How do you support struggling new teachers?
With the school year underway, you may be feeling good about the support you put in place for your new teachers, but there’s much more you can do. As you know, there are many ups and downs for teachers, and there may be new teachers in your school who are silently struggling, even if they are assigned a mentor. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to identify and assist the new teachers who may be in this category.
Here are a few options to consider:
Engage in Active Listening
Schedule a meeting with your new teachers and ask them how they are doing, what they need, and how you can support their efforts. Engage in active listening throughout the conversation. As an active listener, you’re not simply hearing the words someone is saying but seeking to understand the meaning and intent behind the words. Ensure the teacher has your full attention and ask other open-ended questions to encourage feedback. This can help build a relationship of trust and often makes the teacher feel valued and heard.
Take Action and Do the Legwork
If a new teacher struggles in a particular area, provide access to a resource or person who can help. Instead of asking the new teacher to locate the resource or make the connection, take action and do the legwork for them. Bring the resource to the teacher or make an introduction to the person who can provide support. Contacting the support person first and setting expectations will assist in making the support targeted and relevant.
The beginning of the school year can be overwhelming, but it can be particularly challenging for new teachers. They are provided with a lot of information at one time and often may not be able to absorb it all at once. Sharing a resource list with links to important information or recordings of professional development sessions can be helpful. Identifying the school’s go-to people for specific things may benefit a new teacher.
Make an effort to ensure collaboration throughout the school. Providing opportunities for teachers to gather and discuss curriculum, expectations, challenges, and accomplishments is one way to reduce isolation. Teachers engaging in meaningful discussions and activities during well-designed professional learning communities or other peer learning opportunities are a great way to reduce stress for teachers by sharing best practices and planning collaboratively, fostering a sense of community and teamwork.
Provide Meaningful Feedback
Take steps to provide meaningful feedback in small chunks with strategy recommendations that the new teacher can implement quickly and help them see some initial progress or success. Quick wins are important. Also, highlight the positive attributes of a new teacher’s classroom and/or instruction. The compliment sandwich (stating a positive, stating an area of improvement, and then stating another positive) is one strategy many leaders use to help make critical feedback easier to digest.
We hope you consider some of these steps and would love to hear any others you use to support teachers needing support.