Being a new teacher is hard. You have to plan lessons, call parents, grade assignments, discipline students and somehow live your own life all within a 24 hour time frame. In the midst of all of your duties and responsibilities as a teacher it is routine practice that you have a team of people in the building who are there to help guide you on how to handle the pressures of being a new teacher.These building mentors can range from the Instructional Coach, the Assistant Principal, Teacher Mentor, Assistant Principal to the Principal themselves. They observe, consult and plan with teacher on a variety of topics such as: ideas on classroom management, to how to set up your grade book to how to teach a lesson. Sometimes their advice is needed while other times you dread having to hear another person tell you what you are doing wrong in the classroom. The only problem with the help is that so much advice has the ability to overwhelm new teachers.
Think about it. In any given week you (the new teacher) could of been visited by each on them in your classroom- giving you 4 people telling you how to teach in 4 different ways. So the question becomes- who do you listen to?
Of course the natural answer may be the Principal but most administrators are far removed from the daily happenings of the classroom so who does that leave for the new teacher(s) to trust? Do they try and implement everything that every person who observes them tells them to do? Of course not that would be maddening and could ultimately leave a teacher vulnerable to leaving the profession. Instead use these four steps to help decipher the advice you will receive and develop a plan to make the most of your building mentors.
1. Seek out a mentor that is experienced in the building. When many new teachers start they are sometimes confused about who they can rely on for good advice. Take a week and observe the teacher(s) who have few discipline problems, who are confident in their discipline and who have been at the school long enough that they can tell you how to become a master teacher. These teachers are usually easily to spot and once you have identified them, make it a point to introduce yourself. Ask to observe their class and ask for their advice. Most veteran teachers are willing to help new teacher get used to the classroom.
2. Communicate with all of the people giving you advice and ask for them to focus on one thing to work on at a time. Instead of being angry about the constant observations and advice, ask that there be a monthly focus instead of trying to work on too many areas of improvement at a time. A good idea would be to develop a monthly calendar where you work on the strategies you need to work to become a Master Teacher. Your schedule could include observations of not only teachers in your content area but master teachers around the school that you can learn from. .
3. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion.Many new teachers haven’t developed their teacher voice enough to speak up for themselves when they disagree with administration. However by looking at the whole picture can help you frame your conversations with your building mentors so that they understand that your ultimate goal is to help children. So when you get frustrated or tired of meeting, keep that in mind so that you can always have respectful interactions- even if you ‘agree to disagree’.
4. Ask for help for things you struggle with in the classroom. There will come a point when as a new teacher you will become overwhelmed. Take that time to ‘take a step back’ and ask for help. Asking for help does not lesson your influence as an educator- it does however help you recognize the areas you need help in. Every teacher has been frustrated in their first years (and well beyond) of teaching – it’s normal.
In the end, teaching is like a ‘box of chocolates’- you never know what you’re going to encounter in the classroom. So strap on your boots and enjoy the ride! Now tell us how did you deal with constant advice/criticism as a new teacher?