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checking in on new teachers blog

May 19, 2021

Check on the New Teachers—Even if They Seem OK

Let the new teachers know that we see them and that we appreciate them; we all know that sometimes those kind words are the only thing that keeps us going!


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About Checking In

Recently, I wrote a blog about an inspiring educator during Teacher Appreciation Week—someone I had met in my first years of teaching. I was pleasantly surprised that it touched off a bit of a reunion, albeit virtual, for me. Many teachers I’d worked with reached out on Facebook, and I even received a few emails. It was a reality check to be sure. How could it be that I have been teaching for 22 years? How could it be that I didn’t even have a phone in my classroom, much less a computer when I started teaching? I got memos in my school mailbox. I averaged grades with a calculator. Yet, here I am, surviving the chaos of teaching in a pandemic, like a boss. OK. That might be an exaggeration. Probably not quite “like a boss,” but I am not having a nervous breakdown, I’m sure that my students are still learning valuable lessons, and I am certain that the wheels are not going to fly off. I’m not bragging. I’m a veteran teacher. We do what we have to. We show up, adjust to a million things, and when we stumble, we make it part of the dance. After so many years, most of us embrace the fact that we have to do some interpretive dancing, and smile our way through it. 

"Let the new teachers know that we see them and that we appreciate them; we all know that sometimes those kind words are the only thing that keeps us going!"

However, this virtual reunion got me thinking about my new teacher friends and students, and I inevitably wondered how my younger self would have handled this chaotic new territory of “pandemic teaching.” As I ponder this, it occurs to me that new teachers do exactly what the veteran teachers do—they show up, adjust to a million things, and when they stumble, they make it a part of the dance too. They are at least as good as the rest of us at having to do some interpretive dancing. 

The difference though is crucial: Veteran teachers have stability that new teachers don’t. Many of us have tenure, which is an incredible comfort when trying to teach students at home and at school simultaneously, or suddenly be expected to utilize technology that none of us have ever been trained on. Veteran teachers have established relationships with administrators that span decades and are comfortable offering “constructive criticism” (ahem . . . venting) without the fear of being judged or labeled. If a veteran teacher enjoys virtual teaching, we can say so without others thinking we are just sucking up. If a veteran teacher isn’t great with technology, we can say that. The difficulty of being a new teacher is that they are human, just like the rest of us, but they are in the unenviable position of having to appear at all times to be competent, excited to be building the airplane while it is flying, innovative, and show no interest in a work/life balance. These are dangerous times to be a new teacher, not because they can’t do the work, but precisely because they can. For a little while at least, which is my fear. 

A Simple Ask

This blog then is a call to action, a reminder to us veteran teachers, a reunion with our former selves who wouldn’t show a single emotion, take a single sick day, or ever be caught venting. We need to check on the new teachers! On top of pandemic teaching, many new teachers are still in school, completing their master’s programs and building families. This past fall, two of the 10 students in my Introduction to Differentiation class at Canisius College had babies, and four of the 10 got COVID-19. They all appeared to take it in stride, including one of the new mamas who came to our virtual class two days after giving birth. 

However, this is precisely my concern. As veteran teachers, we need to make sure we are supporting the new teachers, even if they seem OK, and even more so if they seem superhuman or invincible. We need to make sure they stick around, and that we don’t lose the incredible talents I’ve seen in new teachers because we, as a profession, accept and sometimes expect the impossible from ourselves and each other. So please, do this one thing: Find a new teacher and buy her a coffee. Send him a note. Brag about new teachers’ dedication to parents, administrators and the community. Leave a candy bar on their desks or a gift card and a kind word. Let the new teachers know that we see them and that we appreciate them; we all know that sometimes those kind words are the only thing that keeps us going!

Find more blogs and resources from Amber Chandler on her Share My Lesson partner page.

Amber Chandler

Amber Chandler is a National Board Certified middle school ELA teacher in Hamburg, New York with a Master’s Degree in Literature, as well as a School Building Leader certification.

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