Ask Brad: What is the first thing you would tell an aspiring teacher?



Today I was reading an email from a girl who is studying to be a teacher. She asked me “What advice can you give me?” and all these ideas came to my head. So, I decided to BLOG about it and share it with the world.

Here is my list of things I would tell aspiring teachers (no particular order):

  1. PASSION – The best teachers teach from the heart.  They do it because they love it, not because they get a few months off during the school year.
  2. PROMOTE POSITIVE ATTITUDES– This is important to do to the students, parents and the teachers in your school.  We are all wanting the same thing, and that is whatever is best for the student.  We are all on the same team so let’s look at the positive side of things!
  3. NEVER GIVE UP ON A CHILD– Why are you a teacher?  I often believe we are teachers to be there for those kids that have nobody else fighting for them.  Some kids have no voice, or don’t know how to speak up, or in some cases don’t really know what to say or what their needs are.  As teachers, we must always believe that our students can learn and can be successful.
  4. DON’T FORGET THE POWER OF ONE– That all is takes is for one teacher to make a difference in the life of a child.  So, what do I tell you people aspiring to be teachers?  Don’t pass the buck!  You need to be that ONE teacher to make a difference in the life of that kid!
  5. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX– It is so easy on a tough day to go back and teach students the way we might have been taught: to open the book to page 101 and do problems 1-30 and when they are done bring their answers to the teacher to check them.  NO! Best practice shows that there are better ways to teach students then the way we learned years ago.  Be hands on, give kids real life experiences, do problem solving, build a community with your class, engage those kids to work together on authentic work.  Don’t just give worksheets in elementary school and don’t just give lectures in high school.  Be original and go teach the way you might have wanted to be taught.  It’s ok to have your students color outside the lines every now and then!
  6. FOCUS ON STUDENT’S STRENGTHS AND NOT THEIR WEAKNESSES– All parents know the things that their children do bad.  You don’t need to remind them every single day.  What if that was your child?  Wouldn’t you want to know the good things your child does each day?  It might not be easy, but it is your job as a teacher to dig deep, maybe deeper than you ever have before, and find that child’s strength and allow them to shine just like your straight A students.
  7. COMMUNICATION– I remind you to always communicate, and I’m not just talking about communicating with the parents.  Sometimes you need to get down on your hands and knees and communicate with the child.  Ask them what you need to do to help them be a better learner?  Ask them why they are having difficulties in class?  Sometimes it is not the student who has the issue, it could be you?  Just be willing to listen and have an open mind to try something new to help some of your students.  Remember- your learning style might not be the same as their learning style? Change could be good for the entire class?
  8. BE YOURSELF– Bring the great things about you to the class.  For me, being a male in elementary education was different because it doesn’t happen often.  I brought my love of sports to the classroom.  My feeling was I could introduce my students to many things in one year that they might not have for the next ten years.  Bring your talents to the class, you will have some kids who will follow your footsteps.
  9. BE A LIFE LONG LEARNER– Your learning will not stop once you graduate and get your first job.  In matter of fact, your true learning has just begun!  Continue doing staff development in your area and take classes to learn the latest and greatest.  Form professional book groups at your school and read about the same topic of Reader’s Workshop or How to Engage Your Students More. Then have conversations and improve your teaching abilities.  Go to conferences and listen to speakers in the field of education.  Continue learning technology just to keep up.  And 100% go to grad school and get another degree, it will only make you a better teacher.
  10. READ AND WATCH FRONT OF THE CLASS– Of course I was going to add this to the list.  Not because I say so, but because the amount of emails I’ve received since the movie aired on CBS told me this needs to happen.  I truly believe that both teachers and students can become better people after learning about my story.  I know book groups are forming and many schools are showing Front of the Class to their students.  The conversation that will happen afterwards will be a powerful lesson that everyone can learn from.  I’m currently working on a “Teachers Guide” to go along with the movie to focus on Character Education words that go with the movie. Should be ready soon.

What would you tell aspiring teachers as they enter the classroom?

Tags: ,

19 Responses to “Ask Brad: What is the first thing you would tell an aspiring teacher?”

  1. Amanda Says:

    Thank you Brad this is the best advice I have ever heard and I will keep this list with me always.

