Monday, May 19, 2014

First Year Teachers

     We are quickly approaching the end of May.  If you haven't already done so, please be sure to show some appreciation to any first-year teachers in your building.

     Prior to this year, first-year teachers completed a college program (or some alternate teacher preparation program).  It probably took somewhere between three and six years for them to get their degree and to earn their teaching certificate.  They worked hard, they interviewed for a position, they were hired; and they were ready.

     But teaching isn't the sort of job where you expect a person to know everything when they start the job.  I always encourage new teachers to ask a lot of questions.  It shows that you want to learn and you want to improve.  I think that in the business world, a new person asking questions is seen as a signal that they don't know what they are doing.  But I think it is the opposite for teaching.

     There are a lot of lists that you can find that give new teachers tips for their first year.  Some of them are very negative: "Don't do this." , "Don't do that." , "Expect these bad things to happen."  I don't think we want new teachers viewing their job as a battle and everything is bad and they have to be ready and tough and mean.  Look for the lists that give helpful tips and helpful advise.  Like any job, teaching will have its ups and downs.  Every teacher is different; every teacher brings his/her own experiences to the job.  There is not one, single recipe for "good teaching".  The best we can do to be aware of effective teaching strategies and build on what works.

     My first year of teaching was in the 1988 - 1989 school year.  I got a job in a situation that was very different from anything I experienced before.  It was in an urban area and in a private school.  I grew up in a rural area and always in a public school.  I did an "OK" job, but it was hard for me to relate to the students and to their lives.  In my second year, I took a job in a public middle school.  It was like my second "first-year", and it was hard for me to see any improvement in my teaching abilities.  But little by little I did see some improvement.

     In the U.S., we often hear that a lot of new teachers leave the teaching field within a few years.  We all know that teaching is a difficult job, but it can be a very rewarding job too.  New teachers need support to grow and learn and improve.

     Congratulations to all new teachers finishing their first year of teaching!  I can't wait to see you again next year!

Public Schools and Choice

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