Did you get enough support when you first started teaching?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by waits5, Jul 12, 2018.

  1. waits5

    waits5 Rookie

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    Jul 12, 2018

    Hi everyone:

    This is my first post. I teach third grade in CA.

    My question is:
    Were you happy with the district support you were given as a new teacher? Am thinking about how we can best support our new teachers coming into the profession. I know when I first started that I didn't get much support. Fellow colleagues were helpful but I just wish I had more help in the beginning as I look back. Thanks.
     
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  3. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    No, I did not. I worked at a brand new charter school. It barely opened on time, and the many materials arrived after the start of the year. Ensuring that new teachers were supported was low on the administrators’ priority list. The state requires mentors for new teachers, but I didn’t get a mentor until I changed districts in the middle of the following year.

    My case might be unique, but I would still say that new teachers don’t get enough support. I’m a fan of the idea of programs that require teachers to student teach as “residents” over the course of a full school year and then offer intensive support the first year that they are on their own. Notice I said the idea of such a program. I once worked in a school with such a program, and I didn’t find it to be very effective. If refined, though, I think it’s worth considering.
     
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  4. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Jul 12, 2018

    Definitely depends on the district/school.

    Our district has a new teacher support program where they have a mentor for the new teacher (that also has others they mentor, but that is their key job) for their first two years. During the first year, they also go through a full practice observation cycle, so you're used to that, and really the experience is crafted to match what you need.

    However, I've also found that finding a colleague within the school that I connect with best has been just as helpful as that, and is ongoing so long as we're both there!
     
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  5. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    I started teaching during the "Professional Development to death" era. We had so many "helpful" people from the district come to our school to "help" the new teachers with so much that took countless hours. I wish the district would have spent more time listening and then coming up with a helpful plan. During the first quarter, teachers need you to be all ears and be there for them. Second quarter teachers are more likely to listen to more direct suggestions that are done in a time efficient manner.

    My biggest suggestion to districts is please "show me, don't tell me." If a district trainer gets up there with 100 PowerPoint slides to tell us to get students engaged and not lecture-this won't help no matter if the PowerPoints are in vibrant colors. Please model for us or show us great teachers in action in videos and the like. Some of the best techniques I use today are from what I learned watching good teachers live in action or recorded in a video.
     
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  6. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Jul 12, 2018

    I had an assigned mentor teacher, so she provided the things to meet those requirements. Otherwise, not so much. I actually had more useful help from one of the teachers who shared a room with me.

    The internship program has changed a lot since then. It's not funded for the upcoming year, but we are going to make sure that all new teachers (and new to our building) get someone to be a touchstone for them anyway.
     
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  7. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Jul 12, 2018

    I've never actually met a new teacher who felt like they received adequate help. Too many variables. Mentors are frequently not matched well, leaving the new teachers supported in name only. Not sure of how to fix the problem. I had to take part in a two year new teacher program that ate into what available time I did have, creating a sense of dread instead of gratitude. Just my experience.
     
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  8. geoteacher

    geoteacher Habitué

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    Jul 12, 2018

    I think things have improved greatly. When I started teaching, they handed you the keys, you stepped into your classroom, closed the door behind you, and figured out how to teach.
     
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  9. MAteacher

    MAteacher Rookie

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    I don't feel like I got enough support, at all. I worked in a very challenging district during our turnaround plan, which meant that the expectations where insane, but basically no on had a clue what they were doing. The first year I taught (I've taught for 2 years) they had basically fired a majority of the staff. This left my 2nd grade team as all brand new teachers, which was sooooooo hard because we had NO ONE to help us out on our team.

    We were all assigned the same mentor who was working at a different school. She was very nice and tried really hard, but the expectations at her school verses ours was so very different. Everything she suggested (and they were decent suggestions) always seemed to be something that we couldn't do at our school or wouldn't fit with our students.