  2. Sammi Says:

    Thank you!!!! Haha I sent in this question and this is the absolute best advice i have EVER received from someone!!!! 🙂 Thank you so much Brad!!

  3. DINA BUNO Says:


  4. Kathryn Says:

    Thank you Brad. This advice was amazing and a huge help.

  5. Minnie Says:

    Brad, I am currently in the Education Program and I plan on printing this list out and passing it out to my classmates, I feel every aspiring teacher should have one. Again, you truly are a blessing. You found your purpose in life and that is to help future teachers.

  6. Pete Post Says:

    I am a professor of special education at Trinity Christian College that requires each of my students to do a presentation to the class on a particular disability. I can still visualize the excitement in one of my students who did a presentation on Tourette syndrome and received a personal reply when he sent his report to you (and also showed me that you said he deserved an A). Thank you for being such an inspiration. As my students begin their teacher aiding next week I am going to assign them to read your list and comment on what is the number one way that they hope to inspire their future students (especially those who might be a little different). I look forward to reading their responses and hope that they will continue to make use of your vitally important information. Prof Post

  7. Joy Says:

    I love this list, I hope to print it and hang it up in my classroom someday because I think it is a good reminder of things a teacher should do and want to do and when teachers are having a bad day and are frustrated this list is a good thing to look at as a reminder of why they are a teacher and what their purpose is. As a future teacher, I hope to be the teacher the students remember as one that never gave up on them and was always excited to learn and to teach.

  8. Michelle Says:

    I am in Prof. Post’s special education class, and I just want to say that you are truly an inspiration! I actually saw “Front of the Class” when it played on CBS a few months ago, and your story really touched me. I had never heard much about Tourette syndrome before, so I found it especially interesting. I remember watching it thinking what an amazing teacher you were, and how your Tourette syndrome really did make you a better one. I also love your list for aspiring teachers! Each one of the things you listed is so important. I hope to inspire my students to recognize how special they are in God’s eyes. I want to be an influence in their lives that they remember as having made a difference years later. Knowing that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life is amazing. If I can do that for just one child, I know that it has all been worth it. May God bless you and your work as a teacher!

  9. Katelyn Bolkema Says:

    This list of things aspiring teachers should know was really great! My favorite suggestion was to never give up on a child. During one of my teacher aiding experiences, I would have lunch break in the teacher’s lounge. Sometimes, the teachers would discuss a student that had gone through all of their classes. They would talk about him or her and how they had never changed or still struggled with similar problems. I think these teachers were too focused on how the student did not change instead of trying to help the student change. I think the number one way for a teacher to make a difference in a student’s life is to show them what they are capable of. Some students feel no need to change because they think they cannot perform at a higher level. But as a teacher encourages the student to show them how much they are really capable of, the student begins to have a little more faith in himself. This will be true especially for the students who are a little different. Encouragement, the realization of their capabilities, and having a teacher who supports them can help a student to change and make successful progress.

  10. Candice Heitman Says:


    Wow, I think this list has a lot of powerful attributes included in it. I think this is an excellent find for aspiring teachers or even those who are already teachers to print out and carry with them or slip it into their folder. Taking it with them will give them an opportunity to have a voice of reason when then begin to feel like the job is too hard. Since I am graduating in one year, I feel like I am so focused on reaching that light at the end of the tunnel. I think that sometimes I, as well as others that are about to graduate, sometimes lose sight of the nature of what teaching is actually about. Obviously we all love to teach and that is why we are involved in this major, but I think that we now see graduating, getting a job, making money, and having time off are looking more and more important. It is a goal that we are all ready for. But are we? Taking a long look at this list makes me feel like even though we might think we are ready, we still have a lot to learn. We need to be ready to be a role model to a whole classroom of students, we need to be ready to communicate with colleagues, teachers, and students, and we need to have the desire to want to continue learning. If we think that our learning and education end when we graduate, we are sorely mistaken. We will bring what we know to the class, bring what we are good at, and also bring our continuing knowledge. I think this list hit key critical parts of having the desire to teach. I think that I would tell aspiring teachers, including myself, to be ready for any situation to change and turn a different direction. When you think that your lesson, or your class, or the school you teach at, will always flow smoothly, you may not be prepared when you are given a complicated situation. You must be ready for anything. Teachers especially need to be ready for things to happen in which they must act quickly and efficiently. Thank you for this list. It is very relevant and helpful.

