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Supporting New Teachers: What have you done for them lately?

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Our Profession & New Teachers: 

Rick DuFour has stated that the teaching profession can be viewed as "independent contractors united by a common parking lot."  Although much has been done to provide teachers time to collaborate and share ideas, the bottom line is that from day 1 teachers are on their own for a majority of the time.  Combine that with the fact that studies consistently depict an exodus of teachers from the profession by as much as 50% within their first 5 years of service and you have a clear problem.  New Teachers need our support! 
Support for our New Teachers:  

By now a majority of school districts have in place "mentoring" programs for new teachers.  This is a step in the right direction, but certainly only one piece of a much larger puzzle.  We need to do more! I often challenge our teachers when they come to me to with a problem to have at least one possible solution to that problem, and I make every effort to do the same.  So I would like to share some things we are doing at Plymouth North high school that move towards a solution to the problem of new teacher attrition.  Here are two things we are trying this year:   

1.     Support Group
2.     Administrator as Instructor: Leading by Example

Support Group:

I refer to this as our "Support Group" because we haven't been able to give it a name, it's that simple :)  A forward thinking teacher came to me last year with this terrific idea!  We are fortunate to have 2-25minute advisory periods for our students each week to emphasize personalization at our school.  Last year we decided to free up our new teachers during this period and place them together with a respected veteran teacher.  These teachers can be first year teachers, or veterans who are new to our school.  Our initial goal was to expose our new teachers to our school culture. For example, how to take attendance on our new software, referrals, cut slips, school & social activities, etc. It quickly expanded into discussions on good teaching practice, our evaluation system, classroom management and professional development.  Administrators, school nurse, and department heads will be brought in for question and answer sessions at a comfortable pace.  We'd like the direction to be dictated by our new teachers, who will have input on what they want support with.  Our new teachers have responded extremely positively to this group and have reported feeling supported.   

Administrator as Instructor-Leading by Example: 

This summer I read Motivating & Inspiring Teachers: The Educational Leader's Guide for Building Staff Morale by Todd Whitaker, Beth Whitaker and Dale Lumpa. The book is a wealth of knowledge and has improved my practice as an educational leader.  The authors suggest administrators teaching a class for teachers to observe.  What a terrific way to model and discuss teaching practice with new teachers, I was in!  I met with our new teachers and explained our evaluation process and asked them to pick a class for me to teach- they chose our English Essentials class.  Picture that...A lifelong PE teacher teaching an English class- I was excited for the opportunity.  We met again and I presented them my lesson plan and we discussed the lesson.  They were the evaluators and I the evaluee. The next day I taught the lesson (Hunger Games) and had a blast!  A post observation meeting was held and we discussed what went well with the lesson, what could be improved and the lesson's relation to good practice.  The discussion was some of the richest I've ever had with teachers! I felt we made a connection and have asked to come back to simply "LISTEN" to them and all the exciting things that are going on in their classrooms.   Some of the benefits that came from my experience teaching a lesson and having teachers evaluate me are:  
  • Gaining TRUST with our new teachers: I am an Administrator, but still a TEACHER!
  • Ability to practice what I preach: if you evaluate teaching, you should teach!
  • Modeling the power of constructive criticism and how it should be used to improve instruction
  • Dissecting a class by discussing best practices & methods
  • Ability to connect with kids!  I loved being back in the classroom!
We are proud of our new teachers and are taking necessary steps to ensure we KEEP them here!
I hope this post inspires you to share the great things you are doing at your school to support new teachers.  It is by sharing & collaborating together that we collectively can begin to chip away at the high attrition rates.  Please share by leaving a comment and become part of the solution! 


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