Monday, March 20, 2017

New Teachers Don't Have to Know Everything

       Starting a new job is exciting...and scary.  And when that new job involves a classroom full of students who are depending on you; and they all have parents who are depending on you; and you're expected to use technology that you've never used before; and some student don't try to do their best every day; and ... and ... and ....  Well, you get the idea.  New teachers and veteran teachers have pretty much the same job and the same responsibilities.  But I've got good news for new teachers:  You don't have to know everything.

       Today's teachers are better trained and better prepared for that first day on the job than ever before.  Policies and laws and general "good practice" have prepared our college graduates well.  Student teaching requirements and excellent mentors during teacher training programs help our future teachers to understand curriculum, experiment with teaching strategies, and learn to interact with students.  But teaching is not the sort of job that can be fully learned in a college classroom.  Teaching requires practice and a fair amount of trial and error.  Every student is different and every group of students are different.  You can't be fully prepared for every situation when you begin teaching.

       For this reason, I tell new teachers that they are not expected to know everything when they begin their career.  I encourage them to ask a lot of questions and to seek advice from fellow teachers and from their principal and assistant principal.  It isn't that new teachers aren't prepared to accept the responsibilities of the job--they certainly are.  But teaching is much more of an art than some sort of mechanical process.  Anyone can explain some idea or concept to a bunch of students.  But a teacher wants every student to understand the idea so well that they can discuss it with other students, ask questions about it, and even build on this new knowledge and find connections to other ideas and knowledge that they already have.

       New teachers who strive to improve and to learn from others are usually viewed in a good light, even if they make a few mistakes along the way.  Furthermore, I feel that it is the responsibility of the school and the school district to continually provide supports that will help new teachers to become better teachers.  We know that our best teachers are the ones who continually look for new and better ways to reach their students.  The world changes and we need teachers who are willing to change as well.  This is true for experienced teachers as well as for new teachers.

       We understand that it is stressful to accept a new job with new surroundings, new people, and new responsibilities.  We want new teachers to be comfortable and confident.  With adequate supports, new teachers can approach everyday knowing that nobody is perfect and mistakes are part of the learning process.  This is what we tell our students and it applies to the teachers too.  Teaching is an awesome responsibility, and understanding that teaching is a learning process helps new teachers to get through that first year eager to begin their second year.


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