    We had professional developed alllllll the time. We had to come in on Saturdays, two weeks before school started, after school. But, all of it seemed like things that were put together last minute or only appealed to a small portion of the school. It was really frustrating to show up at 7 am on a Saturday and find that the presentation was clearly done the day before and they hadn't really done much. Some of the PD was great, but there was little follow up than: you've learned about this once and we will be looking for this Monday. For example, we had a guided reading PD on Saturday and that Monday we were expected to start it with our kids. This was before the school had books or any supplies at all.

    We were observed a lot, which I did find helpful, but that only goes so far.

    So sorry for the long post, but I think teacher support the first year is so important. My whole team thought about leaving teaching completely our first year.
     
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  10. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Jul 12, 2018

    Yes and no. To be fair, my school attempted to offer a lot of support. The problem was that I was the only special ed teacher in the building, so no one was there to support me with the sped-specific stuff, which is what I really needed. The school assigned me a gen ed teacher as my mentor. She was very nice and helped me learn some of the ropes of that specific school, but she knew nothing about sped. When I started working at my current school, I was also the only sped teacher and they assigned me a mentor who was a sped teacher at another school in the district. Obviously not ideal either, but I preferred that.

    My first school offered tons of PD and we were observed and given informal feedback constantly. The "community" feel among the staff was mostly nice. I felt that my undergrad program did an excellent job of preparing me to actually be a teacher and that helped tremendously. People told me non-stop my first year that they couldn't believe I was a first year teacher or made comments like, "Wow, I never actually learned how to do this stuff in college!"

    They had us in schools actually teaching from first semester of freshman year, and my student teaching was a year long experience where I was 100% in charge for over half the year. The STs I've seen in the schools here are 100% in charge for 2 weeks, if that! I did work with a "resident" like Bella was saying that was with me for the full year, but she had no background in education prior to entering the program, so IMO still not a great program.

    I will say that being kind of "thrown in" at my first school worked out in my favor, IMO. I learned to be more independent and figure things out on my own. After my first year at my current school, we got an additional FTE for another sped teacher and I've had 3 new teammates over the years. All 3 have been experienced teachers, but just new to my building/district. It's been kind of astounding to me how much hand-holding they've needed. Being the only one in the building, that was just never an option for me when I was new.

    I know my experience isn't typical, but honestly my first year was the easiest year I've ever had. My ST/college program was so rigorous that my first "real" year was actually significantly less work. I was working in a very small school with a large population of new immigrants, and most of my students were really well behaved. Certain things about the way the school was set up made my job easier (for one- I had nothing to do with deciding when kids get tested and didn't have to do any of the testing, so there was no "us vs. them" that I've experienced everywhere else between sped and gen ed). The school didn't have the obsession with data that my other schools have had. Part of it was also that I was simply naive to all of the things I should/could have been doing better.
     
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  11. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Jul 12, 2018

    Absolutely. At my private school, all new teachers are enrolled in a mentor program that meets after school once a week and receive TONS of help from the department chairs. They even have other teachers and admin drop in throughout the first two years who ask if you need anything or help with lesson planning, etc. By year 3, you are expected to do most things on your own, but the help is there if you really need it.

    I’m surprised that more schools don’t do this. Our mentor program is vastly more useful than BTSA (shudders)...
     
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  12. ready2learn

    ready2learn Comrade

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    Jul 13, 2018

    I thought the school I worked at supported me as a new teacher. There a lot of PD. However, more beneficial was a great group of new teachers that created a feeling of camaraderie and a wonderful group of veteran teachers that offered me more support than could be reasonably expected.

    The district I worked for had a new teacher program. There were positives, but I thought that it could have been better. Some of it was the problems faced at my school were not the same problems faced elsewhere in the district. I have no doubt that this made it hard for the district to have common training with new teachers from all over the district.
     
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  13. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Jul 13, 2018

    I had the same experience. My first year, I had to attend a lot of required training, but it didn't do a lot of good. Mostly it was just really stressful and another thing I needed to add to my busy schedule. Additionally, all new teachers were paired with a mentor, but we are all too busy to make that work.

