School Climate & Safety

What New Teachers Need This Time of Year

By Anthony Rebora — September 07, 2010 1 min read
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Mr. Potter, a D.C. math teacher, makes a brief reappearance in the blogosphere to respond to a hostile commenter and riff on the question of why experienced teachers aren’t (in his experience) more helpful to novices (including TFA’ers):

When I was a first year teacher, I was terrified because I had no idea what I was doing. Do you know what I wanted the most? HELP. I wanted someone with experience to take me under his/her wing and give me guidance. Instead, from most of my more experienced colleagues I got polite disinterest, and from a few I got attitudes like the above commenter's ...The reason so many TFA and DCTF [D.C. Teaching Fellows] and new teachers in general leave DCPS isn't the kids--it's the adults!

Coming at it from a slightly difficult angle, Mildly Melancholy—who is now apparently out of teaching—writes that one of the things she most desired in her last teaching job was “colleagues/teamates to work with.” The problem was that no one had time for that sort of thing:

The teachers at this school were amazing--fantastic people, and great educators. I loved being a part of their team. Of course, I barely saw them. Elementary teachers basically never get out of the classroom, and there was no teacher break room in which to rest and chat. After school I was always sequestered in my room alone for several hours. My grade colleague had been at the school for the last two years and was great at planning and teaching too--but she never had time to stay before or after school to meet and talk to me. I really, REALLY needed someone at the beginning of the year--I felt completely overwhelmed and in over my head. I needed someone to work together with, bounce ideas off of, and talk to. And she just couldn't be there for that.

Obviously, these are just two isolated examples (no pun intended), but I suspect they are representative of countless others. We’ve heard a lot lately about professional learning teams and collaboration among teachers, but those concepts don’t appear to be trickling down to a lot of schools. What can be done open the lines of communication, particularly between experienced teachers and novices? Is this a problem in your school?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.