Supporting the New Teachers in the Building
Teachers don’t need to be designated mentors to support and encourage the novices in nearby classrooms.
Writing for MiddleWeb, Curtis Chandler, a professor of teacher education at Brigham Young University–Idaho, has a request for veteran teachers: “Each of us can help novice educators (and their students) to be successful by providing support, collegial friendship, collaboration, instructional modeling, and well-crafted feedback.”
Chandler gives two concrete ideas for how established teachers can help the novices in their ranks throughout their first year: checking in on a semi-regular basis—once or twice a week—to see how the new teacher is doing, and consciously fostering opportunities for collaboration.
When checking in, teachers can reflect on their own early days to ask their new colleagues targeted questions on topics small and large: Do they know how to use the copier? How about standard procedures for handling a fight in the classroom?
When administrators or teachers set up meetings to collaboratively discuss issues like formative assessment or effective communication with families, new teachers get a chance to brainstorm and contribute ideas even as they are learning from those with more experience.
Chandler frames these ideas as things that established teachers should do: “It takes time and trust-building to establish collegial relationships that help new teachers feel comfortable ‘opening up’ and voicing questions and concerns about their duties.” But the responsibility doesn’t rest solely with the veterans—new teachers should ask for help and for opportunities to collaborate. An article on advice from second-year teachers to their new peers emphasized this point: “My biggest mistake was not insisting on a mentor, or at least a peer teacher. If I had it to do again, I would make a good friend whom I could go to for advice.”
Bottom line: Setting up lines of communication is crucial to helping new teachers find their footing.