  11. Rebecca Kischkel Says:


    What an absolutely fabulous and useful list! I am also a student in Professor Post’s class, with an Elementary Education major, and I’m positive that I want to use your tips as much as I can when I become a teacher. I’ve noticed that many of the other Trinity students who are going into education are interested in teaching because of their passion for it. I completely agree with that point. I think it’s necessary to dedicate 100% of yourself when you’re a teacher. I read somewhere that teachers are the second most important adults in a student’s life, next to their parents/guardians. I think we all need to realize what a major responsibility that is, and treat our jobs (or future jobs) as a ‘way to change the world for the better’. Every student is important. The tip on the list that stood out the most to me was number 6, because it’s something that I completely endorse. I think that by focusing on the strengths that each student has, we can create a more fulfilled classroom experience. Everyone is different and everyone has their own talents. We need to recognize this and utilize everyone’s talents so that they can perform and learn to the best of their abilities. I believe that everyone is capable of learning, and that it’s my job as a teacher to help them enjoy the education experience. Thanks again for your list! I’m sure I’ll use it in the years to come!

  12. Brad Wehr Says:


    This is a great list. I’m a student in Professor Post’s class. I will try to keep these items in mind as I begin my career in education. I strongly agree with you. I think its important to be yourself. I hope to help each child reach their potential. It is imperative that I gain their respect and serve as a role model. I feel that there is no child of God that is not reachable.

  13. Courtney Kats Says:

    Brad, I am a student in Professor Post’s special education class. I loved this list of how teachers can make a difference. I have had teachers who are not inspiring what so ever, but I have also been blessed with the opportunity to experience a teacher who did make differences in their students’ lives, and I would have the say that your list has all the aspects of what defines a teacher who makes a difference. I think the list in entirety is powerful, but the one that stuck out the most is teaching outside of the box. So many teachers are afraid to go beyond worksheets and lectures, but through experience, I feel, a child learns much more. We learn the rules of the road through studying and reading, but do we really know how to drive unless we get behind the whee? Absolutely not, it takes doing activities, and trying things hands on to understand things. Also, not all students are visual or hearing learners, we have found that nowadays many children are kinesthetic learners. I am anxious to become a teacher, and I can not wait to make a lasting impact in my future students’ lives. Teachers like you are the ones who kids remember. Thank you for such an amazing list that gave me a glimpse into my future. I am going to print this and save it so that I always remember what is truly important when you are helping children grow.

  14. Julia Bolkema Says:

    Thank you so much for getting this list out! My name is Julia and I am also a student of Professor Post at Trinity Christian College. As I was overlooking your list, there were several points that stood out to me most. One of these was to never forget the “power of one”. Just last week, we were asked to write a paper about our most inspirational teacher. As I was thinking back about this, I was provided with a model to aspire to as I look to become that inspirational teacher for my students. I need to be the one who is willing to put myself out there, to be a role model for my students and to make a difference in their lives. Another point that stood out to me was that we need to work “outside of the box”. This idea can never be stressed enough. Beginning teachers strive to make creative lesson plans and to create different opportunities for involvement in the classroom, but very few actually succeed. As teachers become more experienced, they often fall into a creative rut as well. Keeping in mind the importance of thinking outside of the box is critical throughout teaching, whether young or old, rookie or veteran. The last point that really struck me was that we need to work with students’ strengths, not their weaknesses. I think too often teachers become critical of their students when they cannot perform a task up to standard. However, if teachers are truly able to utilize each student’s strengths, the whole classroom will be more successful. Each student’s strengths will bring a fresh breath to the classroom and by working with students strengths, they will also be more willing to learn.

  15. Jordan Rae Van Dyke Says:

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words. Going to school, taking classes and not interacting with students everyday can make me lose sight of why I am doing all of this. It is always good to have a reminder about what my purpose and final goal is. I especially liked what you said about not giving up on any student. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to believe you can do it in order to make it happen. Thanks again for these excellent reminders of why teachers teach.

