I love talking and writing about education issues, but,… I am a working teacher, and there are days, and there are weeks when posting is the last thing that I have time for. I rarely miss reading my blog favs, but even that fell by the wayside this week.
We had a School Choice Open House on Wednesday night, a full afternoon of parent-teacher conferences from 12:30-6:00 on Thursday afternoon, and it’s time for 2nd marking period Interim reports to parents, which means that scoring and grades on the on-line grading system have to be shipshape and Bristol polish. I am on top of everything, but it has taken a toll on sleep. I was in bed before 10:00 last night–not my usual Friday night bedtime.
So, what’s it like for new teachers? Much of this is “old hat” to me. I have done 39 standard Open House presentations in my career—enhanced now, I hope, by PowerPoint. I’m sure that I’ve proffered ten or eleven School Choice Open House welcomes for potential students and their families, where I tell them a bit about the school, 6th grade, and my wonderful science program. There are always a lot of parent questions, but rarely any from the kids. Over the years, I have participated in hundreds of parent conferences, and even I have finally mastered the on-line Teacher Access Center for recording assignments and grades on the computer. (O.K. It took me longer than many of my colleagues, but I can even do a little trouble-shooting on my own now.)
Yet this must all be quite overwhelming for our newest staff members. 14 weeks/67 days into the year and they have already completed one marking period; one complete set of grades and comments for the first report cards; two sets of Interim status checks, with comments; two Open Houses; and at least 10-12 hours of parent conferences—probably more. At my school, they have learned their way around a large, somewhat confusing building; the names of approx. 140 students; a myriad of daily routines; and a three-day rotating schedule: Day 1-2-3, 1-2-3, and so on. Oh, don’t forget—they have had to learn the names and faces of a bunch of new adults as well.
New teachers may need to become familiar with a new curriculum—certainly with new materials. Trained social studies or biology teachers may be masters of their traditional content areas, but still have to study up each week to handle particular concepts and curriculum goals. They may have to work long and hard to set up their new classrooms—heck, they may have to clean out the detritus left behind by a previous teacher. Some of the stuff may be useful—even valuable—but much of it may be decades old and past its prime.
They will struggle to accumulate needed numbers or amounts of basic classroom supplies like tape, scissors, staplers, etc. It takes a while to figure out what one may need to run the kind of program that works for kids—a science teacher may need 6-10 tape dispensers, 30 pairs of good scissors, and rolls of adding machine tape for different activities in the hands-on science program on Forces That Cause Motion. The social studies teacher may need a classroom collection of colored pencils, 15 tape dispensers, and 5 staplers to work on that special map project. Veteran teachers don’t fool around—they have had years to amass the supplies they know that they will need. Back-to-school sales are not just for the kiddies! I make sure that there is very little that I want for in preparing to teach each fall. But, my newbie friends may be scrounging or doing without the very things that could make a lesson click.
New teachers attend all of the faculty meetings and professional development sessions along with the rest of the staff. They will also spend time after school fulfilling responsibilities within the state- or district-directed new teacher mentoring programs. They meet with their individual mentors and attend school-wide or district-wide training sessions. This is good, but is it enough?
This begs the following questions:
What is it that brand new teachers really need in order to get off to a good start and to do the best job possible for their students?
If we are concerned about quality teacher training, recruitment, and retention, then what must we provide for new teachers to best provide for their identified needs?
What do new teachers deserve from the state, the district, and the school where they are employed? What do we owe them in this time of school transformation?
Think about this—is the status quo of new teacher induction practices good enough? Or, do we need to come up with a revolutionary way of supporting all new teachers as they enter this important profession? More later.