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The Care and Feeding of New Teachers


Remember how excited we were about the new teachers we hired last summer?  We liked their enthusiasm, their energy, their optimism.  They are, for the most part, young.  They are more technologically savvy than most of us.  They bring fresh ideas to the classroom, and they seem genuinely to like kids. We are a little concerned about their lack of experience, but there’s only one way to learn to manage a classroom and that’s to do it.  Parents can be tough on new teachers too, but that’s just another thing they have to learn to deal with.

For their part, the first-years are happy to have found a job, especially in this economy.  They are also excited about their incipient careers.  They are thrilled to have their own classroom where they can use the ideas they learned during all those years in college. Maybe they can move into their own apartment now and start paying back their student loans.  Oh, sure, they worry a little bit about classroom management, but they like kids and think kids will like them. 

It is an auspicious beginning for these promising youngsters.  Too bad nationwide half of them will leave the profession within 5 years.

And the rate of teacher attrition in poor schools is 50% higher than it is in wealthier schools according to The National Center for Educational Statistics.  The cost of replacing public school teachers who have dropped out of the profession is estimated at $2.2 billion a year.

So what are we missing here? 

In the MetLife “Survey of the American Teacher” in 2005, new teachers listed classroom management, testing responsibilities, administrative duties, and parents as main sources of daily stress.  In addition, teachers reported a lack of support from administrators as they dealt with these major issues.

The days of throwing new teachers into the water to see if they can swim are long gone.   Studies show that new teachers who are formally mentored have a better chance of surviving the rigors of the first few years in the classroom.  Even higher retention rates are seen when the formal mentoring is accompanied by professional development, administrative support, and formal assessment and feedback.

So hiring new teachers is just the beginning of the process, not the end.  Those first couple of years can be a lonely, frustrating, and even intimidating experience for a new teacher without steady guidance and useful feedback.  Providing that assistance can mean that both administrators and teachers will still be excited and enthusiastic next June.












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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.