Friday, July 26, 2013

10 things I want all new teachers to know...

This year I am working closely with our BTAP (beginning teacher assistance program) to help plan and develop some beginning of the year trainings. For the record, our BTAP committee has been doing a wonderful job over the years, however like anything, we are always looking to improve and do it better each year.

This year we have 22 brand new never taught still don't know what I'm doing teachers in our district. Now, I'm not sure about you and your district, but from where I come from that is a lot of new teachers! Consequently, we want and NEED to have a strong new teacher program to help with this transition. As many are aware, almost 50% of new teachers exit the profession by their 5th year. This number makes me a little uncomfortable, so anything I can do to help with new teachers is the least I can do!

So here is my list of what I want all new teachers to know:

1) - It's Ok to look and feel like this. If being scared wasn't supposed to happen from time to time, then we wouldn't be human. Don't be afraid of what you don't know and aren't sure about. Take everything in stride and accept that you are going to make mistakes. The key is making sure you learn from those mistakes.

2) - Find time during your off period to go observe other classrooms in your building. Even if the content and/or age group are different, there is still a lot you can learn via simple observation. If possible, see if that teacher would be willing to sit and talk with you about what you saw in their classroom. Even better, invite them to observe your classroom and get feedback/input on what they saw in your classroom.

3) - Focus on building relationships with your students from day one. Don't worry about your content at first, you most likely just spent the last four years of your life learning about it. Spend the first few weeks learning about the lives of the students you have in front of you. The more you learn about your students the more they will learn about your content.

4) - Don't worry about discipline and punishing kids; worry about how to provide strong instruction and an engaging classroom environment. This is basically being proactive rather than reactive. A classroom that is engaging with strong instructional practices is a classroom with few discipline problems.

5) - Learn the names and show the utmost respect to every administrative assistant, custodial/maintenance and food service employee in your building. They will help you more than you could ever imagine... trust me on this.

6) - Don't be afraid to speak up and share an idea. You most likely weren't hired because you were the worst candidate, so at some point in time somebody saw something great about you. You bring a new perspective and a fresh set of lenses to the table, so be sure to share your thoughts and insights in a collaborative and collegial manner.

7) - Don't try to do everything on your own. Don't simply shut your door and teach. Work with those who have more experience and know the system. Find a few people whom you can trust, and lean on them.

8) - Be careful of the teacher's lounge and watch out for 'that group.' The teacher's lounge can be the type of environment that just beats you down and makes you feel like the world is a terrible place. This is not always the case, but be aware that these black holes do exist from time to time. Also, every school has 'the group.' You might not notice the group at first because they are always looking for new members (specifically new teachers). Try to avoid this group at all costs.

9) - Having fun on the weekends is all good and is frankly healthy, but be sure to keep your image clean and professional. More employees get in trouble for the silly and not so smart things they do online than for most other reasons. Be safe and have a healthy career/life balance, but don't feel the need to take a picture of every second and then share those pictures with the world.

10) - Get connected and follow the #ntchat hashtag. There is whole world full of resources and information out there, so don't feel limited to just the colleagues in your hallway, in your school and in your district. Reach out and take control of your own learning and development.

What would you add to this list?