HealthFebruary 18, 2020

The ten commandments for new educators

Education expert Dr. Mary Clement from Berry College shares valuable advice for novice nurse educators.

Katie Morales, PhD, RN, CNE

I am proud to have been a nurse for over 34 years and a nurse educator for over 8 years.  While I believe nursing has gotten better about "eating their young," I think nursing education has a long way to go. Even though I have graduate degrees in nursing education and I am a certified nurse educator, the first year of teaching was like a game of Chutes and Ladders. I had climbed the ladder and was an expert in nursing but fell down the chutes as a novice nurse educator. Other college professors are not as prepared as I was. Too many nurse educators, as well as other college professors, are subject experts with little to no preparation for education. 

What advice would an education expert offer to the novice nurse educator? I asked Berry College's Dr. Mary Clement just that. I first met Dr. Clement when she was on the search committee for the nurse faculty position I hold at Berry College. I felt very comfortable doing my teaching demonstration as she has the most unassuming presence. Little did I realize who was actually assessing my demonstration! I have grown to value this colleague and often go to her when I hit an educational wall. She never fails to steer me in the right direction, armed with evidence to support her recommendations. 

Dr. Clement's ten commandments for new nursing educators

Dr. Clement earned her doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was the 2012 - 2014 international president of Kappa Delta Pi. Dr. Clement is a prolific writer who has presented throughout the United States, China, Germany, Canada, and Africa.

As you consider the following tips from two of her books (First Time in the College Classroom and What Successful Teachers Do), remember the words of Parker Palmer, “Teachers teach who they are.” Try these tips on for size and see what fits you!

1. Prepare yourself: Prepare personally, and professionally. Obtain the proper training and certifications for the job. Apply educational psychology to better understand your students. Know what should be taught and follow standards for teaching. Continued learning is necessary. Continue to read a wide range of books, professional journals, and online resources. Read the Chronicle of Higher Education, the nation's largest newsroom dedicated to covering colleges and universities online at

2. Accept yourself: Manage time and stress. Know your limits and prioritize. Know when to say no, but don"t always say no. Identify what causes and lowers your stress. Once you have identified causes of stress, consider possible changes. You don"t have to be perfect to teach and have a personal life. Take time to refresh outside of school. Know when to ask for help and accept help when it is offered. Build networks of people for personal and professional support (family, friends, colleagues, administrators). Reach out to your center for professional development. Find support in your professional organizations. Become a leader by helping others.

3. Accept your students and meet them at their developmental and cognitive level. Accept the diverse backgrounds and strive to help all students succeed. Continue to learn about diversity and multicultural education. Motivate and lead students to higher levels of learning. Identify any special needs and additional help available to students. Maintain positive communication with specialists and administrators regarding student needs. To view the Mindset List about what has “always” or “never” been true for entering college students, visit

4. Communication: Learn how to communicate and monitor words to students, colleagues, administrators, and community. Avoid sarcasm. Be mindful of privacy, especially in public and on social media.

5. Assess: Define your philosophy of teaching and why you teach. Continue to reflect on your teaching. Define success in teaching. Money isn"t everything. Consider personal time and lifestyle. When interviewing for a job, explain past success but determine whether the job is right for you.

6. Plan: Organize the curriculum and the classroom. The big picture of the curriculum should include the needs of society and the individual. Begin with the end in mind, what students should know and be able to do at end of lesson, unit, and course. Create a curriculum map including what is taught and when it is taught. 

Lesson plans should include goals and learning objectives. Volunteer to serve on the curriculum committee and develop Standard III for the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) Accreditation of Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs.

When organizing the classroom, students should face the front, be able to access materials easily, and have personal space for their belongings. Create routines to keep students organized and have a procedure for everything. Create management/discipline plans which include rules, consequences, and positives.

7. Implement: Recognize developmental readiness and use scaffolding to support students. Help students learn “how to learn.” This may include helping students memorize knowledge-based content in order to apply the knowledge to the level of automaticity. Provide students with available resources:

8. Methods for teaching/Instructional management. Consider who the students are, what the content is, and the culture of the school as you keep the students busy and learning. Vary methods to improve student learning and be strategic about methods that work for the students. Include direct methods and discovery learning such as active learning and hands-on methods. Use research-based techniques and continue to identify best practices.

  • To discover experimentation, innovation, and evidence-based practices, visit the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at
  • Faculty Focus publishes articles on effective teaching strategies for the college classroom in their free e-newsletter and dedicated website. Check them out at
  • For ideas on flipping the classroom to improve student learning, visit

9. Use technology wisely. Use technology to make day-to-day work easier and enhance high-quality teaching. Be open minded and try current technology trends but adopt selectively. Know what technologies students are currently using and incorporate appropriately. Don"t be afraid to ask for assistance from others, even your students. Volunteer to serve on the resource committee and develop Standard II for CCNE Accreditation of Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs. Have a say in how technology is used schoolwide.

10. Evaluate: Adopt a usable, valid grading system which can be easily explained to students and administrators. Using a variety of methods, evaluate students” learning informally and continually to determine their preparedness for the final evaluation. Select well-written published tests that accompany the textbook with a variety of question types. As we prepare for the next generation of the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX Next Gen), participate in professional development to increase your writing and exam analysis abilities. Collect data to drive decisions and prioritize change. Be involved in assessments of programs at the school to advocate for change and improvement. Volunteer to be on the evaluation committee and develop Standard IV for CCNE Accreditation of Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Programs. RubiStar is a free tool to help teachers create quality rubrics. Check them out at

In closing, although nurse educators are trusted with the future of nursing, my nursing education career has created lasting bonds with colleagues from many disciplines excited about inspiring students. As Robert John Meehan said, “The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.” I hope this advice from my esteemed colleague will help nurse educators succeed in shaping the future of our most trusted profession.


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