- Teaching in a Pandemic: Help Teachers, Help You - February 2, 2021
- The Importance of Feedback in Distance Learning - October 9, 2020
- What a Teacher Wants: One Teacher's View - March 25, 2018
- Artist is Not a Dirty Word - March 18, 2018
- The Death of Reflection in English/Language Arts Classrooms - March 9, 2018
- More Than A Teacher - March 4, 2018
- Real Teaching Resolutions - January 5, 2017
- 23 Times I have Questioned My Sanity While Teaching - September 7, 2016
- Part 3: Adventures in Real Word English/Language Arts - Let Them Be Great - August 23, 2016
- Part 2: Adventures in Real World English/Language Arts: Making Them Care - August 4, 2016
Teaching is hard work, but the rewards are infinite. And for brand new teachers fresh out of college, those rewards seem really far away. We have colleges that are designed to teach teachers how to “teach,” but it is not until a person actually enters the classroom alone, can the true education begin. As our education majors shrink and more than 40% of new teachers leave the classroom within the first five years, schools MUST retain our teachers and shape them to help mold our youth.
It takes at least three to five years for a teacher to feel confident and comfortable with the management and material, but so many leave before this point is reached. Brand-new teachers do bring their own set of challenges, but they offer so many positive aspects. They are new and are willing to be taught a school’s way of doing things. There is no need to “undo” previous habits. They are positive and bring a fresh perspective to the school.
Retaining these gems is hard, and they will need lots of polish, but if teachers and administrations are willing to put in the time and effort, new teachers will enhance any faculty, at any school. Here are some things to consider when working with and hiring new teachers:
1. Mentors. New teachers need guidance by someone that has been there. She needs someone to go to that is not an administrator. She needs to go to a person that she can vent to, ask advice from, and most importantly, trust. Assigning a mentor that is willing to spend time guiding a new teacher is the best gift an administrator can give. Mentors, not only teach the new teacher how to teach, but adjust the school environment. Mentors answer questions and give advice anything and everything from laying out a classroom, what I should do with this student, or developing a sub plan.
2. Observations. New teachers need to be observed. This really seems obvious, but it must be mentioned. They need scheduled and unscheduled observations. Observations need to be made by mentors, administration, department leaders of the same content and different content areas. Everyone has a different perspective and can offer advice to a new teacher. A new teacher must be made to understand that observations help her become a better teacher. If other people observe her before formal evaluations come around, she will be confident and ready which can make all the difference in the world.
New teachers also need to have an opportunity to observe other teachers. An education major has to observe so many hours in a classroom before he or she does student teaching, but the chances are they were put in the best classrooms with the most well behaved students. New teachers need to see teachers that teach their students. Or see teachers with the BEST classroom management strategies, because chances are they will need it.
3. Types of Classes. New teachers are often given the worst classes. There is this constant trend that new teachers must “pay their dues.” I understand that an administration does not want to upset veteran teachers; however, if you want to retain new teacher they must have a class they can succeed in. If you give a brand new teacher three different preps and all remedial classes, you cannot expect her to excel. How can she master material if she is constantly redirecting or writing up students? Give her one honors class. Let her master content with them. She needs to feel like she is making a difference. At the very least, in one class.
4. Reduce responsibilities. When a new teacher enters a school, especially a high school, there is intense pressure on her to sponsor or coach something. New teachers have trouble saying "no." (Well, we all do.) They want to please the administration and help the students. It is so difficult to coach the swim team, sponsor the chess team, present a new computer program to the staff, and lesson plan for three different classes. They need time to prepare for CLASS. This is their number one priority. Pressuring them to take on clubs and coaching responsibilities is just setting them up for failure. Let them master one step at a time. Let them co-sponsor the cheer leading team in the spring, once the fall semester is finished. Give a new teacher time to adjust to the classroom before layering on more and more responsibilities.
5. Professional Development. Many school districts offer professional development for new teachers. Many of these programs are effective if a new teachers is given the opportunity to actually go. If this professional development is during the school day, they should be allowed to go. Great teaching can only happen in classroom management is there. If that means a sub, for one or two days a semester so a new teacher can see an expert in that area, she should not be made to feel guilty.
Overall new teachers are an investment in our future. More and more students are in classrooms with teachers with less than five years’ experience, and please do not get me wrong, there are amazing teachers with less than five years’ experience, but as I mentioned earlier, usually mastery of the classroom does not take place till much later. Are our students really getting the BEST education if we cannot retain good teachers? Are we really giving new teachers the help they need in the classroom? We cannot expect a new teacher to sink or swim. Teaching is a lonely professional and no one knows what we go through unless you live it. If a new teacher does not receive help from the people who are in the trenches with her every day, where will she go? Out the door. This would be a terrible loss for everyone.