George Lucas Educational Foundation

Novice to expert teachers

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Hello everyone, My name is Marc and I am a second year Math teacher. I teach Math 8, Integrated Algebra, and Geometry. I want to be the best teacher possible for my students which is why I was wondering what some of you think about the skills and knowledge needed to become an expert teacher. I believe some of the skills needed for teachers to move from novice to expert are classroom routines, the ability to know their students, monitor their progress, understand how students learn, and effectively reflect on their own teaching.

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Jess's picture

I am a fifth grade teacher in my second year of teaching. Up until now, I have never had any problems with parents supporting me with their children. Last week one of my students was caught cheating and then lied about it. One of the other girls in my class was her friend. The friend had been caught lying earlier in the week but I talked with her mother and the situation was dealt with. Or so I thought. After the one girl was caught lying and cheating, BOTH mothers stormed into the school the next morning demanding to see me. Basically they just wanted to "attack" me. They attacked my teaching styles, my beliefs, and my personal life saying that I could never know how to deal with children b/c I myself don't have any. Our principal (who was involved with the child who lied and cheated and SHE had her write an apology) is out of town on family issues. I felt HORRIBLE all weekend. I still feel bad because my principal hasn't been here to back me. There were other teachers present when the mom's came in so they said I handled it well but I still don't feel great about the situation. They bluntly stated that they think I owe the students apologies and basically that the students are only children so they only have to answer to the mom. They don't have to follow my rules or policies. I thought I was helping to build their character and respect by teaching them not to lie or cheat. The one girl only had to write an apology (that was an order from the principal) and the other one had to owe some recess time. But, now it is awkward for me. I know that maybe eventually this will get easier to deal with but I need some ADVICE!! I'm very stressed out! As a novice, experts, please help!

Jami Pope's picture

I too hope to never consider myself as an "expert". In education, there are always different ways and different ideas about teaching. I think some of the most effective teachers don't see themselves as experts. I feel that if you get too comfortable in your area of expertice, you may slack off and actually lose ground with your students. I hope that I always crave more efficient, effective ways of managing my classroom and teaching my students. A novice on the other hand is sometimes quite easy to identify. A teacher, whether they have been teaching for 1 or 25 years who does only what is needed to be done, doesn't mold their teaching styles to each student when needed, and doesn't take the time and inclination to guarantee their student's success.

Amanda Patterson's picture

I have been teaching for five years, and still feel like a novice teacher. I am one of the youngest teachers in my building. Most of my colleagues have 25 years plus experience. When looking at the teaching methods of my colleagues, I do believe that with time experience makes you an expert teacher. As educators are always learning ourselves. Four years of college did prepare us to become educators, but real life experience has made us the teachers that we are today. Spending time in a classroom environment is the best way to learn. We are all working towards the same goals professionally. Watching our students "mastering" new skills and experimenting with the ever changing world of technology, we are becoming expert teachers in the process. We should look to the teachers that have been in the classroom for a longer period of time for advice and new insights. While looking back on the teaching techniques that they used, we can accomodate to help us become experts in the future.

Toni Mahoney's picture

Jess, it sounds as if those parents are having a hard time dealing with the fact that their chidren are not angles. It did not take long for me to figure out that parents suffer from the "angle syndrome". That is what I classify as a parent who beleives their child does no wrong. It sounds like these two girls rule the roost at home. The best way to deal with these parents is to tell them that you have rules and procedures for every student to follow at school. The parents as well as the children have a choice, they can either follow your rules and procedures, or they can choose not to and suffer the consequences. I think if your principal would have been there things would have went differently. Some parents feel like they have power when they can come in and "rake you over the coals" especially when they know they have an audience. The best way to show them that you are in charge is by standing your ground. Do not back down. Reapeatedly tell them that their children are expected to follow the rules just like everyone else's children. If they have a problem with that then suggest they speak with the principal about it. Never let any parent take away your presence and authority in the classroom, it only gives the children more power.

Miranda's picture

Hi everyone,

MarcD, I agree with the skills and knowledge that you listed that teachers must have in order to become experts.
In order to become an expert teacher, I believe a teacher must learn from his/her experiences (whether they are good or bad). They also need to have the ability to reflect on their experiences and figure out what works and what does not work for them. In order to become an expert teacher, a novice must have the desire to continuously better and develop themselves.

Andrea-I agree with what you said about people becoming "obsessed with becoming experts." I do not think that a teacher can become an expert just from earning degrees. Their classroom and student experiences are also what help them to get to that point.

Lynet H's picture

I agree with you that classroom routines are one of the most important things you can do for your students. By having set routines, it allows your students to be able to focus on what your expectations of them are for the day, without the wonder of what will happen next. It is important to be able to direct your students by knowing what techniques work best for them. I feel to be an 'expert' is a changing situation. Until we understand how a particular group of students best learns, it is then that we can shift to a more 'expert' role. Having the right tools along the way is what makes that transition easier.

Erika Ferguson's picture

I believe that it takes time for teachers to grow from novice to expert. I have seen teachers working to be an expert but along the way get set in their ways. I feel that an expert teacher should take as many professional development opportunities as they can so that there is not the option of getting set in our ways. This will help keep the door open to be a risk taker and try new things. The growth of becoming an expert teacher includes communicating with colleagues, parents and listening to our students.

Cassandra Chalker's picture

I think we all are striving to be the best teachers we can be. Teachers never achieve "mastery", we can always learn and grow just like our students. I would say it takes 5 years to move from novice to comfortable. After that it all depends on you and how active you are in achieving your personal goals and moving towards expert. I too am a second year teacher with a lot to still learn. When moving from novice to expert there are a lot of resources to consider. First you need to be committed to being a lifelong learner. Next you need to seek out professional resources. Look to your mentor teachers in your building and district. There is a lot of great information you can get from just having dialogue with your colleagues. Another idea is to talk to your school librarian. There is a plethora of professional resources for you that are just waiting for you to find them. Lastly take advantage of every professional development class offered in your district. In my school district there are classes nightly for all academic areas including technology. Keep seeking out opportunities for growth and keep self reflecting!

Cassandra Chalker's picture

Your insights were very helpful! I am glad to hear that a 5th year teacher still feels they are moving towards expert on the continuum. I agree that teachers need to be flexible and have a positive attitude. Another interesting thing you said is that "expert" teachers never really know they are experts. I find this true of the teachers I know and consider "experts". Teachers are always striving to be better, we are all a work in progress!

Brenda Willingham's picture

When I began teaching, words like expert teacher did not exist. Back then, it was understood that the most veteran teachers were the experts. Even now, there is some similar routines to the school day and also the school year. The most challenging aspect of being an expert is being successful year after year with the changes in our society and expectations. Our global impact today in the stock market and businesses demand learners with some knowledge that was not expected twenty years ago. Now the expert teacher may be worldly and bi-lingual. The more years you teach in an environment that is supportive, the more your expertise will grow.

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