Sunday, May 24, 2009


I have a stong passion for the way a school's administrator treats their teachers. I believe that teachers who are supported, treated professionally, heard, and encouraged will move mountains!

10 Ways a Principal Can Support their New Teachers, by Emma McDonald, co-author of Survival Kit for New Teachers

New teachers need a lot of nurturing throughout their first, second, and perhaps even third year of teaching. This takes consistent communication and effort on your part. If you do not feel that you are a nurturing type person, you might want to think about assigning another administrator the role of meeting and communicating with your new teachers.

1. Assign a high-quality teacher within the same grade level or subject area as the Mentor

Someone who has a high standard of teaching in their own classroom, observations show excellence, may have a Masters degree or higher, and has good interaction skills

2. Encourage some team-teaching experiences between the Mentor and New Teacher

The new teacher can learn by directly observing the mentor and the mentor can observe and provide feedback to the new teacher. Lessons are planned together with the experience of the mentor and the enthusiasm of the new teacher. It is VITAL that both teachers work collaboratively -- not the mentor doing all the planning and the new teacher simply following along. Both should be giving input into the planning and lesson presentation.

3. Provide a resource book written specifically to help new teachers

Survival Kit for New Teachers was written specifically to provide practical help for new teachers. It answers the questions commonly asked by new teachers.

4. Write short notes of encouragement to the new teacher with at least one positive specific comment about their teaching. Do this throughout the school year as consistently as possible.

Example: "I notice you've posted student work in the hallways. I like to see this in our school. It really shows visitors the wonderful teaching going on in our classrooms and shows our students that we value their work. Great job!"

Create cards, either postcards or notecards, on the computer with messages of encouragement. Print several out before school starts and have them in a drawer or box ready to be used. Pull one out, jot a note, and put it in their mailbox. Also, send frequent emails, ask how they are feeling, offer to answer questions, and gather input from your teachers.

5. Take the time to visit the new teacher in the classroom, even if only for a few minutes during a lesson

When appropriate, offer a positive comment before leaving. If you need to re-direct inappropriate teaching, management, etc., schedule a meeting. Of course, as with anyone, be sure you start with the positives before discussing ways you feel the new teacher needs to improve.

Before allowing them to leave, make sure you reassure them that your ultimate goal is to help them become a quality teacher, not to harass and fire them at the end of the year. Then it is their responsibility to make sure they improve in the areas you've addressed.

6. Hold informal meetings with yourself and all of the new teachers

A nice way to do this would be before school with a simple breakfast of donuts, coffee, and orange juice. Use this time to let them voice questions and further discuss issues from faculty meetings where they may have been too timid or embarrassed to speak up. When beginning these meetings, it is important that you establish your goals up front.

Most new teachers are nervous to tell their principal that they have any questions. Let them know that you want to hear their questions so that they can be answered properly. Otherwise, the new teachers may continue to work from misunderstandings or confusion.

7. Allow mentors and new teachers time to meet during faculty meetings

For example, you might set aside one faculty meeting each month for committees to meet. The mentors and new teachers should be considered their own committee (if possible). This would be the perfect time for them to meet formally.

8. Set standards and expectations for the Mentor/Mentee at the beginning of the year

Do you expect that when Mentors and new teachers are meeting they discuss teaching strategies, school issues, etc.? Let them know exactly what you want them to do. Most of the time mentors feel that their only role is a friendly face and no more. They do not actually help the new teacher in anything other than adjusting to the school. In reality, the mentor should be guiding the new teacher in quality teaching strategies and continuing their training.

9. Do not assign the new teacher a floating position, or give them the worst grouping of students

A new teacher is already struggling with the fact that the reality of the classroom is not what they expected. To push challenging students and a challenging classroom situation on them is the fastest way to lose a good new teacher before the end of the year. Additionally, student learning suffers. The new teacher's first year should be spent working towards implementing quality teaching in the classroom. This cannot happen when they are so completely overwhelmed by their situation.

10. Talk to them as much as possible

When new teachers do not hear anything from their principal, they immediately assume that they are doing a poor job and that they will be fired at the end of the year. As the principal, you can help them feel more confident through conversations. Offer positive comments and, when necessary, feedback on how you feel they could improve. As the administrator, your support and encouragement helps the new teachers within your school to become self-confident and effective. Without it, you may find yourself rotating substitutes in and out of the classroom all year long. Remember, a little nurturing will go a long way!

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