Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.
Opinion
Teacher Preparation Opinion

First-Year Teachers Need Support This Year. Here Are 5 Ways Prep Programs Can Help

Educator-preparation programs have a role in stemming teacher attrition
By Linda S. McKee — September 03, 2021 3 min read
A group of people help each other out.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A new school year has begun as the nation tries to manage the threat posed by the coronavirus Delta variant. Parents and teachers alike are focused on the children: How can we keep them safe? How can we help them get back on track after so much turbulence last year? How can we deal with the social-emotional learning challenges created during the last 18 months?

But what about the new teachers, administrators, and others stepping into a classroom or school office for the first time?

Here are five measures that educator-preparation colleges can take this year to help these new educators succeed and lower the damaging rates at which new teachers leave the field:

1. Build and support school learning communities. Both schools and local educator-preparation programs can help establish and sustain these informal groups. Typically, learning community groups meet at lunch hour or other breaks on-site during the school day, although with Zoom and other tools they can be virtual, interschool events. These groups are like informal continuing education classes, with teachers learning from each other about current practical issues they face. Local education preparation institutions could easily establish cohorts of new teachers who could meet on Zoom to celebrate wins and discuss challenges. Or they could connect freshman teachers in the same school or district and encourage them to create these meetings.

2. Design “contact chains” so newer teachers can reach out rapidly. Contact chains (lists of who calls whom for help) are a related and valuable tool to provide new teachers with an immediate and rapid way to reach out for help from colleagues. Whom can a new teacher text or instant message during class when a specific problem arises? Perhaps it’s a professor from their preparation program, a more senior colleague, or even an assistant principal. These easy-to-reach support networks can help educators respond to challenges in their classroom armed with their peers’ real-world experience. This kind of immediate support is the best way to avoid long-term problems.

3. Hold interviews and focus groups frequently. This will help monitor how well teacher candidates and recent graduates are doing physically, emotionally, mentally, and professionally. It’s important for prep programs to check in on how their alumni are doing in their new roles, both to evaluate whether they have adequately prepared them for the rigors of the classroom or the office and to offer support and counsel when needed. Local programs could share their data with schools and districts so that they, too, can aid novice educators. New educators need to be heard to be supported—this is one way of doing so.

4. Adjust curricula or courses to recognize the social-emotional needs of educators. Social and emotional learning for students has been a topic of much interest during the pandemic. However, it is just as crucial that the social and emotional needs of teachers are addressed as well. This is where educator preparation curricula can integrate coping mechanisms for teachers, stress response training (mindfulness, yoga, and similar modalities are popular), and wellness material. Bringing in practicing counselors, social workers, and psychologists to campus could also help educator-preparation faculty learn practical ways to support new teachers’ social and emotional needs in the school setting.

5. Include more teachers, school nurses, counselors, and school psychologists on educator-preparation college advisory councils. Advisory councils for educator-preparation institutions are now mandated by many states and accreditors, but many don’t include practitioners and representatives from other school-bound professions, including school psychology, counseling, and nursing. These representatives could strengthen institutional understanding of new teachers’ needs and offer concrete ideas for how to support them. In addition to advisory councils, some preparation programs are starting to bring in faculty from other schools of study—notably social work, psychology, and even medicine—to help guide programs and offer counsel to education faculty.

We know that teacher and school staff turnover has challenged schools for years, with 8 percent of the teaching workforce leaving every year. It is likely that the churn rate will increase with current pressures on the profession—1 in 4 have considered quitting teaching after last year, according to a recent RAND Corp. survey. Educator-preparation colleges have a big part to play in the crucial task of supporting new teachers.

A version of this article appeared in the September 08, 2021 edition of Education Week as How Educator-Prep Programs Can Support New Teachers This Year

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teacher Preparation Q&A Teach For America's CEO Is Stepping Down. What's Next for the Organization?
Elisa Villanueva Beard reflects on her journey leading the organization through several periods of change.
8 min read
Image of looking to future path options.
Tetiana Lazunova/iStock/Getty
Teacher Preparation What Will It Take to Align Teacher Prep to the Science of Reading? California Offers Clues
The Golden State is revamping credentials for teaching reading. But some advocates worry it won't go far enough.
7 min read
Female teacher reads to multi-cultural elementary school students sitting on floor in class at school
iStock/Getty
Teacher Preparation What Does It Mean to 'Grow Your Own' Teachers? It Depends
Grow-your-own programs strive to increase the teacher supply, but many serve different populations and have different goals.
5 min read
A teacher in a full classroom helps a student with a page in their workbook.
E+/Getty
Teacher Preparation Explainer Teacher Preparation, Explained: Alternative Routes, Enrollment Trends, and More
Learn about teacher preparation in the United States, including how new apprenticeships work and how the pipeline has recently narrowed.
7 min read
School of Education teacher candidates at Dalton State College take part in an exercise in their ESOL class culture and education class in Dalton, Ga., on May 24, 2018.
Teacher-candidates at Dalton State College take part in an exercise in their English for Speakers of Other Languages culture and education class in Dalton, Ga., on May 24, 2018.
Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP