New Teacher 911
Here’s our collection of middle grades New Teacher resources, updated regularly. You’ll find some aid, some comfort, and some good advice! (For help throughout the year, subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief.)
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, 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 the 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 starts with first-person descriptions of first-year challenges and then provides immediately applicable help for starting your 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 grades, you might start with this article/book review by NBCT Elizabeth Stein, who writes about her jump from elementary to middle school.
Trials by Fire: Working through disillusionment
In “The Homeroom Is a Home,” excerpted from a planned book, Jose Vilson 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 rapport his kids and their values and to excite them about learning.
In another story of anticipation, disillusionment and revival, teacher Dan Brown recalls his first crushing year. “I loved kids, had a career-teacher mom, and was willing to dedicate myself full-time to my students. How wrong could it go?” After he entered his first classroom, filled with New York fourth graders, he discovered the answer. Nine months later, he left teaching. But as he recounts in this article for ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine, he found the courage he needed to return. Reflecting back, Brown outlines what’s he believes is lacking in support for new teachers and what he thinks can be done about it.
First Aid Fast
The first year of teaching begins well before the first day in the classroom. Writing for 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 a friendly, experienced neighbor during those first crucial weeks, to meeting and befriending non-teaching staff members. In another Teaching Secrets post, Marsha describes a Classroom Tour to help students understand what’s expected — a tactic that can save lots of time in the months ahead.
In a MiddleWeb interview, Michigan teacher Cossondra George suggests further strategies for “Taming the Dragon of Classroom Chaos.” In his “The Don’ts and Don’ts of Teaching,” 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.’ In another MiddleWeb interview, Tween Teacher Heather 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 vibrant learning environment to suit the young adolescent mind and body. Be sure to check out the indefatigable Larry Ferlazzo’s “Best Advice for New Teachers” post.
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 a second ASCD Educational Leadership article, interviews with Northeastern students, before and after they entered middle school, showed 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.
Parents: First Impressions and Followup
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, 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 one-year-old Teaching Channel, sponsored by the Gates and Hewlett Foundations, is already 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 by 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. 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 , Jose Vilson and Heather Wolpert-Gawron (mentioned above), educators Anthony Cody, Nancy Flanagan, Larry Ferlazzo, Bill Ferriter, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Elizabeth Stein, and Rick Wormeli share ideas. You can see specific posts at the bottom of this page and also follow links to each educator’s blogs, websites or books.
Our “old” MiddleWeb blog, last updated in late May 2012, has an extensive collection of resources for new teachers that we haven’t had time to move to our new digs. 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 Whole Magazine Full of Ideas
Be sure to look over ASCD’s May 2012 issue of Educational Leadership, which is packed with ideas for first year teachers and those who work with them. Some articles require purchase; but there are many free ones, including pieces by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Robert Marzano. Looking beyond the new teacher to the school system’s responsibilities, Katy Farber offers ideas for changing schools so that teachers thrive. Linda Darling-Hammond discusses “The Challenges of Supporting New Teachers” in the school and beyond.
Edutopia is featuring a collection of blog posts for new teachers including Rebecca Alber’s recent ‘Backwards Planning Takes Thinking Ahead’ and Lisa Dabbs’ New Teacher Academy series. And if you’re a first-year teacher, you should definitely visit the Twitter #ntchat hashtag wiki, maintained by Dabbs. By following #ntchat through the school year, you can stay in touch with other novices and reap lots of helpful weblinks. (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.
A Moment for Yourself
For new teachers who feel the need for a deep breath before the school year starts, the May issue of Educational Leadership also provides a collection of comments from educators who remember the first time they felt like real teachers. Later in the year, novices and everybody else may want to visit NC TOY Cindi Rigsbee‘s poem, ”Oak Island Goodbye,” to gain a little distance from the frenzy of the classroom.
Finally, we highly recommend this recording of our recent 90-minute webinar for new teachers, featuring Rick Wormeli, Heather Wolpert-Gawron and Elizabeth Stein. It was wild and wonderful – everybody seemed to have fun and learn a lot! We’re planning a mid-year version for early December, with special guests who can speed you on the path from Disillusionment to Rejuvenation.
More New Teacher Resources Here at Middleweb
Anthony Cody, Students Can Do Hard Things
Nancy Flanagan, Middle Grades Teaching Essentials
Larry Ferlazzo, Larry Ferlazzo, Impresario
Bill Ferriter, Tempered, with an Edge
Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Learn like Luke Skywalker
Elizabeth Stein, Advice for New SpEd Teachers
Rick Wormeli, Rick & the Fundamentals