This week I have been thinking a lot about new teachers. I have been reflecting on the fact that every experienced teacher in a leadership role was at one time a first-year or beginning teacher. What were the experiences that helped as a new teacher the most? What was the best advice? Who were the people that provided support as a new teacher? Looking back, I am sure that every teacher can answer these questions and find some of the important factors in their development as a teaching professional.
For me, most of the answers to these questions were not genius tips or epiphany moments, but rather someone who took the time to be there on a consistent basis to guide me through the learning curve. It was the idea of mentorship where there is regular contact and honest feedback. I was grateful to the teacher who was willing to show me how to use the photocopier and how to book a sub. I was also grateful to the teacher who gave me honest feedback on a lesson I was preparing or on how to deal with a discipline issue.
So, the question is… Are we providing the support and mentorship to our new teachers that we would have liked? Are we helping them to attain their potential? Are we spending enough time with them? I would like to think I am (with the help of our great team), but there are always commitments that intrude on this time.
There are new teachers starting in almost every community each year, but with shifting realities in job availability and career prospects it is difficult to see where new teachers will be in a few years. I found this article by Dave Hancock interesting. Are the people who are graduating with education degrees even going to have jobs in education? The article states that we have 4000 teachers leaving each year for various reasons. Are we forming the educational professionals and leaders to take the place of those leaving? I would argue that the first few years in education have the greatest impact on this development and I am committing to focus on this throughout the year.