A MiddleWeb Resource Roundup
Here’s our collection of middle grades New Teacher resources. You’ll find some aid, some comfort, and some good advice! For help throughout the year, subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief. (Revised July 2013)
The New Teacher Center’s research-based graph, Phases of First-Year Teaching (right), ends in July where it began in September — with anticipation of a new year in the classroom. That’s important because in the intervening months, attitudes cycle through “survival” and “disillusionment” before rising toward rejuvenation and reflection.
Though many novices may feel their experiences are unique, teachers have struggled with first-year challenges since the days of the one-room schoolhouse. In May 2012, ASCD Express printed an essay from 1943. Teacher educator Francis Martin described the fatigue, lesson preparation difficulties, isolation and discipline problems teachers faced once they left her college lab school. Research shows some of those same factors impact teachers and their students now, according to McREL executive Bryan Goodwin.
This Resource Roundup begins with immediate help for teachers beginning their initial year in the middle grades. Then come resources you can use throughout the year and beyond. If you’re an experienced teacher but new to the middle level, you might start with this article/book review by NBCT Elizabeth Stein, who writes about her jump to middle school after many years in elementary.
The first year of teaching begins well before the first day in the classroom. Teacher and author Dan Brown provides a summer’s worth of preparation strategies from Educational Leadership’s June 2013 open-access issue focusing on using summer for growth. His title is apt if a little scary: “Before the Deluge….”
As part of the Teacher Leader Network’s Teaching Secrets series, Kansas middle grades teacher Marsha Ratzel offers “10 To-Dos for New Teachers” before the kids arrive, from arranging to pair up with a friendly, experienced neighbor down the hall during those first crucial weeks, to meeting and befriending non-teaching staff members. In another Teaching Secrets post, Ratzel describes a Classroom Tour to help students understand what’s expected — a tactic that can save lots of time in the months ahead.
Tween Teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron in a new MiddleWeb article invites teachers to share her techniques for establishing a vibrant learning community based in rules which students help develop. Nearby in a MiddleWeb interview, Wolpert-Gawron notes that while many teachers avoid the middle grades, others like herself are captivated by the energy and emotion of young adolescents. She suggests strategies for building a classroom community to suit the young adolescent mind and body.
In another MiddleWeb interview, Michigan teacher Cossondra George offers further strategies for “Taming the Dragon of Classroom Chaos.” In his “The Don’ts and Don’ts of Teaching,” from EL, math teacher Gary Rubinstein suggests subtlety is best avoided by novice teachers. Rubinstein explains his reasoning behind such admonitions as ‘Don’t dress too casually’ and ‘Don’t make tests too hard.’
Writing in “Movin’ Up to the Middle,” former teacher and writer/speaker Rick Wormeli explains teacher mindsets that build upon the transitions middle school children undergo in mind, body and location. He also offers strategies for communicating effectively so that students feel welcome and positive about learning. How do the kids see the move to middle school?
In this EL article, interviews with northeastern students held before and after they entered middle school revealed their concerns about academics and social dynamics. Students from elementary schools in poorer towns in the district were acutely aware of the impact of class differences on their academic, extracurricular and social prospects. The four authors of the article suggest actions schools can take to make students feel welcome.
Edutopia features a collection of blog posts for new teachers, including Rebecca Alber’s “Backwards Planning Takes Thinking Ahead” and Lisa Dabbs’ New Teacher Academy and New Teacher Connections posts. And don’t miss the #ntchat (New Teacher Chat) twitter stream maintained by Dabbs and described by her at her site Teaching with Soul. By following #ntchat (archives through Nov. 2013 here) through the school year, you can stay in touch with other novices and reap lots of helpful web links. (Seriously, this is one of the smartest things you can do to help yourself!) If you’re not sure about Twitter’s value or how to use it effectively, here’s a useful guide for teachers from Powerful Learning Practice.
Be sure to check out the indefatigable Larry Ferlazzo’s “Best Advice for New Teachers” collection for lots more resources, some directed specifically to middle grades teachers.
First Year Reflections
What teachers remember about their first days in the classroom can provide warning signals and models. Writing last year in Educational Leadership’s May issue for new teachers, high school teacher Dan Brown revealed his own first year horrors and went on to outline what teachers and administrators can do to build successful first years. In the same issue Katy Farber offered ideas for changing schools so that teachers thrive, and teaching expert Linda Darling-Hammond discussed “The Challenges of Supporting New Teachers” in the school and beyond.
