New teachers are often full of excitement and energized by their classrooms, but they can simultaneously be filled with anxiety as they transition from the studying of pedagogy to its practical application.
As a school leader, you can help mitigate stressful emotions by using differentiated growth opportunities and strategies that meet new teachers where they are—and provide them with resources and support both in person and online.
Start by Gathering Feedback
When you plan a framework to support the new teachers whom you coach and supervise, start by gathering their feedback so that you know what they need and have a data set to work from. Doing so not only empowers teachers’ voices and cultivates professional learning environments in which they feel free to express their concerns and ask for support, but also gives you critical information to curate tools and resources to support them.
Moreover, by asking what new teachers need and listening to their answers, you reinforce the mutual understanding not only that you are listening, but also that they have a responsibility to collaborate, identify, and ultimately generate ideas that may help solve problems.
Web-based data-collection tools such as Mentimeter can collect anonymous feedback and data that can then be visually represented via word clouds, graphs, scales, and rankings. Clear, visible, and concrete data provides you with the ability to leverage resources in support of teacher growth. The data can also be shared with teachers during grade level meetings, professional learning communities, and faculty meetings to foster a true community of learners.
Differentiate Growth Opportunities
If you work within the framework of transformational leadership, you can create an organizational climate that respects and takes into account individual needs and differences—including those of new teachers who are finding their way in a complex profession. As a transformational leader, you can help new teachers meet and even surpass their goals by helping them identify and follow a path of personal improvement and change.
Strategies that are consistent with transformational leadership and support the growth and development of new teachers include the following.
Professional book studies: Book studies often generate enthusiasm and discussions around specific topics. Select texts based on the feedback you received from teachers earlier so they are relevant. From there, you can build a community of learners by engaging in the readings, participating in sessions, making suggestions, and actively listening to teachers’ comments during book study sessions.
In a face-to-face environment, you can host book study sessions in teacher lounges, cafeterias, or libraries. In virtual or remote learning environments, these sessions can be hosted via conferencing platforms such as Google Meet, Google Classroom, Webex, or Zoom.
- Read the book ahead of time.
- Formulate a chapter-by-chapter question bank or list of points for discussion based on the reading. This list of questions or talking points will help generate discussion and increase engagement.
- Create a reading/meeting timeline indicating the required readings for each meeting. A well-established timeline will keep everyone on track.
- Offer small giveaways during the meetings. Teachers’ time is valuable, and their efforts should be acknowledged. Raffling off a $5 coffee gift card can go a long way in generating excitement.
Books I’ve read with my new teachers include What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most, by Todd Whitaker Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth: 6 Truths That Will Help You Thrive as an Educator, by Aaron Hogan; Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator, by Dave Burgess.
Coffee and Conversation sessions: Depending on the time of day or focus, these informal discussion sessions could also be called Chat and Chew, Coffee and Tech, etc., but the point is for new teachers to be immersed in a community of learners that embraces their thoughts, perceptions, struggles, and overall professional growth and development. Administrators, teacher coaches, and curriculum writers can facilitate sessions during times that are most convenient for all participants.
Similar to book study sessions, Coffee and Conversations can take place either face-to-face or via a remote learning environment. When planning your discussion sessions, consider meeting time (before/after school, lunchtime, etc.), topic selection, and treats (will someone bring them or will it be bring-your-own).
Suggested session topics:
- Helpful Tech Tools Discussion
- Types of Formative Assessments
- Classroom Management Tips
- Parent Communication Ideas
Create a Digital Support Hub
The development of safe spaces in which new teachers can acquire information and engage with other new teachers is instrumental in creating and sustaining a community of learners. Instructional technologies, such as Google Classroom, can be used to create such spaces. Important information such as the district calendar, names of department heads, lesson plan templates, and evaluation resources can be placed within these go-to places for information.
When you use a digital hub to provide new teachers with tidbits of information on best teaching practices, advise on analyzing and utilizing data, and offer information on curriculum and instruction resources, you help them to navigate through their first year of teaching. You can post thought-provoking questions pertaining to discussions with staff in these spaces. You can also share new teacher feedback from surveys and data collection, thus providing all teachers with data that represents their feelings, perceptions, and thoughts on topics of interest.
As a school leader, I’ve found that it’s important to acknowledge new teachers’ period of transition with a supportive learning environment. Through book study sessions, I’ve seen my new teachers gain confidence in expressing their concerns and asking challenging questions. Coffee and Conversation sessions have led to great discussions regarding professional growth, student achievement, and the struggle of being new to the profession. No matter what strategy I’ve embraced, I’ve started with listening.