What are the top ten ways that administrators can help new teachers avoid burning out?
- Mentors: New teachers need to pair up with master teachers so that they have mentors they can turn to for help. There are so many problems and issues new teachers face their first years of teaching that it is difficult to navigate all of them on their own. The most effective way to make sure it’s a working relationship is by having a new teacher share a room with his/her mentor.
- A Network: Every new teacher should have a network of other new and seasoned teachers–not just one mentor. Once they feel like they belong and have a team of people they can turn to for help, they will begin to grow roots.
- Two Preps: Even though I have met some amazing first year teachers, I think it’s critical that new teachers have no more than two preps (different courses the teacher has to prepare lesson plans for) for the first years. Learning the curriculum, reading required material, and creating lesson plans is overwhelming, let alone having to do that for more than two courses.
- Electives: Even though teachers who have been around for a while like to claim the “fun” classes (the electives rather than the core classes), new teachers should be encouraged and allowed to teach at least one elective to lessen the workload as well as to have a different type of engagement from students. Students choose electives, so they are usually excited about being in class. If it’s not possible for new teachers to teach an elective, administrators should encourage new teachers to co-sponsor a club they are passionate about, so they can work with like-minded students.
- Relationships: The best advice I received from my principal my first year teaching was to concentrate more on building relationships with students rather than on producing flawless curriculum. I’m not sure if he would give the same advice today with the overemphasis on curriculum, but the advice is still solid. Students today are more aware of being treated like numbers than ever before. They will destroy new teachers who treat them as such; however, they will respond positively to a teacher who sees them and cares about them as individuals. I always operated on the mantra: Students won’t care what you know, until they know that you care.
- No Judgment: With the emphasis on evaluations and test scores, this advice might be hard for administrators to follow, but they need to be supportive of new teachers, not judgmental of their missteps. They quickly learn that the administrators are not their friends and any questions or complaints should never be discussed with an administrator. If administrators want a healthy, successful school climate, this one change would improve that environment for new and master teachers alike.
- Support: I know it’s scary for administrators when an angry parent comes in, but it is vital that administrators support new teachers with angry parents. Nothing will send a teacher packing quicker than being thrown to the wolves by a spineless principal.
- Authority: The same must be said about difficult students. If a new teacher sends a disruptive student out of class, there needs to be proper support protocol for those instances. Nothing will undermine the authority of a new teacher more than an administrator believing a student over a faculty member.
- Professional Development: Administrators need to make sure they are bringing in appropriate professional development into the building. New teachers might be a good source for that as well, since many of them are fresh out of their college classes. Trusting their abilities is another way to say, “We like that you’re here, and we want you to stay.”
- Communication: Administrators can learn a lot about their schools by talking to new teachers. They have fresh eyes in an old building. If a principal is listening, he or she can learn so much about the school, students, and the new teacher.