Saturday, September 4

To Teach a New Teacher

I am helping a new teacher get ready for the school year.  She is bright, enthusiastic and completely overwhelmed.  Initially, I was letting her ask me questions and I provided answers.  Suddenly, it struck me that we were not approaching the situation correctly.  I was letting her guide me and determine what she needed.  This was backwards.

While I agree that sometimes students (and new teachers) need autonomy in learning, they also need someone in charge.  When I met with the new teacher again, I told her we were going to try a new approach – my approach.

I am a linear thinker.  I like to do things in order.  The new teacher was concerned about record keeping and report cards, which were months away.  I explained that we needed to prioritize.

Our immediate goal had to be her classroom.  (She thought she was just about finished.)  I walked her through my room.  Then, I walked her through two other classrooms.  I showed her how each room had the teacher’s personality and was “kid friendly.”  I explained that each room was set up to provide the teacher with what she needed regardless of where she was giving instruction in the room.  We discussed the importance of traffic flow.  Finally, we discussed how to use bulletin boards as interactive teaching tools.

Next, we moved onto the first big event.  At our school, the students come for “Hello Day,” which is one hour to drop off supplies, meet the teacher, and do a quick project.  The new teacher had no idea what this one hour entails – it can be very chaotic if you don’t have a plan.  Parents watch you to see how you manage it all.  We discussed at length all she needed to do to prepare, so the event would flow seamlessly and successfully.

Then, our next goal was preparing for back to school night.  At our school it is held the evening of the second day of school.  She needed a parent packet that stated her philosophy, goals, procedures and routines.  I gave her copies of mine to look over and use as a guide.  Next I will have her practice with me to help her feel more comfortable.

I gave her goals for this weekend.  Just as I do with my students, I needed her to have a more manageable, sequential way to approach the work that needed to be accomplished.  She wasn’t seeing the big picture, so I as her “teacher” needed her to see clearly the learning goals. 

The final part of the puzzle was that she had met with two other teachers a few times who were supposed to help her.  One was NOT familiar with many of our school’s routines and only works part time.  The other was a teacher who was retiring and was not using our school’s entire curriculum.  While both of these teachers tried to be helpful, they basically did not provide the detailed and concrete help the new teacher needed.  There were too many cooks stirring the pot.  When the new teacher came to me, she knew my agenda would be to help her shine.  I would be right next door and be her biggest cheerleader.

People in my life who are not in the field of education don’t understand the amount of time and energy I spend helping someone without being compensated for it.  They cannot grasp that, to me, if one teacher fails, we all fail.  My willingness to help the new teacher is because I love my profession as much today as I did 29 years ago.  Mentoring/coaching/helping a new teacher is a way to pay it forward to all of the teachers that helped me along the way.  All I need as payment is someone to say thank you and pass it on.

Most importantly, I do it for the students that will sit in her classroom.  
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