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Three Things to Support New Teachers Right Now

February 29, 2024

Three Things to Support New Teachers Right Now

Amber Chandler outlines three things that can be done right now to support new teachers, according to those who know best—the new teachers!

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In my role as president of our local, I am one of the first union members to greet new teachers when they are hired, and I make it a point to be available to them throughout the year. This year we formed a support group called NUTS (New Untenured Teachers); our strategy is to get together and provide new teachers an opportunity to ask veteran teachers questions “off the record.” Why? Remember those first months of school when you weren’t sure whom to talk with, how many of your self-doubts to share, and were often told to be seen, not heard? We were able to form this group through a generous AFT grant as a part of its Real Solutions for Kids and Communities initiative, but there are many things we’re working on that don’t require money to implement. I sent a survey to the 142 untenured teachers in my district, and asked the question: “Is there anything you need help with right now?Here are three things to support new teachers right now, according to those who know best—the new teachers! 

screenshot of instagram posts of a teacher gathering

This first request hit me right in the gut: “I just need help getting to know people in the building.” Oh, my mama and mentor heart! I keep imagining my own child, Zoey, who is in her first year of college, alone in a classroom one day with no idea how to get to know the people in her building. This request is also fairly easy to remedy, and we are working on this right now in my union. A willing teacher, possibly someone in union leadership, can open their classroom after or before school for a quick coffee chat. Invite all teachers and simply see who shows up, reminding people to “bring a NUT (new untenured teacher) with you.” This is great for the school community in general, but the new teachers might need a push to show up. I’m all about being overt in the need to support our newest teachers, and I’m starting to send out reminders to “persuade a new teacher to come.” Our union also has a happy hour every few months, and we are advertising that anyone who brings a new teacher gets an extra raffle ticket. These sound like small gestures, but I remember being new to my district. I wasn’t brand new to teaching, but I still wasn’t sure how to “break into” the hallway clusters. I’ll never forget Parents’ Night in my first September. As I was leaving the building, I could hear a group of people I sort of knew talk about meeting at a local restaurant for dessert (which was possibly code for drinks). I really wanted to go. I was so lonely. Yet, I cried in my car on the way home, missing my old life at a different school, and I was frustrated that I didn’t have the nerve to simply show up. The fact is, that was a tough night, and I wasn’t even a brand new teacher. As veteran teachers, we should encourage new teachers to find their place—beside the rest of us—at social events, professional development sessions, but especially in our own schools. 

social media posts from a teacher event

The second need that surfaced repeatedly was the need for resources. Luckily, I have an immediate answer to that question: Share My Lesson. So many new teachers are supplementing their curriculum with their own materials—either ones they create themselves or ones they pay for. I make sure all teachers, but especially new teachers, know that Share My Lesson resources are free. That includes webinars and specialized professional development, which in my state of New York, is eligible for CTLE (Continuing Teacher and Leader Education) hours. Let me share an example with you. Let’s say I’m an elementary teacher, and I want to use some cute, lined paper for a writing prompt. If I Google “cute lined paper elementary,” I get the sponsored results, but even down the list, I get taken to links where I can pay between $3 and $5 for a paper template. Sure, you might be able to make the cute paper yourself, but that is exactly the kind of time suck that is stressful. Enter Share My Lesson. Search the exact same thing, and you get this and this and this. This is one of many examples, but the relief new teachers express when they realize they don’t have to choose between cute, lined paper and Starbucks tells its own story.

The single biggest cry for help we received from new teachers was about their tenure portfolios.

Finally, the single biggest cry for help we received from new teachers was about their tenure portfolios. Not all states and districts grant tenure, but there seems to be a culminating experience of some sort where teachers need to showcase their successes in their early teaching career. It is always important to ask the individual district what it is are looking for, but ours doesn’t have a specific template as a model. We are evaluated using Danielson’s Domains as a framework, so I advise new teachers to create a portfolio highlighting their successes in each category. There are lots of questions about a bound book or a digital portfolio. When I teach new teachers in their preparatory program, I require a digital one because they are easiest for mass distribution when looking for a job. I  can remember spending money I didn’t have photocopying at Kinko’s and then basically scrapbooking my accomplishments. Though amusing now, it was very stressful! Share My Lesson has some excellent samples that could put new teachers at ease. This resource is an excellent start for creating a portfolio; Vanderbilt’s guidelines are exemplary; and here are a few stellar examples of teacher portfolios from WeAreTeachers.   

Teacher documentation examples

 Finally, “Two Important Document Collections: Your Professional Portfolio and Your Teacher’s Daily Binder,” is a great blog that helps underscore the need for good documentation. I’d love to hear how you are documenting your teaching career, see your portfolio, and gather more ideas on how to support new teachers! 

This Is Not the New Normal: Three Education Shifts We Need Now

In this free, for-credit webinar, Amber Chandler will talk about three education shifts that can right the ship after being adrift, setting a course for a new era in education. You will learn to give yourself permission to deeply differentiate, reassess assessment, and calibrate classroom climate.

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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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