President Obama honors California educator Rebecca Mieliwocki, the 2012 Teacher of the Year at the White House on April 24, 2012.

By Rebecca Mieliwocki, Special to CNN.

Editor’s note: Rebecca Mieliwocki is a seventh grade English teacher in California who was chosen the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. The National Teacher of the Year is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers.  You can follow Rebecca on Twitter @MrsMieliwocki.

(CNN) – Are you ready to be sneezed on? Cried on? Laughed at? Hugged to death? I sure hope so, dear newbie. Because what no one will tell you, besides me, is it’s about to get very, very real all up in this place called the classroom. You’re going to do phenomenally, but it’s going to be challenging, frustrating and thrilling, often all three at once. I am so excited you’ve chosen to make teaching your life’s work. My heart is literally racing with excitement and hope for you. It’s going to change your life and you’ll never be the same after day one.

It’s imperative that you survive your first teaching experience so you can begin to thrive in the classroom. Teaching is such a kick-in-the-pants, joyous, gut-wrenching odyssey that it’s only fair I share with you some tips, tricks and ideas to get you started on just the right foot.

1. Before you teach one lesson, create the systems by which your classroom will be run. You need procedures for how kids enter/exit the classroom, how kids volunteer to talk, move around and help out, places for paperwork to come in and go out, plans for how to manage absent students and their missing work, seating charts, supply centers, everything. Figure this all out as you set up your classroom and before you meet even one student.

You can always tweak and improve as you go and you’ll find out quickly what you like and don’t like. But classrooms without systems create challenges that can get even the best teachers into quagmires. Good systems allow your class to run smoothly so you can focus on what YOU do best: teach!

2. It’s all about the pencil. It took me far too long to realize this, so I’m telling it to you up front. New teachers often get trapped in a struggle with kids over supplies: where they are, why they didn’t bring them to class, losing them, borrowing them. It’s exhausting and it often keeps you from doing what you need to be doing. In our zeal to teach readiness and responsibility we mistakenly make having supplies a hill we choose to fight for and die on. Stubborn teachers do and kids suffer.

I once worked with an incredible social studies teacher named Karen whom I observed frequently. I watched her quickly lend supplies to any kid who was without during her lessons. I asked her about it later and she said, “I simply have too much to do with kids to get bogged down by supplies. I won’t let anything get between my kids’ learning and what I have to teach them each day. You shouldn’t either.” I have incorporated that theory into every decision I make and you should, too.

3. Make sure you have a clear focus for each day’s lesson that includes what it is you expect kids to learn. Publicize that on your board and say it out loud at the start of class. Knit together each day’s lesson to yesterday’s learning and explain how and why kids need to know this. At the end of the period, right before they leave, ask kids to tell you what they learned. Studies show that teachers who draw connections from day to day increase comprehension and retention of their material by more than 50%. Wow! This is a little thing that gets huge results.

4. Maximize your instructional power by putting kids to work. Use classroom helpers or “employees” to help you run the room so you are free to teach. Between call-slips, the phone, tech procedures and the paper trail, there are dozens of tasks you have to attend to to keep things running well. Most everything can be handled expertly and enthusiastically by your students. Hire them, pay them in goodies or extra opportunities, give bonuses for good work, review their performance and rotate duties frequently throughout the year so many kids get these unique chances to shine and help your room run smoothly.

5. Discipline your students with dignity so every tricky situation is a win-win moment. New teachers often get into power struggles with students as they attempt to learn how to assert themselves in this new arena. Avoid this completely. Instead, use proximity and language to sort out what’s happening. Do it with a neutral tone of voice and with a smile on your face whenever possible. Lean down or squat near kids who are off task so you aren’t towering over them.

Ask kids who are misbehaving what they are doing, what they are supposed to be doing, and what they are going to do now. These three simple questions from classroom guru Rick Morris get to the heart of the matter quickly. Kids see you have a clear focus on what’s supposed to be happening and that you need this child to get right back to it. There is no personalized blaming or attacks, just a “let’s get back to work” focus. Figuring out quick, thoughtful ways to neutralize problems shows you care about your work and your kids. That goes a long way toward keeping your class running without disruption.

6. Design lessons and activities that give kids freedom, choice and fun. This is another Rick Morris gem (seriously…check this guy out!) This is where your creativity and personality can come in. You know what content standards you must help kids master, but HOW you do that, how you personalize it to match your students’ interests, and increasing kid choice in how they show you they’ve learned is what will make your classroom a lively, special place.

7. Collaborate like crazy. Great teachers are social, reflective, proud but not egotistical and always open to improvement. So find a buddy on campus – or five. Wander into each other’s classrooms. Soak up what you see that works and watch what doesn’t. Talk to each other, share ideas and support each other. Give good, constructive feedback to them and be willing to hear it yourself. This is how teachers grow and improve. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel or go it alone.

8. Take care of yourself. Teachers, especially new ones, naturally invest insane amounts of time lesson-planning, grading, searching for new curriculum materials and attending to teaching duties. It’s a never-ending stream of work, work you love, but work all the same. Teacher burnout isn’t a myth, it’s a reality. Be aware of this and become protective of you-time. Carve out two nights a week and one whole weekend day for yourself and nothing else. Read, travel, garden, exercise, cook. Whatever you do, do it for you.

Don’t become your job. Instead, let your job become a beautiful reflection of the person you are and makes you the crazy great teacher kids love having.

9. Have courage to teach boldy, with creativity, and beyond the test. Kids must learn, you must grab kids where they are and move them. They’ll come to you with a whole host of issues, whether they’re at grade level or not. Your job is to find out where they are, find out what they need and then give it to them. Move them. Any forward academic movement is a good thing. These are the results people are dying to see if we can achieve.

So there you go, Teach. It’s a short list for sure, but one filled with good advice that, if taken, will set you up not just for a great first year, but for a well-run classroom and an exciting career in this incredible profession. I envy your first day, the first set of kids all your own to teach.

You are going to change these kids’ lives forever for the better. It’s a magic moment and one you’ll never forget. So, go to it.

Go forward and do that thing you were born to do: TEACH!

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rebecca Mieliwocki.