A good friend of mine works with the beginning teachers in her building as the mentor coordinator. As a part of a recent meeting, she asked each mentee—teachers with between one and three years of teaching experience—what they most wished that experienced teachers understood about them.
Here are their answers—which ought to spark conversations in every building that has high percentages of novice educators:
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know that while I may seem to have it together, it takes a lot of work for me to get that way. Most of the time I feel like I’m struggling just to keep my head above water.
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know that I love and really benefit from feedback! If you know a specific way I could do something better, TELL ME! If I’ve done something creative or effective, TELL ME!
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know that it can be really intimidating to work with such awesome, experienced teachers. A lot of times I feel like the weak link on my team. I really look up to my team mates for example and advice.
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know that my mentor is wonderful and is always there for me but does not teach the same material as me. I really depend on my PLC to "mentor" me on my specific content area.
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know … how much I appreciate their support! I couldn’t imagine being a beginning teacher in any other school! The kindness is greatly appreciated! They’ve "been there, done that" so they know what we are going through! My PLC is the best – and helps me everyday. It’s not easy sometimes with some students I have to handle, but they give me confidence and the strength to go on!
As a beginning teacher, I need my colleagues to know…that I feel like I have far more to do than time to do it. When a colleague asks me to do something "really quickly," it becomes one more thing on my pile. It’s helpful to me when a colleague offers to call those parents or make those copies for me instead of asking me to do it. I am happy to do my job, but quick turnaround is not always feasible.
As a beginning teacher, I need my colleagues to know…that I am less familiar with the content than more experienced teachers. Please don’t expect that I know all the things you do, and be patient as I learn it.
As a beginning teacher, I need my colleagues to know… that "well, we do that in our classrooms anyway," may not be true. Tell me how to incorporate "that" into the classroom instead of expecting that I already do.
As a beginning teacher, I need my colleagues to know…that I have not yet learned to balance planning, grading, parent contacts, student interactions, professional development, preparation for meetings, and organizing/ cleaning/ decorating my classroom in the school day. I certainly have not been able to perfectly balance my work and personal life. Please don’t assume that I can function as organized and focused as more experienced teachers function!
As a beginning teacher, I need my colleagues to know…that it takes me longer to do things than it may take them. It sometimes takes hours for me to write a lesson plan. Grading one set of tests takes me one to three hours, and a set of essays takes me close to 15 hours to grade.
I take longer to teach a lesson than someone who has taught it a few times before. Even copying papers takes a long time for me. It’s not that I’m dumb, but it takes me a while to get the hang of things. Please be patient, and understand that the more work I have to give my students, the more time it costs me as well.
As a beginning teacher, I need my colleagues to know…that I need focus. If you are in my PLC or on my team, please help me find focus with students and content. I am still learning what is essential and what is not. I do not know what I am teaching three weeks from now unless you help me. I sometimes don’t even know why I am supposed to be teaching what I am teaching. Please help me focus on what is essential. Tell me what are the basics, and what is extra.
As a beginning teacher, I need my colleagues to know…that there is a lot for me to remember, and I do not always remember it. Please remind me nicely, and I really will try to do it as soon as I can.
As a beginning teacher, I need my colleagues to know…that I am like a kindergartener. This is my first year at school [as a teacher]. I am still learning how to do it. If you are the equivalent of a 5th grader or 8th grader or even 2nd grader, and you have more experience in this setting than I do, please help me by nurturing me, showing me the ropes, and being patient as I make mistakes and learn to be a better teacher. When you set a good example for me, I will be able to set a better example for next year’s "kindergarteners."
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know…that I welcome their input and guidance on ANY issue pertaining to education. If I am doing something "wrong" please don’t wait for Admin to inform me since it has been proven that Admin may give you glowing evaluations when there are still major issues that others see.
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know…that I am human and will make mistakes and that I look to those who came before to help lead me. I am also capable of learning from my mistakes so you may need to let me try something so I can learn whether or not it will work.
As a beginning teacher I really need my colleagues to know…….I have created ideas, I am a teacher also, I love the feedback on how I am doing, please feel free to give me any suggestions on how I can develop professionally, encourage me to not give up when something fails,I get frustrated also, and I love being a teacher.
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know… that being an elective teacher that is 12 month(by choice), it is hard to try to find the time to do much needed research to enrich my subject and add excitement. I love finding new creative ways to introduce topics.
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know…that I do not understand all of the acronyms you use. When you use them with frequency, I get lost and have no idea what you are talking about. Please take time to explain what you are saying!
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know…that I don’t understand all of the required paperwork teachers have – for students, for student services, for the county, for health insurance. Please take a minute to help/show me.
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know…I want you to see me as a professional, and feel bad asking you so many questions. I don’t want to seem stupid, so it is helpful when you ask me if I’m getting it!
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know… that we love any information you can give us. It can be a classroom management tip, like how you deal with make-up work, a shortcut you know in Blue Diamond, or a lesson that went really great. (It also never hurts to make sure we know where the bathroom is or that everyone eats lunch together at a certain time.) It’s one of the best ways for us to build up more knowledge about teaching.
Even if it isn’t something we can use right that second, it may be something we can use eventually. The more resources I have, the more options I have when choosing my lessons and deciding how I will run my classroom. This may not be true for all new teachers, but I definitely believe the more information I have, the better. Hearing these "tricks of the trade" from other teachers makes it less overwhelming as a new teacher, because it reminds me that I am not alone; I have an entire school supporting me.
As a beginning teacher, I need my colleagues to know that…
- Time is important, and I don’t seem to have enough of it. It gets even more difficult when I have things added to my plate, such as assignments to grade, parents to meet with, meetings to attend, etc. I don’t mind these duties as they are essential to this occupation, but I sometimes get overwhelmed by them. I’m still learning how to better manage my time and work more effectively, so any help or advice to better myself in these areas would be very beneficial.
- I like and need positive reinforcement and feedback. I don’t know if I’m always doing the right or wrong things unless I’m told. Any and all feedback regarding my teaching would help me so much, both professionally and personally.
- I need help sometimes recalling school procedures. I don’t have a lot of experience with things such as lockdown drills, so sometimes I need a little refresher. Any help or advice in this area would be greatly appreciated.
As a beginning teacher, I really need my colleagues to know that even though I am super organized and very proactive in the classroom, even I get bogged down at times. Sometimes I wish my colleagues would be more cognizant of the fact that I have only been teaching 2 1/2 years, and there are many times when I need extra support from my PLCs and other teachers.