    My best suggestion would be that schools pair new teachers with mentors and then somehow ensure they actually meet regularly, but informally. Maybe there's coffee in the library after school twice a month where new teachers can sit and chat with their mentors. A talking points sheet would be a good starter but there should also be flexibility to go off topic (but still teaching related). Finally, no admin should be present, at least not hovering and listening all the time. Just having someone to talk things through with would be helpful for many new teachers I think.
     
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  14. waits5

    waits5 Rookie

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    Jul 13, 2018

    Yes, I looked at research (which is hard to find) and even in 2018, not all states require a new teacher support program. I really don't think your case is that unique. I'm glad you pushed forward and stayed in the profession. Sometimes changing districts is the best move of all.
     
  15. waits5

    waits5 Rookie

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    Yes, I totally agree about the live and video being much better. I would add that I would like to see some teaching videos where the children aren't perfect angels, lol.
     
  16. waits5

    waits5 Rookie

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    Jul 13, 2018

    I'm glad to hear that you are reaching out to the new teachers. They really need it.
     
  17. waits5

    waits5 Rookie

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    Jul 13, 2018

    What improvements have you noticed? I agree, I think things have gotten better in the last few years. But still not every state requires a new teacher support program yet.
     
  18. waits5

    waits5 Rookie

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    I'm glad to hear that you stuck it out! And yes, being observed constantly isn't the most useful. Mentors need to be trained to give effective feedback and not overwhelm the new teacher with a ton of suggestions all at once.
     
  19. waits5

    waits5 Rookie

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    Interesting point about how there can often be huge differences among schools within the same district and how new teacher programs must deal with this fact.
     
  20. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    I only meant that my situation was unique for my area. My state does require that districts provide an official mentor and mentor program for new teachers during their first two years of teaching. They also require that districts send teachers to Beginning Teacher Assistance Programs (basically a Saturday PD session about classroom management) during those two years. Without having participated in official mentoring and without having attended the BTAP, teachers are not eligible for upgrading our certification after the initial certification expires (after four years of teaching). My first school - a charter school - didn't do any of that. I was fortunate to find out about and attend a BTAP on my own, without guidance from my school. Then, I was fortunate to get hired at a much better school district who helped me to make up with the lost time with a mentor. At the new district, we were required to write PD goals for ourselves each year. I had to write two per year to make up for the lost years at the charter school. We also attended district-wide PD sessions, had a district-wide mentor, and had an in-building mentor. I guess that I found all of that to be helpful, but I think that it would have been more helpful had I been able to experience that when I was in my first year of teaching as opposed to my third.

    After I had upgraded my teacher certification and was no longer considered a "new" teacher, I received a "buddy" teacher when I changed schools. It was sort of like a mentor, but it was an official relationship that was only expected to last one year, instead of two. It was voluntary on the part of the school district, not required by the state. It was like scaffolded support, intended to help me learn about policies and procedures specific to my school while understanding that I already knew how to be a teacher. This was the most beneficial of all because it gave me someone to go to with questions, but it also allowed me to be independent with what I already knew. In addition, I received "coaching" from our literacy coach and math coach, just to help me understand my district's philosophy on instruction, but they quickly took themselves out of my classroom once they saw that I knew what I was doing. I received more support in my seventh year teaching than I did in all of the years before it combined. Sad, but true.
     
  21. geoteacher

    geoteacher Habitué

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    Jul 13, 2018

    Today in my district all new teachers are assigned a mentor. They also attend professional development days that are specifically geared toward new teachers and that allow them to interact with other new teachers throughout the region. I think that they find at least some of those things to be helpful. To me, having a sounding board was probably what would have helped the most. I do still feel that there are certain things about teaching that are best learned by doing.
     
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  22. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Jul 13, 2018

    This is really sad that so many new teachers don't get the support they need. And it seems like a lot of new teachers end up non-renewed after their first year, which is ridiculous because the first year is so much more difficult overall.

