Curated Advice New Teachers Need Now

The New Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Common Challenges: Curated Advice from Award-Winning Teachers
Edited by Anna M. Quinzio-Zafran and Elizabeth A. Wilkins
(Routledge/Eye On Education, 2021 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Linda Biondi

Being a first-year teacher is overwhelming. So much to learn and to master. You need to be innovative, stay “on your toes,” learn time management, and definitely be able to figure out classroom management.

Everything you learned while student teaching and in your Education Prep courses need to be “unpacked” and put to use.

The problem is where to begin.

Teaching and learning go hand in hand. A teacher is always discovering and creating. Where is the best resource for just-in-time advice? It’s from those in the field!

Oftentimes, the new teacher learns more of what she or he is desperate to know from teachers who just finished their first year of classroom teaching – backed up by administrators, curriculum writers (who have been teachers), coaches, and veteran teachers.

A wide spectrum of education challenges

Anna M. Quinzio-Zafran and Elizabeth A. Wilkins have done a superior job gathering resources from all over the continent that together serve as a “go-to” guide for critical areas of education, including:

  • Teaching During a Pandemic
  • Classroom Setup and Management
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Differentiation
  • English Learners
  • Professionalism/School Culture
  • Navigating Teacher Evaluation
  • Relationship Building/Communication
  • Student Assessment and Data Literacy
  • Work-Life Balance

The New Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Common Challenges is current and relevant. In fact, the first section deals with advice and stories from a diverse group of educators who share their hearts, joys, and frustrations experienced during the Covid pandemic. As I read this section, I had tears in my eyes as they described how they were able to stay resilient during this time and how teachers all over the world supported each other.

What is unique about the format of the book is that the reader learns about education from different perspectives and environments. You learn from teachers in urban and suburban settings, private school and public schools, all grade levels and subject areas.

As educators we continue to learn a great deal during professional development sessions, but as teachers know, the best learning comes from practice and sometimes “mistakes.” Educating children is not “one size fits all,” so hearing multiple perspectives gives the reader a chance to think about what strategy might work best for their classroom.

Educators who’ve walked the walk

This book is about conversations among administrators, professors, coaches, teachers – educators who want the best for their students. I was impressed with the frankness and candor of the contributions. The educators acknowledged their shortcomings, and it was like reading their journals.

This fantastic 200-page resource is filled with teaching tools from those in the know. Each entry is often documented with the educator’s teaching position and Twitter or Instagram link, as well as professional references that support the entry.

There are many pressing issues facing teachers today. The editors of this guide provide a concise overview of many of those issues – such as developing a school and class culture in these uncertain times and being a culturally responsive teacher.

As you read this book, you begin to put your mind at ease. You know that you will have the confidence and resources you need as you begin your teaching journey (or as a veteran teacher who is continually looking to improve their teaching).

It’s a book that you can pick up at any time – while waiting for an appointment, looking for help for a particular teaching situation, or just needing to hear what other educators have to say. It’s a must have resource to keep on your desk all year.

Educators’ take on self care

Teaching is a difficult, yet rewarding job. Teachers are on their feet all day, and when they leave the physical classroom, the students are constantly in their thoughts. The book ends by reminding educators not to over-extend themselves and by showing them how to “take care of themselves.”

One such posting is from Michelle Adler, EdD, Assistant Professor at Wichita State University who urges teachers to remember to “Take care of Your SELF.”

S-set aside time for yourself
E-engage in uplifting conversations and be present with people you care about
L-listen to others and to things that inspire you
F-find friends who you can talk to and who motivate you

This collection of writings will help educators sustain the passion and ideals that led them to teaching. You will hear sound advice on how to navigate the school system, form helpful relationships with colleagues, and connect with students and families from all backgrounds.

Thank you, Anna Quinzio-Zafran and Elizabeth Wilkins, for gathering all these voices and giving educators a chance to share their sound advice. Thank you for this fantastic resource!

After teaching fourth and fifth graders for 41 years, Linda Biondi is supervising preservice and student teachers at The College of New Jersey and Rider University. She has co-facilitated summer writing institutes in conjunction with the National Writing Project and volunteers for two service organizations: Homefront and Dress for Success of Central New Jersey – with missions to end homelessness and empower women to achieve through economic independence.

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