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ShapingtheFuture+PLUS

Would you like to know more? See an extension of this article, “Other Tools and Tips to Equip News Teachers”—a ShapingtheFuture+PLUS feature.

 

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Challenges with Behavior (LDnet)

Not a Faith Graduation (PEN)

 reaching first year teachers

Teaching and Reaching
Young teachers … will forever measure school leadership and the teaching profession largely based on their experience and relationship with you. First-Year Teachers

Have you heard the story of an Indian sitting in a plane next to the great Albert Einstein? To pass the time, Einstein suggested that they play a game. “I will ask you a question, and if you can’t answer it, you will pay me fifty dollars. Then you ask me a question, and if I can’t answer it, I will pay you five hundred dollars.” The Indian knew he was no match for the venerated inventor, but he thought he might be able to stump Einstein on some cultural knowledge. So he accepted the challenge.

Einstein went first and asked the Indian for the distance between the earth and moon. Not sure, the Indian reached into his pocket and gave Einstein fifty dollars. Now his turn, the Indian asked Einstein, “What goes up the mountain with three legs and comes down with four legs?” Confounded by the question, Einstein dipped into his pocket and gave the man five hundred dollars. Now it was Einstein’s turn again. “Before I ask you my next question, what does go up the mountain with three legs and comes down with four legs?” The Indian paused, reached into his pocket, and gave Einstein fifty dollars.1

New teachers know some things but not everything. In fact, most new teachers don’t know what they don’t know. This is where you come in. God saw fit to bring you and this new teacher together at this time for His purposes. Young teachers will never forget the lessons learned from their first administrator. They will forever measure school leadership and the teaching profession largely based on their experience and relationship with you.   

Teacher attrition has grown 50 percent since 1992. According to the Center for Education Statistics, 50 percent of new public school teachers leave the profession within the first three years. Moreover, the cost of finding a replacement for a teacher averages around $16,000. No wonder Forbes “100 Best Companies to Work For” all share one common investment: These companies spend an average of 75 hours of training on each employee per year.2

The reasons teachers quit, or fail to survive as new teachers, are clear.

ups and downsPrepare them for the mountains and valleys of a long trek

rollercoasterYou can do many things to acclimate new teachers to your school and grow in their confidence and skill development. Remember that new teachers, particularly young ones, come to your school with idyllic dreams of classroom bliss. They just know that students will be amazed by their content knowledge, pedagogy and delivery, vivacious and interesting personality, and wicked sense of humor. This wishful thinking carries them…for the first two weeks or so. Then reality strikes. As infamous boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit.” When new teachers suddenly discover that the kids disdain the content, find their jokes and personality annoying, tell them that the class is boring, and mock their ineptitude in classroom management—especially compared to last year’s teacher who retired, they can and will most likely become disillusioned and descend into survival valley.

As the teaching profession comprises both endearing and discouraging moments, you must mentally prepare your new teachers for the roller coaster of the teaching vocation. You must show new teachers that you will walk beside them the entire journey, and that their professional growth and spiritual well-being remain the highest of priorities for you. As the teaching profession comprises both endearing and discouraging moments, you must mentally prepare your new teachers for the roller coaster of the teaching vocation—the mountaintop and valley experiences that will occur, sometimes within the same class period!

The key is getting new teachers to understand the importance of dedicated growth and daily improvement. This is particularly true in developing a leadership culture within the classroom. Of all the things that influence student achievement, classroom management has the biggest impact.3 Thus, encourage new teachers to get comfortable admitting their mistakes, reflect on why they occurred, and relentlessly tweak and adjust their instruction and teaching practice. To use a March Madness cliché—they must learn to survive and advance in their pedagogy. If 10,000 hours of deliberate practice and embracing best practices are required to become a master teacher or an expert at anything,4 make sure they understand that it will take three to five years of sustained growth to become an excellent teacher. Help them think crockpot instead of microwave. Or as I explained the process to my new teachers using a tree transplant analogy: The first year you will weep (a lot perhaps). The second year you will creep (forward progress). The third year you will leap (Praise God)!

