George Lucas Educational Foundation
Instructional Coaching

Coaching the Novice Teacher

Some dos and don’ts for instructional coaches striving to help new teachers make a successful start.
A coach looks on as a teacher works with students.
A coach looks on as a teacher works with students.
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Articles, books, and journals have been written about how to support our new teachers—guidance on lesson planning, suggestions for classroom management techniques, and support in professional decision-making are just a few of the many components our novice teachers need as they begin their academic journey.

For an instructional coach, it may seem daunting to coach the new teacher. Where does one begin to assist him or her in creating the best learning experience possible for students, parents, and colleagues?

Offering too much advice or the wrong kind of coaching upon that first meeting can cause anxiety and trepidation for the beginner teacher. The coach may believe that he or she is helping the new teacher by demonstrating how to use the school’s lesson plan or explaining how to utilize the standards-based grading procedures, or showing how to complete the reams of district forms. But in truth, this kind of help is not beneficial or necessary right away. Even though it may look like the new teacher is ready to dive in, it’s imperative that the coach take the time necessary to guide him or her toward success.

We know our novice teachers are excited recruits ready to make their mark. They look forward to putting their college reading into practice. While they might not know all of the educational jargon or district-specific acronyms yet, they know they want to build a successful community of learners. They have read books, observed skilled teachers, and created comprehensive lesson plans demonstrating their abilities.

In short, novice teachers want to plan specifically, give directions explicitly, and offer student support intentionally, but how they might go about that depends on how the coach interacts with them. How the coach approaches this enthusiastic group can demonstrate respect and admiration or undermine their work and the value of the coach.

Tips for Supporting New Teachers

Consider these steps in creating a successful and rewarding relationship with your novice teacher:

  • Introduce yourself and explain what you can offer to the novice teacher. Clarify that your goal is to collaborate with him or her to seamlessly embed the four facets of literacy—reading, writing, speaking, and listening—in relation to the subject matter being covered. Explain that you don’t want to add to their plate, but instead will take what you can off their plate so they can concentrate on teaching, learning, and reflecting.
  • Ask to observe a class, but bring specific literacy strategies and resources with you. Do not ask the teacher what he or she needs. Often, new teachers do not know and are grateful for strategies that make their work with students more expressive and straightforward.
  • Never give the impression that your goal is to show the novice teacher how teaching is done. The goal is to learn along with the new teacher. It is likely that he or she has suggestions and ideas that can immediately be put into use—be ready to collaborate on implementing them.
  • Provide basic literacy resources that the novice teacher can use as is or, with some creativity from you, adapt for his or her students. For example, compare and contrast diagrams can be used in science classes, main idea and detail graphic organizers in English language arts, summary topic maps in phys ed, and turn-and-talk student sentence starters in math.

Ideas you can share to support the new teacher:

  • Model authentic warm-ups or relevant bell-ringer ideas to get the class engaged and motivated.
  • Assist in writing focused and meaningful Learning Intentions and Success Criteria meant to target a lesson’s skills.
  • Collaborate in creating formative assessments that monitor and measure student progress.
  • Demonstrate the value of self-reflection by providing time to contemplate on the day’s lesson together.
  • Take notes on scheduled meetings, and always provide the novice teacher with the notes—they can be used as a growth tool and an opportunity for reflection.
  • Finally, small gifts of encouragement, notes of support, and a genuine “how are you?” go a long way in conveying professional respect and personal regard.

In closing, our novice teachers remind us how truly fortunate we are to be in a profession that allows us to partner with parents in influencing their most precious possessions. Therefore, embrace the eagerness and excitement of the novice teacher while becoming active listeners to their apprehension and uneasiness. They will someday be our veteran teachers and share what they’ve learned along the way. It’s our responsibility to give them a head start.

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Peg Grafwallner's picture
Peg Grafwallner
Instructional Coach/Reading Specialist

Thank you for sharing this! Yes, it's so true. It doesn't take much to know we are appreciated!

Angela Cala's picture

Very useful tips for instructional coaches! I was just planning my first meetings for the year and I know how important this first coaching meeting with my novice teachers is.
Ready to learn alongside them...

Peg Grafwallner's picture
Peg Grafwallner
Instructional Coach/Reading Specialist

Hi Angela,
Thank you for the comments. I hope this article offers some useful advice as you plan your coaching year. In addition, please feel free to continue the conversation; as coaches, we all need each other to support our incoming educators!

Brian Twitchell's picture

Some good tips. It's so easy as a coach to fall into the trap of overloading a new teacher with information that took you years to develop. It takes time, and the first month of school is not the time to add to their already overwhelmed mind.

Peg Grafwallner's picture
Peg Grafwallner
Instructional Coach/Reading Specialist

Thank you for your comments, Brian. Yes, as Coaches, we want to help and support. It's who we are. Yet, during the first couple of weeks/months of any new teacher's career, less is more. Give them what they need and the rest will come organically.

Jacqueline Fiorentino's picture
Jacqueline Fiorentino
Teacher. Writer. Blogger.

"Never give the impression that your goal is to show the novice teacher how teaching is done. The goal is to learn along with the new teacher. It is likely that he or she has suggestions and ideas that can immediately be put into use--be ready to collaborate on implementing them."

---I love this part. I've learned so much from novice teachers, especially some of my student teachers! We should never convey the idea that experienced teachers have it all 'figured out.' Great article!

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Peg Grafwallner's picture
Peg Grafwallner
Instructional Coach/Reading Specialist

Hi Jacqueline,
Many thanks for your kind words. As a teacher, mentor, coach and colleague, we know how valuable our novice teachers are. We look to them to, someday, lead the way. I'm excited to share I will have a companion piece in Edutopia coming out entitled, "Coaching the Veteran Teacher." Once again, thank you!

Brian Rock's picture
Brian Rock
Civic Educator and Social Studies Teacher in East Orange

I've had two student teachers work with me, and I think another important thing to remember is that we all have different teaching styles. My job as their mentor and coach is to help them find theirs and sharpen it - not to force my style on them.

Peg Grafwallner's picture
Peg Grafwallner
Instructional Coach/Reading Specialist

Hi Brian,
I absolutely agree. As a mentor or coach, our responsibility is to help our novice teachers find their voice. Thank you for being a mentor and coach.

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