“AS A TEACHER LEADER AND MENTOR, WHAT ADVICE WOULD I GIVE TO NEW TEACHERS?”
BACK IN THE DAY
My 12 years in teaching has brought many treasures from mistakes and aha moments. I survived my first 5 years of teaching in a school that has given me many growth opportunities to transform my paradigms. It took me a while to realize there is no such thing as a perfect teacher but there is such thing as an ever evolving teacher iterating their craft.
I’m currently in a place where I’m thriving in what I’m doing. I have an administration that supports my ideas of what innovative learning looks like. I’ve worked hard to build allies with people in the district, with fellow teacher friends, and with people around the nation. Yet, I wished I took advantage of all of those learning opportunities in my first 5 years. In my second year of teaching, I remembered my coach advising me to join the Exploratorium New Teacher Institute. But when you are in your second year of teaching, your are worried about the immediate things such as grading, the lesson, the planning so much that you don’t focus on your professional growth.
WHAT IS A LEADER?
I have found a guild at the Exploratorium. an opportunities to grow as a teacher and a leader. If you are interested in reading about my awesome experience in the teacher institute, please click on this link. I’ve never considered myself a leader. My perception of being in a leader is someone who is directing and managing people. I see the concept of being a teacher leader a little differently. As a leader, I’m focused on how I can facilitate and guide actionable thoughts so that new teachers are able to thrive in their first 5 years of teaching? I model behavior instead of someone who is pushing an institution to a vision. I’m empathetic of their position and my gift is to accelerate their learning process so that they thrive, feel confident, feel effective, and find joy in their job and their craft as they educate their children.
AS A TEACHER LEADER AND MENTOR, WHAT ADVICE WOULD I GIVE TO NEW TEACHERS?
1.) FIRST . . . . YOU!!!
In order to take on this job, you need to find healthy things that make you feel good. I know you are passionate about education but you don’t want to burn that part of that brain out. I’ve colleagues who ask me, “how do you do all those things that you do” or “you are so talented”. In addition to teaching I do coach boxing, I program games, care for my pups, make music, and now I take acting classes. If you access other parts of your brain that make you feel good emotionally, spiritually, and physically that euphoria will carry on into your life, your classroom, and all the people you interact with. Don’t burn yourself out doing everything. Don’t forget sleep, mindfulness, and healthy food.
2.) BUILDING YOUR TOOLBOX
As a new teacher, you want to be actively asking questions, researching, observing, and seeing what effective teachers do. I like to look at articles on Edutopia, Teaching Channel, download books about innovative teaching onto my Kindle
, and read professional journals and see what other educators are doing that you can try out. Professional development is so darn expensive. If there is one PD that you will benefit from, ask your administration to see if they would be pay for the workshop. Just make sure to provide justification on how that workshop connects to your problem of practice. In doing this work, you are investing in your career by building and learning about the tool needed to be an awesome teacher.
3.) INSTRUCTION AS AN ITERATIVE PROCESS
There are teachers who taught 20 years and did the same thing 20 times. Fortunately times change, culture changes, and the type of kids change. We need to keep up, adapt, transform, and evolve with the times. It is important to consider that our instructions will evolve with the times. As a STEAM teacher, the sage on the stage just doesn’t work, it doesn’t motivate kids and it doesn’t push kids to the high level thinking stages. You want to design instruction with end user in mind. If something doesn’t work, that’s great, you’ve attempted it. Now you have a choice to change it or toss it. Just want to let you know, I’ve tossed projects and big units that just didn’t meet learning and motivational objectives. Is it a waste of time? . . . NO! As an instructional design ineffective instruction is a stepping to stone to effective ones in the future. Keep iterating, keep evolving, and always ask for feedback from your colleagues and most importantly your learners.
4.) BUILDING ALLIES
It’s hard to work alone. The learning institution might unintentionally pushes that type of culture unless something is structured. My classroom during lunch is always busy with kids but sometimes I need to tell my students , “Sorry I need some ME time.” During those times, I hang out with another teacher. We try not to do work but we do have conversations that build into ideas for each other’s class . . . forget it we do work!!!
Building allies is a give and take situation. That repetitive process will lead into trust and someone having your back when times do get rough in your teaching career. Having allies alleviates the feeling of isolation and pushes dilemmas into solution focused conversations.
5.) HAVING AN EMPATHETIC LENS
You will be interacting with hundreds of learner coming with a variety of situations, schemas, cultures, and more. The best way to have an empathetic lens is to know your learners well. It is important to develop a rapport with them so that they trust you and your process. According to Maslow, for any learners to succeed in school they need to feel safe, they need to belong, they need food, and they need shelter and space. Once they have that classroom, learning can happen because your learner don’t have to worry about the other things that they are lacking. We have to set up a culture and a structure for us to know our students well.
How does an effective teacher manage the many tasks from calling parents, to eating lunch, to helping students, planning, and prepping? Instead of asking how do effective teacher’s manage all that, ask yourself what is your bigger goal and objectives that will lead in engaging for your kids. For example,
- My goal is provide students an opportunity to design solutions. This modality allow me to provide students written and verbal feedback in class.
- Meetings are generally ineffective because of their one size all model. If I’m not getting something out of the meeting don’t schedule one because my time in getting to the bigger vision is precious.
- I call or e-mail at least 3-5 parents a week to provide positive feedback about their child. This pushes me to know my kids well.
- Prep times are valuable. Since I hate to take work home, I prep on Thursday and Friday afterschool and grade work early on Monday, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays in the mornings.
- Place those slots in your calendar. Make sure you publicly schedule quiet time on your calendar so your kids and staff know when you are available.
- Last of all, use your summer time for planning the bigger picture.
There is a lot that goes into teaching. Eventually you will find strategies and tactics that will work for you. Keep at it, don’t give up, find allies, focus on you, and happy teaching.