How to Support New Teachers (When You Have Limited Time)July 30, 2021 July 30, 2021
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the annual turnover rate for teachers is about 16% a year; 8% leave the profession and another 8% move to other schools. This turnover has dire consequences for a school, including decreased school achievement, financial burdens, and operational disruptions. One of the most frequent reasons teachers give as to why they leave a school or the profession is lack of administrative support. This issue, which has been exacerbated with school closures and online teaching due to COVID, is especially significant when we look at new teachers.
Supporting Beginning Teachers: 3 Tips from the Experts
Administrators face their own challenges. While most say that being an instructional leader is important, many find themselves spending more time than they would like as school managers. With limited time and many teachers to supervise, supporting beginning teachers can feel overwhelming. As a school district using the Learning-Focused framework, there are 3 ways we focus on supporting new teachers, so they become successful, committed, and less likely to want to leave their school or the profession.
1. Empower Them
Teachers need to have a voice and need to collaborate if they are to grow. Below are some suggestions to empower your teachers.
- Give them a mentor: While mentors are required as part of many teacher induction programs, choosing the right mentor should be a priority for an administrator. A mentor does not need to share a grade level or subject area with a beginning teacher, they just need to be excellent teachers. A good mentor should have great communication skills, be committed to continuous improvement, and should have a solid understanding of good instruction. TIP: Mentors should check in daily and meet/reflect weekly. Have a mentor training that new mentors must attend prior to getting a mentee.
- Monthly Meetings: We hold new teacher monthly meetings with a focus: While all of our teachers have been trained in the Learning-Focused Framework, monthly meetings with specific topics support implementation and encourage teachers to collaborate. For example, March’s topic is learning strategies for reading subject-specific text. Another month might be about how teachers should use Lesson Essential Questions throughout the lesson. Use your resources – have different presenters. TIP: Use data from walk-throughs and observations to determine topics!
- Encourage peer collaboration: Peer collaboration doesn’t just happen, it takes support! Our new teachers are required to observe three other teachers during their first year and they must invite their mentor into their classrooms. To support the teacher, we encourage them to use the Learning-Focused lesson plan as a framework for the observation. After each visit, the new teacher writes a reflection about the observation. The reflection is shared with the mentor and the administrator. Some of the best conversations have come from these reflections. TIP: Require the WRITING of the reflection.
- Feedback is necessary for a Growth Mindset: We want teachers to grow and improve but we often don’t provide enough feedback for them to do so. After a teacher reflects, we need to provide feedback on their reflections and data/observations on what we are seeing. Feedback should be specific, focused, and appropriate and should follow the What, So What, Now What model. TIP: Give Specific, appropriate, and focused Feedback and Recommendations – immediately set up a time for follow-up.
2. Coach Them
Anyone who is learning to do something new needs to know what they are doing well, what they need to improve upon, and how to go about improving. Teacher coaching does that. Below are three suggestions for ways to help your teachers reflect and grow.
- Walkthroughs: If you have five new teachers in your building, spending five minutes in each of their classrooms at least four times a week will take less than two hours per week but will pay huge dividends. These walk-throughs can also be divided up among other building or district administers. These visits are not “gotchas” but should be about collecting data and providing feedback to support their implementation of the Learning-Focused framework. TIP: Use that data to target your PD, your monthly meeting topics, and your future full observations
- Observations: Many districts use Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for observations. Observations should be about data collection and lesson plan review. Do not make judgments at this point – collect data. Then give the data to the teachers and have them reflect (IN WRITING). Only after they reflect should you meet, discuss, and give feedback. TIP: Have the teacher determine what data will be collected prior to the observation. This should be based upon their areas of need. OR Think about doing observations during teacher planning times – how are they planning? What an awesome time to understand their thinking process.
- Lesson plans: How and when teachers plan is one of the biggest indicators of teacher success. Have the teacher plan for the content, not for the day. Have teachers plan 2 weeks out (yes, timing changes and that is okay). Have all teachers use the same planning framework – The learning-Focused framework. Instructional conversations and observations should be centered around these plans. TIP: Review new teacher plans and formulate a question or two for them to reflect upon (in writing). Example: You review the lesson and determine the teacher is not using a graphic organizer. Post the following question – I see in your lesson plan that your assignment is an error analysis of the lab experiment they completed. How are you going to help students organize their thoughts and evidence, so they are able to meet your expectations in your rubric?
3. Hold them Accountable
Change/Improvement is hard and uncomfortable at times. If it were easy, we would all be in shape. If we want teachers to commit to developing and reaching goals about their practices, educational leaders need to use:
- Data: Data is everywhere! Beginning teachers find themselves overwhelmed with data. Help them focus on data that is going to help them grow students. WHAT does the data say? SO WHAT does the data mean? TIP: Prior to a meeting, have teachers review their data and document the strengths and needs. Have them do a written reflection about what the data means. Many districts have “data worksheets” for this.
- Goal Setting: This is the NOW WHAT. After the teacher sees and understands the data, how will that data be used to improve instruction and grow ALL students? I find that teaching SMART goal setting early on is crucial. TIP: Some very reflective teachers want to write too many goals. Remind them to “Eat the elephant one bite at a time.” Focusing on one or two well-written, well-measured goals is better than ten.
- Professional Development: Professional Development (PD) is not just for Inservice Days. Professional development is an ongoing learning process. It is challenging and at times uncomfortable. Think about sending out one-page readings or a question for reflection. What about doing a book study. Make ALL faculty meetings about instruction so that new teachers see your veteran teachers discussing instruction and learning. TIP: Become the instructional leader that EXPECTS discussions about teaching and learning. When a teacher comes to your office to ask a question or talk about an issue, before you have that discussion, ask about their instruction that day. “Briefly, what were your two or three learning activities last period?” “What did your students write about today (not taking notes – writing to understand, inform, or argue)?” “How did ALL of your students answer the lesson essential question during your summarizing activity today?”
Teaching is not an easy profession, especially during those first 1-3 years. Giving your new teachers support, not in just words, but actions, will increase the likelihood that they will stay on to eventually become one of your mentors!
Connect with us to learn more about how to support new teachers by empowering them to become highly effective practitioners of High Yield Instructional Strategies!
Dr. Sherri Connell has been a Pennsylvania educator for more than 33 years. She began her career as a high school chemistry teacher, was the Associate Director of Science in Motion for Juniata College, was a high school principal, and for the last 13 years has been an Assistant Superintendent in charge of Curriculum and Instruction. She and her faculty began using the Learning-Focused Framework 16 years ago.