This World Teachers’ Day will celebrate teachers with the theme, “Young Teachers: The future of the Profession.” How fitting for me and my district as we have a large wave of novice teachers this year. Their enthusiasm and passion those first few weeks has been inspiring, and as we enter the second month of school the stresses and strains of finishing assessments, writing goals, setting up parent conferences, and starting RTI plans for students on top of dealing with some unprecedented behaviors are beginning to take their toll on many.
Teaching is hard, even for veteran teachers, and when your tool kit is stocked with the most basic supplies from your pre-service training it is often downright overwhelming. I’ve been trying to meet and collaborate as much as possible with our new teachers and I wish I could clone myself to be there more often. But what I have seen lately is so encouraging: colleagues, mentors, and partner teachers stepping up to support these novice teachers; putting in extra hours and energy to help them be successful.
Some of these partner teachers have always worked with veterans with whom they could collaborate or lean on, and now they are taking on that role for their peer. That is something I don’t think we can appreciate enough. Every teacher who teams with a new teacher is taking on an extra load of work. Even when it is gladly and willingly done, it is still more work that isn’t compensated and rarely recognized.
There is not always a lot of support outside of the school (though we are sometimes blessed with amazing parent groups and donors) so we must usually look within our ranks for that support. So what can we do to be supportive colleages?
For new teachers:
- Volunteer to take a duty every once in awhile so they can catch their breath and catch up on the ever-growing “to do” lists.
- Drop a note of encouragement on their desk or in their mailbox (and a piece of chocolate makes it even sweeter)
- Give them specific feedback on something you notice that is working. Often we give them advice for what might be problematic, but we all crave that feeling of competence.
- Offer a space in your room for students who need a time-out. It can make a world of difference for that teacher to know we are all in this together.
- Ask them, “What went well today?” to help them to focus on the positive, it’s too easy to perseverate on our ‘failures’ and challenges. We sometimes need a reminder that good things are happening in our classrooms.
- Create a care package at different times in the school year that are predictably challenging. (Some Tums, Advil, Vitamin C, Chocolate, or gift cards would be so appreciated)
- Try to remember they aren’t familiar with our institutional knowledge and routines-check in with them after staff meetings or workshops to see if they have questions, concerns, or confusions they may not have voiced in a group.
- Try to get to know them, or spend time with them, outside of school. Teaching is a lifestyle and not just a job. The happiest teachers are those who have found a tribe to laugh with and lean on in life.
For partner/mentor teachers:
- Notice and thank those teachers who are partnering with a new teacher– recognize that their workload has increased significantly.
- Offer to take one of their duties so they can work with their partner a bit during the school day and not just after hours.
- Drop them a note of thanks for mentoring our next generation of teachers. We want our profession to stay strong and their role is essential in that goal.
- Consider getting them a gift card or picking up an extra coffee on the way to work-they aren’t being compensated enough for that extra work.
- You can never offer too much chocolate!
It’s World Teachers’ Day. Take a few moments to think about our fellow teachers. What is one thing we could do to make the life of a fellow teacher better? Will you do it?
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It starts with one thing.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
One More Off My TBR Stack
OTHER WORDS FOR HOME by Jasmine Warga
This is a story I wish every middle grade student (and their families) in America would read so we would have more empathy, love, and kindness and less talk of “go back home” and “build that wall” when we meet immigrants like Jude and her mother. They come to America to stay with Jude’s Uncle Mazin because her beloved home of Syria has become so dangerous and her mother is pregnant with her baby sister. Uncle Mazin’s wife, Michelle, and daughter, Sarah, are not Syrian (and Sarah becomes jealous that her father is giving Jude so much attention.) What does it feel like to walk in the shoes of someone fleeing violence and coming to America for comfort and safety, only to experience xenophobia and islamophobia that you struggle to understand? A much needed book that tears down the walls of “otherness” and helps us to see we aren’t as different as some would pretend us to be. A beautifully told novel in verse that will open hearts and minds.