Build Up Their Self-Image

Be cognizant of how emotionally important self-image is to new teachers who were raised in the image-rich era of social media.While most mature teachers and administrators assess overall teaching effectiveness by focusing on student success as measured by learning outcomes, many new teachers simply want to feel like a good teacher and look like one too. Therefore, be cognizant of how emotionally important self-image is to new teachers who were raised in the image-rich era of social media. Many new teachers post daily about their classroom experiences, just as they do for anything else happening in their lives. They want to be encouraged or affirmed, especially after a tough day. Since student, parent, peer, and administrative perception remain paramount to their mental well-being and confidence, go out of your way to recognize and compliment new teachers on their body language, posture, voice projection, movement, transitions, proximity, organization, confidence, presence, poise, withitness—the most visible aspects of teaching and classroom management. Feedback in these areas not only provides meaningful professional advice but also engages and addresses them in a personal and identity-satisfying way.   

self-imageAnother approach to build their self-image is to help new teachers connect with the rest of your faculty. Bring your faculty or departments together regularly for PLCs, decision-making tasks, devotions, and Bible study. Assign new teachers to supervision duties where multiple teachers are required (e.g., chaperoning prom), not just one (e.g., hall duty). Require them to do peer observations and soak up pedagogical insights from their professional peers. Encourage them to adapt, not necessarily adopt5 many of the ideas and concepts they learn from their colleagues and make them their own. Sometimes just giving new teachers a feeling that they have even a little creative license builds their confidence, self-efficacy, and self-esteem.

If you happen to have any first year “rock star” teachers, be careful not to praise or affirm this individual too much in front of peers lest you make them the “administrator’s pets.” Give them space to grow. Praise and challenge them in private rather than in front of colleagues with whom they are trying to gain acceptance. If you have any first year “project” teachers, do not inadvertently demean them in a faculty meeting by asking your faculty to assist them with every little instructional initiative or school activity.

flyWhether they are rock stars or projects, remind new teachers not to wear their emotions on their sleeve. High school students, especially, eat emotional teachers for breakfast. Explain to your new prodigies that they lose authority and influence if they allow pimple-faced, sixteen year-olds with raging hormones to manipulate them. Professionals handle the ups and downs of a classroom without drama and hypersensitivity. As the adults in the room, new teachers must remain focused on student learning and not their own feelings. Holding grudges, losing one’s cool, displaying anguish or defeat, and taking things too personally distract from the learning process.

Finally, the best way you can build up a new teacher’s self-image is to pray and share God’s Word with them daily. Re-read the great love chapter of the Bible, particularly 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, from the perspective of a new teacher. New teachers hope their administrator is patient and kind—not boastful, arrogant, irritable, or rude. They want school leaders who do not insist on their own way or rejoice at their wrongdoings and errors. They want their leader to be truthful so they can grow, and they also want a leader who bears with their growing pains. Most of all, they need administrators who believe in them, hope and expect the best from them, and remain lovingly dedicated to their professional growth and spiritual well-being.

James Pingel is the director of graduate education at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis.

Would you like to know more? See an extension of this article, “Other Tools and Tips to Equip News Teachers”—a ShapingtheFuture+PLUS! feature.

Endnotes
1. Story taken from Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale’s Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Countercultural Claims of Christ, 2017.
2. Data taken from Tina Boogren’s Supporting Beginning Teachers, 2015, and Lynn Howard’s Supporting New Teachers: A How-To Guide for Leaders, 2016.
3. Todd Whitaker, Madeline Whitaker, and Katherine Whitaker, Your First Year: How to Survive and Thrive as a New Teacher, 1.
4. Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success, 2008.
5. Robyn Jackson, You Can Do This: Help and Hope For New Teachers, 2014.

Photos © iStock/kali9, ZargonDesign, filmfoto, Jacob Ammentorp Lund, imgorthand.