    That said, I was really fortunate my first year. My mentor teacher was amazing, my team worked really well together and were super supportive, and I got tons of support from my admin. The whole year was a struggle, but I never felt like I had to figure it out on my own. My mentor was always ready to jump in and model something for me; I actually had him do coaching cycles with me for almost every subject and it was incredibly helpful.
    I did find out this past year that apparently that gave the impression that I was unprepared or needed a lot of help (like I couldn't do anything on my own) when my thought process was that I wanted to learn how to teach certain things really well the first year while I had the mentorship support so I didn't have to struggle the next year, but oh well. I still have a job, so whatever.

    Having support is great, but apparently taking advantage of it can send the wrong message, so new teachers are in a tough spot either way.
     
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  23. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Jul 13, 2018

    My first year, I felt like I had no support. I switched districts after that year, and my second year was way better. The biggest help for me was having administration I felt like really supported me and cared. My principal did an early observation and then we conferenced about it. He made me feel so at ease and like he'd always back me up. He also made me feel like my opinion was valued right from the start.
    My mentor was also extremely approachable. I felt like I could ask her anything and everything and she wouldn't be annoyed or frustrated. That to me was one of the biggest pieces. I was someone who wanted a lot of reassurance that what I was doing was fine and would work fine because of how I was treated at my first school.
     
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  24. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Jul 13, 2018

    My school has two TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignment): one for STEAM and another for ELA. Any teacher (veteran or not) can reach out to them for assistance. Additionally, every new teacher gets a mentor for two years while they’re going through BTSA. Any teacher with 5+ years of classroom experience can become a mentor, so the screening process is very limited, unfortunately...

    I check in with the new teachers as much as I can. For example, prior to iReady testing, I normally shoot and email stating, “Testing starts tomorrow! I know I’ve trained you, but I’d love to stop by to help get you or your kiddos get logged in. Let me know!”

    I like to catch them in person, too (normally just in passing). I’ll ask if they’ve received all their ELA materials, for example, or if the TOSA stopped by to get their students logged into Think Central.

    I know I’m peppy and energetic, but when they’re successful, the kids are successful! I just want everyone to have the tools for success (hopefully, I never come across as “too helpful” because we’ve all met that person).
     
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  25. ssgirl11

    ssgirl11 Companion

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    Jul 13, 2018

    I’m a pretty introverted person, so I’m not going to seek out others for help. I feel like there would be a lot of support around me if I just sought it out. I prefer to figure things out on my own, and I feel that it’s worked well for me but I know others prefer to have that guidance.
     
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  26. kellzy

    kellzy Comrade

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    Jul 14, 2018

    I didn't get the help I needed. The help I got involved my 'mentor' sitting in the back of my classroom all day every day and then yelling at me for two hours every day after school. She drove me to attempted suicide, in fact the only reason I'm alive is because a cop got a feeling he needed to stop at this park and ride I was sitting at. After two years of this I tried to resign, at which point my principal realized I was serious about this woman getting off my back. He asked me to stay one more year and forbade her from contact with me.
    My skills at this point are self-taught and help from a very small circle of people who I grew to trust over the years. As time went on I learned I was not the only victim of this woman, even very experienced teachers (one with 20+ years, and one with nearly 50 years) wound up being her victim. There are about 10 teachers who had very similar experiences with her, who I found solidarity with.
    But I survived, my career survived, and now I regularly score in the highest scoring 20% of teachers in my district.
     
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  27. waits5

    waits5 Rookie

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    Jul 14, 2018

    So sorry to hear about your negative experience. It's too bad that one bad apple can have such a big influence. So glad that you stayed in the profession. It sounds like you have lots of inner strength!
     
  28. TeacherWhoRuns

    TeacherWhoRuns Companion

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    My state teams everyone up with a mentor for two years in an induction program. My mentor happened to be at another site. She was great. She was available for questions, but wasn't overly demanding like some I'd heard about. My situation was different because I'd had several years of subbing under my belt before I had to deal with my own class. I'd already mastered the challenges of classroom management and some of the other pitfalls that new teachers are faced with and I did it without any support, because nobody pays attention to what subs do.
     
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