By Mindy Farry, School Improvement and Accountability Representative
So, the school year has started, you’ve survived several days of professional development, planning, curriculum maps, and a mountain of paperwork. Now the real work begins. We all know how drastic the teacher shortage is, and we need to do everything we can to train, mentor, coach, and monitor our new teachers.
For teachers who are young and may be experiencing their first adult job right out of college, imagine all they are experiencing: finding an apartment; paying bills; navigating a new city; new job; student discipline issues; parent complaints; and navigating those first few weeks of school.
Even for teachers who have taught before, the challenges are enormous.
Supporting new teachers is an ongoing process. Orienting them to the school during pre-school professional development days is essential, but leaving them on their own after that… is a disaster waiting to happen. Yes, matching new teachers with veteran teachers is important, but the new teachers need to hear from their school leader often. Here are some practical tips and actions you can do to help support and keep those new teachers:
- Parent-Teacher Communications: Help new teachers build effective positive relationships with the parents of their students. Provide tips and strategies and encourage teachers to be proactive and positive in their initial contact. And most importantly, be a supportive presence if there are potential issues.
- Emotional Support: Recognize that teachers are experiencing stress and challenges. Offer emotional support to create a positive, inclusive school culture where they feel valued and supported.
- Encourage Reflection: Encourage them to share honest feelings and help them reveal what would help them overcome the stress or issues they face.
- Regular Check-ins: Schedule regular check-ins with each teacher individually. As a group, meet once a month for coffee and donuts to help scaffold the learning they will need. For instance, at the meeting before testing begins, take time to introduce them to the process and schedule for your building. Before winter break, meet and warn them about the discipline issues that may appear during those weeks.
- Differentiate Professional Development: Knowing what each teacher needs is paramount. If teachers are struggling with classroom management, differentiation, data, lesson planning, etc., prepare professional development that will match their needs. Look over the BCHF professional development catalogue and suggest an offering that would match their needs.
- Be sure that new teachers have all the resources they need. Provide books, suggestions, ways to help them make life a little easier.
- Classroom Observation and Feedback: Ask season teacher leaders to observe before the formal observation of an administrator. Review the teacher evaluation process and evaluation instrument thoroughly, providing specific examples of what effective teaching looks like and sounds like.
- Reduce Workload: Consider reducing their non-teaching responsibilities during the first two years. If this isn’t possible as a year-long solution, offer to cover a duty now and then.
- Act Quickly on Ineffective Teachers: It is now kind to wait until the end of the year to non-renew a teacher when you haven’t stepped in earlier to attempt to help them correct the issues. Stepping in with a specific, monitored action plan can help turn a struggling teacher into a more reflective and successful teacher.
- Celebrate Success: Search for any opportunity you can to recognize the accomplishments of new teachers. It will boost not only their morale, but will serve as a beacon for others to follow.
And when your new teachers or YOU need to be reminded of why they teach, think about this: “Every job has its ups and downs, but not every job can change a life.” –Unknown