish rules, expectations, and procedures on the first day of school, then discuss and reference them often. Students cannot be expected to be held accountable for their actions if they do not know how they should behave. Be firm, fair, and consistent for a classroom that runs more smoothly.
  4. Be fair and consistent: Your students watch for this and are quick to notice disparities. Do not undermine your own authority and the relationships you have worked hard to build by playing favorites or showing prejudice.
  5. Be prepared: Take a cue from the boy scouts and always be prepared! Preparation will not guarantee success but lack of preparation makes it much less likely. Put in the time to engage your students, craft effectual lessons, and provide useful feedback.
  6. Learn every day: Teaching is a journey that will provide you with many opportunities to learn but you have to be open and willing to take them. You should strive to improve your teaching each and every day, even when you've been in the classroom for years.
  7. Leave your problems at the door: Never bring your personal problems or issues into the classroom—leave them at home. Your students should never know when something in your personal life is bothering you.
  8. Involve families: Parents can make or break their children's education, and as such, teachers must do their part to engage even the most reluctant parents in the learning process. Provide plenty of opportunities for parents and guardians to become involved and feel welcomed into your classroom.
  9. Protect your students: Protect your students at all costs. It is your job to ensure that your students are safe and secure at all times. Practice safety procedures frequently in class and never allow students to engage in reckless behavior. Discuss safe behavior outside of school too.
  10. Protect yourself: A teacher must never put themselves in a compromising situation that will bring harm to their career or person. They should always be aware of their surroundings and never allow themselves to be too vulnerable or have their reputation called into question. Protect yourself from danger by maintaining self-control and staying alert at all times.
  11. Get along with administration: Respect the decisions of administrators and understand that they have many responsibilities. Teachers that have great working relationships with their administrators enjoy a more relaxed and supportive work environment.
  12. Get to know your students: Take the time to find out what your students like to do and incorporate their interests into your lessons. Establish a rapport and connection with them not only to engage them in class but also to show that you care about them beyond their performance in school.
  13. Listen: Always be willing to listen to others, especially your students. Use their feedback to improve your practice. Responsive teachers take the time to learn from what others have to say because they know that they are not perfect.
  14. Assume responsibility for mistakes: Own your faults and correct your mistakes—teachers are not expected to know everything. Set a positive example for your students by calling attention to your errors and showing them that mistakes help you learn.
  15. Seek advice from other teachers: Fellow teachers can be one of your greatest resources. Take advantage of the experiences that others have had by working cooperatively, sharing stories and materials whenever you can. You are not alone!
  16. Be flexible: Be willing to adapt and change. There is always going to be something new to try and things to improve. Some of the best moments in teaching are born out of spontaneity—embrace change rather than resist it.
  17. Be encouraging: Be your students’ biggest cheerleader. Never tell them that they cannot do anything. Help them accomplish their goals by familiarizing yourself with their specific needs and setting them on the path to success, nudging them gently back in the right direction if they need it.
  18. Never embarrass your students: Never put down a student, especially not in front of their peers. If you need to discipline or correct a student, do so privately and thoughtfully. Your goal is to teach and guide them when they slip up, not make them feel guilty or bad.
  19. Have fun: Have fun! Enjoy your work and your students will take notice and follow suit. Teaching can be messy but it is better to embrace the chaos than take it too seriously.
  20. Be involved in the lives of your students: Go the extra mile when you can. The best teachers go out of their way to attend student events such as sports and concerts to show their support. These small actions mean a lot to your students.
  21. Provide meaningful and frequent feedback: Try not to fall behind in grading and recording and don't take shortcuts. When this task feels overwhelming, remind yourself that timely constructive feedback is worth the effort in the long run because students learn most when you check in with them about their performance.
  22. Stay up-to-date: Always be aware of and adhere to local policies and procedures. If you are not sure about something, it is better to ask than make assumptions and mistakes. You must know and follow the rules of teaching just as you expect your students to know and follow yours.
  23. Decompress after school: Find time to decompress outside of school. Every teacher needs to have hobbies and interests that allow them to distance themselves from the stress of school. Teaching may take up a large portion of your life but should not be all that you do.