In “The Homeroom Is a Home,” excerpted from a planned book, José Vilson (right) describes his first year with seventh graders in New York City. A graduate of inner city NYC schools himself, Vilson expected to manage students without much difficulty. But wearing the grown-up hat in his classroom was far more challenging than he’d ever imagined. Some of his experiences were numbing, but, as you will read, he found ways to reach his kids and their values and to excite them about learning.
Teachers also look back to their professional beginnings in Educational Leadership’s June 2013 issue. In Tell Me About … / Your Most Memorable First Day of School teachers recall humorous moments along with challenging days. And Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers shares educators’ New Tips for New Teachers.
Parents: First Impressions and Follow-up
When it’s time for your first Parents Night, Marsha Ratzel offers a detailed essay on preparing for and staging the event. And if you need strategies to make your first one-on-one (or two) parent conferences successful for you and for parents and guardians, see this Educational Leadership article by two Syracuse University professors. They describe an effective conferencing model and provide guidelines and suggestions. (Responding to a parent whose child is being bullied is central to the essay, so helpful specifics for conferring on bullying are included.)
As Weeks Turn into Months, Educators Have Your Back
In our searches, we uncovered a treasure trove of video advice about managing those first critical classroom weeks (and beyond). The Teaching Channel, sponsored by the Gates and Hewlett Foundations, is packed with videos featuring teachers in action. The site includes a series, The New Teacher Survival Guide, that’s well worth a weekend of viewing. You can search by the guide title or age or subject area. Scholastic provides a wide-ranging collection of articles for new teachers: designing the classroom, welcoming students & parents, responding to differences among students, handling stress, and much more. And don’t miss Scholastic’s monthly survival guides.
For up-to-the-minute posts helpful to novice teachers from education leaders, keep an eye on MiddleWeb’s homepage and be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief. In addition to articles by and about Cossondra George, Marsha Ratzel, Rick Wormeli, Jose Vilson, Maia Heyck-Merlin and Heather Wolpert-Gawron (mentioned above), educators Anthony Cody, Nancy Flanagan, Larry Ferlazzo, Bill Ferriter, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Lisa Hinkelman, Amanda Wall, Debbie Silver and Elizabeth Stein share ideas in MiddleWeb posts.
MiddleWeb’s book review collection is a gateway to the knowledge and know-how of over 100 writers, with many educators among them. One to open right now is the review of Julia G. Thompson’s The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide: Ready-to-Use Strategies, Tools & Activities for Meeting the Challenges of Each School Day (3rd ed.). Followed closely by our reviewer’s take on Teach Like a Champion Field Guide: A Practical Resource to Make the 49 Techniques Your Own by Doug Lemov.
Our “old” MiddleWeb blog (last updated in late May 2012) has an extensive collection of resources for new teachers. You will find Elena Aguilar on cultural sensitivity, Robyn Jackson on her five biggest first-year mistakes, more TLN Teaching Secrets written just for newbies, and much else. The blog also features a classroom management collection.
A Moment for Yourself
For new teachers who feel the need for a deep breath before the school year starts, visit Cindi Rigsbee‘s MiddleWeb guest article, Welcome to Teaching! adapted from her blog, The Dream Teacher. She looks back to her own first day, points to the challenges of today’s schools, and homes in on the essence of teaching. Find more teacher voices in the May 2012 issue of Educational Leadership with its collection of comments from educators who remember the first time they felt like real teachers. And in a July 2012 Education Week article, teacher Brittany Cerevic recalls My Breakthrough Moment as a Teacher when she realized that helping to build a student’s sense of self-worth trumped all those stacks of test papers. Later in the year, novices and everybody else may want to visit Cindi Rigsbee‘s poem, ”Oak Island Goodbye,” to gain a little distance from the frenzy of the classroom.
Finally, we highly recommend the archived recording of our 90-minute webinar for new teachers (Summer 2012) featuring middle grades teaching experts Rick Wormeli, Heather Wolpert-Gawron and Elizabeth Stein. It was wild and wonderful — everybody seemed to have fun and learn a lot! Visit this webinar page for background; from there you can jump to the recording itself. It’s well worth the few minutes it takes for Blackboard Collaborate (aka, Elluminate Live) to load.