  16. Amanda Beville Says:

    I love this list you made! I think you made several good points, and I found it very encouraging. I am currently studying at Trinity Christian College, and I’m an elementary education major. I am truly excited about graduating and being able to do what I have wanted to do from a young age, be a teacher. One point I found to be specifically important, and one I think may sometimes be a challenge for me is thinking outside the box. When I recall the way I was taught in elementary grades it was often not the most effective way, and very similar to what you mentioned. My teachers would often say go to this page, do these problems, and that was it. I believe that it is important that teachers not just teach the way we were taught, but the way we would have liked to be taught. I recognize that especially as a new teacher, coming up with lessons that are engaging and motivating will be a lot of work. I look forward to that challenge so that I can get students more excited about learning and interested in whatever they are learning about. Another topic you mentioned was building a community with your class and promoting positive attitudes. This is something I feel very strongly about ever since I had my first experience aiding in a 2nd grade class. I started to realize how many obstacles and how much negativity students experience in their lives outside of school. They are dealing with issues that I know I never had to deal with as a second grader. I plan on encouraging positive attitudes, trying my best to communicate the idea that we are a community, and making my class a place where students feel safe, welcome, and encouraged. Thank you so much for this list. It was a blessing to read the advice.

  17. Bryan Stevens Says:

    Brad, I strongly agree with your whole list. I feel it is vital to make a difference. I am also a studend in Professor Post’s class and am an elementary education major. This list is one that I want to strive to be a representation of when I am a teacher. I essecially love the first aspect on the list. Passion is something I feel I only got from a few of my teachers when in high school. I dont think my teachers had a real passion for teaching students and it showed in my respect for them. Regretably, I felt like since they did not want to be there completely, then why should I? Having passion in your job as a teacher is what I think sets up everything else. You cannot achieve anything else on your list unless you have a true passion. This list is something I will surely use as a guide and reminder for me in my future years as a teacher. Thank you so much.

  18. Alisha Riepma Says:

    What a great list of things to know for an aspiring teacher! I am in Professor Post’s class and I’m excited that you have taken time to sit down and write things that would be beneficial for teachers to know. Being a teacher that has all the characteristics is a goal I want to have. Thank you for bringing to the forefront of my mind all the things I need to work on to become a better teacher, and learn in my classes. Some of things, like passion, I can’t learn in a classroom setting, but I already have that and I’m excited that that was one of the things listed in your list. Thank you again for your list, it will be very useful in the future.

  19. tony kull Says:

    I can tell you and this might be an exception, the teachers I had at the Altamont Grade School in Altamont, Illinois fit your first point, Passion. They enjoyed what they were doing and teaching. I wonder if it so different now? Was being a student back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s so much easier? What is so true is the point BE A LIFELONG LEARNER. I can tell you that a person does have to be a life long learner. What is different now are opportunities outside the traditional methods. I cite computers/internet. I take roughly 10 trade magazines and I have trouble trying to read them all. I am not a teacher but perhaps I should have been one. I find it hard to engage the “next-gen” engineering people. That includes broadcast and non broadcast environments. Again, Brad, you are so special and I just want to encourage you even more. You also have a lookaike here in Altamont, Illinois. This list is just so valuable and I see the reaping of your influences on the next generations of teacher. You are so special.

Leave a Reply

To Receive Blog Updates By Email Please Enter Your Email Address

Delivered by FeedBurner

"Brad Cohen is a walking billboard for the idea of living positively. He is like a cold drink on a hot day--refreshing, energizing, and likely to put a smile on your face."
Tim Shriver - Chairman of Special Olympics

"I have observed the magic of Brad Cohen in the classroom. He has turned Tourette Syndrome into an asset, and his life into inspiration."
Senator Johnny Isakson, Georgia

"Brad Cohen's story is a triumph of hope, determination, will and relentless good humor."
Peter J. Hollenbeck, Ph.D., Professor and
Associate Head of Biological Sciences,
Purdue University

Join Our Mailing List