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A Plan for First Year Teachers

First year teachers are the largest single group of educators this year according to USA Today.  Some 200,000 new teachers joined the professional ranks this year, up from about 65,000 ten years ago. 

Numerous studies suggest that roughly half of all teachers leave the classroom after five years.  In addition, boomers are retiring, so today slightly more than 50% of all teachers have ten years’ experience or less.

So what does this mean for our kids’ education?  Well, having a large number of rookies in the classroom can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what plans the school district and administration have to assist new teachers. 

For example, does your district have a mentoring program for new teachers, pairing each rookie with a competent veteran?  If so, is it a formalized program with planned meeting times and opportunities for the veteran to observe the rookie’s classroom and give feedback?  Or is it an informal, and therefore, ineffectual arrangement?

Does the principal plan to provide steady but unthreatening supervision for new teachers?  Will he make it a priority to do a walk-through of classrooms every day?  Will he be visible in the halls?  Will he be available to provide assistance and answer questions?  Will he be a support for the classroom management issues facing nearly all new teachers?  Will the principal or his designee help new teachers learn how to work with parents and not be intimidated? 

And what about extra duties?  Will the principal protect the new teacher’s time so that he can spend the first year learning and practicing the art and science of his profession or will the principal pile on additional duties like coaching or advising major activities?  Will the principal give the new teacher time to grow?  Will she give the new teacher honest feedback that isn’t punitive?

New teachers can bring enthusiasm, excitement, and fresh ideas to a school.  But without strong administrative support and collegial mentoring, the new job can be overwhelming.  We know that teacher preparation programs rarely offer enough practice before a new teacher has a classroom of her own.  On the job training continues to be an important aspect of teacher effectiveness.

So whether these 200,000 new teachers learn the job and are still around after five years really depends on the school district, the administrators, and the district plan.  Administrators need to commit time and energy to helping new teachers become successful.  We owe it to our kids to make every teacher’s first year a strongly supported professional growth experience. 





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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.