We received so many great questions for our Advice for New Teachers webinar that we didn't have time to answer during the presentation. We took your most frequently asked questions to Keely Keller, the Director of Professional Programs at Learners Edge and former Special Educator and Administrator, to get the answers you're looking for.
You can get year-round support as you figure out how to survive and thrive in the classroom. Join a team of new(er) teachers around the country to get tools, resources, and training that's specifically designed for educators entering the profession. You'll also have access to monthly Q&As with veteran educators who can answer all of the questions you don't want to bring into the teacher's lounge. Get started here or by clicking the button below.
What letters are the most important to send home at the beginning of the year (teacher Intro letter, classroom procedures, etc.)?
Teacher introduction is of key importance to help let families know that they're an integral part of your instructional team. The classroom expectations and a summary of your classroom management plan can come a week or so, once you’ve worked with your learners to create expectations. You may also need to send documents or newsletters required by the building or district so make sure you keep track of what's necessary. If you are working with older learners, you may have a syllabus to share as well.
How involved should I be during my first year, in terms of clubs and extracurricular activities?
This is truly up to the individual first-year teacher and dependent on the requirements your building or district has for new teachers. Be sure to ask yourself if you have time and energy to take on an additional responsibility early. Consider waiting until spring to coach or lead an extracurricular to give yourself time to adapt to your teaching responsibilities first.
How can newer teachers best advocate their ideas among veteran teachers?
Share your idea, your reasoning/thinking, and any experiences or outcomes you have seen with the method or strategy you are recommending. Remember, you have valuable experience too! For example, new teachers often have stronger skills with technology and social media so feel free to offer to show veteran teachers how you are doing something. Stay involved in collegial conversations. You've trained for this profession, you've likely researched methods that work, and you have life experience. You have a voice, but you need to assertively communicate your thoughts.
What are the best ways administrators can support new teachers with classroom management issues?
Remind them about growth mindset. Assist them or assign an experienced teacher with strong behavior management skills to assist with a classroom management plan. Offer to observe and provide ideas or insights. Encourage them to observe other teachers who are strong classroom managers. Provide additional learning through professional development like videos, articles, etc.
How long do you spend on establishing classroom management routines at the beginning of the year?
This depends on the age and developmental level of your students and classroom. Typically, it takes about three weeks for routines to become habits. Visual reminders and practice help speed up this process. Some students will need more time and may need more explicit instructions or praise for following classroom routines. It’s important that you follow the schedule as you have laid it out and be consistent.
What protocols/procedures are most important to incorporate during the first week of school?
Focus on relationship building during the first few days of school and slowly begin to transition to expectations and procedures/protocols. Specific procedures/protocols are up to the individual teacher depending on how structured the teacher wants to be and the content area/learning activities typically completed in class. Consider discussing what your job is vs. what your students' jobs are and develop expectations together. Teach students how to hand in work for feedback and your communication expectations as well.
What is the best way for new teachers to contribute to a PLC group/team, even if they are intimidated?
Come prepared to share your ideas and your thinking behind your ideas specific to the PLC agenda.
Ask your mentor about the PLCs in the building and what is expected during the meetings (Do you bring data? Do you take turns leading? Etc.)
Ask for a quick rundown of the PLC format when you go to your first meeting. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask to be oriented to a brand-new team/process.
What is the best tip for what to do when your students walk into the room on the first day of school?
Meet them at the door! Welcome them and show interest in them. And of course, smile. Remember that they're probably nervous too. You've got this!
We believe all new teachers need support. What are the best ways to determine the unique needs of each new teacher?
Ask them! Many new teachers will know what areas they want to work on and let you know what their goals are.
Try using a rating scale with the teacher to find areas of strength and their areas for growth.
Observe them in a non-threatening manner. That means making sure that your new teacher knows that you're on their side and that you're there to help them- not to just pass judgment.
How can a new teacher deal with burnout and be motivated to continue in the profession?
Create a work-life balance by creating strict "office hours" and unplugging outside of those times. When times get hard (and they do for every teacher!) focus on why you became a teacher and the small victories you have each day.