Veteran Teacher? You have a job to do…

…and it’s not the one you think. Up to 50% of novice teachers are leaving the profession before finishing their fifth year in the classroom (Ingersoll, 2011). They cite a few reasons for this, but the one cited most often is “lack of administrative support.” I know this because it is the focus of my dissertation work. I won’t bore you with the details of my study now, I just want to get your attention!

Veteran Teachers, we may not be administrators… but we can DO SOMETHING about this! We need to keep our precious Padawan Learners in the classroom. If you remember your first few years.. think about how much you learned… remember those veteran teachers who helped you when you needed them. It’s your turn…

I have been working with a small group of novice teachers this summer – I love them! They are half my age, and they give me energy! I’ll never forget the day last year that Scott came into my room at the end of the day, plopped down onto a stack of chairs and said, “Why are you a teacher?” Talk about a big question for the end of the day!  Well, as I told him… I was remembering why I do what I do… I was remember the huge impact we make on the lives of students every day… even though some of those days are hard… When I was finished, he said, “Ok, Thanks!  That’s what I needed!” and he was ready to go for another day…

I believe teaching is the second most important job… parenting is first. We are growing people – productive, responsible, educated members of society… and those of us who have been doing this a while need to pass on what we have learned.

So, veteran teachers, when you return to school in the next few days/weeks, you will see teachers in their first, second, third, or fourth year… here are a few things you can do to help them on their journey…

  1. Be Friendly – especially those who are either brand new to teaching or simply new to your building. Say hello!  Introduce yourself! Smile!  These things seem so simple, but we come together as a faculty after a few weeks of separation, and we are like college kids again – hanging in our cliques – break the clique and talk to them! Stop by the room and introduce yourself again… it’s going to take some time for them to learn the names of the entire faculty. Cliques, you ask? Yes… teachers can be as bad as high schoolers sometimes…
  2. Be Encouraging – The new teachers are getting so much information thrown at them that they can’t keep any of it straight. I could add “be helpful” here. The building procedures only make sense to those who have been in the building a while… Explain that it took you a while to get the procedures down, and it’s ok to make a mistake – we can fix it. A smile and “You can do this…” can go a long way to keeping that new teacher coming back for more.
  3. Be Positive! – Sorry – teachers in general can have a tendency to gripe – about really dumb things. We complain a lot. If you need to vent… fine.. do so around the veterans who can relate – not around our newbies. Remember why we do this job and why it’s so important. Look at the good side of everything when you are talking to our new teachers. We want to keep them!
  4. Be Open – Ok… yes, sometimes we do need to talk about some of our struggles. We all have them because we have a very difficult job. IF the new teacher asks for your advice or asks about your struggles, be open and honest. You are building a relationship, and it should be an honest one. It is also good to share that you have been there… and it does get better.
  5. Be Available – Let’s face it, once the kids show up, we seem to put our blinders on and simply focus on our students, our lesson plans, our work, our jobs, our world. Teaching seems like such a collaborative effort, but most of our day is spent with no other adults.. just the teacher with the students. Students are often surprised that the teachers don’t know each other – because we don’t see each other every day. Take the time to pop in on your planning period or lunch just to say “Hello!”  and “I’m here if you need me.” Keep that door open to our new teachers and encourage them to come by.

If you are reading this, and you are a new teacher, please feel free to contact me anytime. If I can help you to get over that 5-year hump, I want to do so. You are precious to all of us – but most of all those students who will be in your classes(es) this year. Have a wonderful year!

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