A Helpful Field Guide for Beginning Teachers
Reviewed by Linda Biondi
One of the most exciting, rewarding, overwhelming, and frightening parts of getting your first teaching job is the unknown. Although, as a student teacher, you have observed an exemplary mentor teacher and taken over the classroom teaching responsibilities, there is so much that is unknown. What should you do first?
“First Things First” – that’s how this book begins! Tina H. Boogren starts with a flashback to her beginning days of teaching. Heart pounding…Hands sweating…Afraid to go back into the classroom the next day, afraid of a repeat of Day 1. Sound familiar? Most educators vividly recall their first day of teaching.
- Who or what inspired you and why?
- What was school like for you? What would you like to change about your own childhood experience and your young adult experience in school?
- How do you learn best? How does your best friend learn best? Why is it important to recognize that we learn differently?
Introduction: First Things First
Chapter 1: The Anticipation Phase
Chapter 2: The Survival Phase
Chapter 3: The Disillusionment Phase
Chapter 4: The Rejuvenation Phase
Chapter 5: The Reflection Phase
Chapter 6: The Second Anticipation Phase
Appendix A: End-of-the-Year Activities
Appendix B: Mementos
Epilogue: The Year in Retrospect
References and Resources
What is unique about this book is that it’s interactive. As you read, you’re asked to write along the side (a field guide format), so it’s best to approach the book with a pen or pencil in hand. Each carefully written chapter asks you to remember the 3 Rs: review, reflect, and respond to the prompts with your thoughts.
More about the content
The author divides the book into five phases that most beginning teachers face as they embark on their teaching careers: anticipation, survival, disillusionment, rejuvenation, and reflection.
- Anticipation – the feeling of where do I begin?
- Survival – I’m here, I’m teaching, I’m overwhelmed. Now what do I do?
- Disillusionment – a common occurrence for all teachers, even the most poised veterans. Am I doing the right thing? How can I become a better teacher?
- Rejuvenation – the “upswing,” feeling refreshed and ready to finish the year. I survived. How can I keep that upswing feeling?
- Reflection – time to review and reflect on your journal entries. What worked and what didn’t work? How can I make next year’s teaching even better?
I was recently at a Teach Meet at Rider University for new teachers, supervisors, and coaches. The topic was “Sharing best practices in mentoring new teachers.” As I surveyed the audience and listened to some of the great strategies, I was reminded that I once was a new teacher, overwhelmed with how to set up a classroom, not knowing where to begin.
I had an informal mentor who helped me navigate my way through classroom management, testing, curriculum, and learning how to stop to “smell the roses.” Sometimes we forget that what we consider as obvious is overwhelming to a novice. I was lucky to have that mentor. How would I have made it through that first year without her?
This book is jam-packed with exceptional ideas and stories that all teachers can relate to. I felt a kinship and connection with Boogren as I read the book. Each chapter contained a personal essay that she wrote during her first teaching years. Her honesty and transparency allow the reader to realize that they are not alone and that the scary, overwhelming feelings they may be experiencing are common. (And will soon pass!)
The author also helpfully includes links to website resources for the teacher such as:
Inspirational Quotes and Stories
Boogren acknowledges that teaching can be difficult and it is important for teachers to take care of themselves as well as the students. Each chapter contains practical advice on how to take care of yourself, physically, emotionally, and socially.
Some of the most important words to bring back to classroom are: “Work to develop your own growth mindset. Recognize that you are a beginner and it’s OK to make mistakes. When you find yourself believing (or saying) that you can’t do something, try adding the word yet to the end of that statement.” (P.77).
If you’re entering your first classroom this fall, this book could be your go-to companion. Read it, underline and highlight in it, write in it…practice it. It helps you as you navigate your first year/s. If you are a new teacher ready to take your first teaching assignment or want to give a gift to a new teacher, then this book is for you! If you are a school district that has a mentoring program for new staff, purchase this book for your new teachers.
This book can be and will be a lifeline to a passionate teaching career and a sane one as well.
A year into her retirement from teaching fourth graders, Linda Biondi is currently supervising preservice and student teachers at Rider University. This summer she will be co-facilitating a weeklong writing institute in conjunction with the National Writing Project at Rider. She volunteers for two service organizations: Homefront and Dress for Success of Central New Jersey – both organizations that have a mission to end poverty and homelessness. The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve with economic independence.