Saturday, December 20, 2014

Need Advice: Trying to Help Struggling New Teacher

I think this is heavy on my mind, I've spoken to everyone about it and still feel unsettled.  I have a new teacher on my team this year and she's struggling.  My teammate, who has MANY years under her belt, and I, who have 9 years under mine, are trying to help her and we've come to a wall.  I am going to try to list everything I've told her in terms of advice and tips and if you can think of anything more, please add on.  And I am sure I will forget to tell you everything I've told her.  I just really want to help her grow and learn, and get through her toughest year.

1.  Understand the objective: Determine what the indicator is really asking the students to know and focus on that skill.
2.  Work backwards: if you know what the end objective is, determine the steps you need to take to get there.
3. Understand your kids: what kind of learners are they? How fast or slow do you need to go? What skills/concepts do you think you will need to repeat? Who needs the most support? Who needs a challenge? etc...  Knowing this will help you plan your lessons.
4.  If a lesson doesn't go right, do it again, differently: if you kiddos don't understand a concept, don't just go on to the next lesson in the curriculum, do it again, differently.  Try a different approach, maybe more direct instruction, more guided practice, group work, small group, a discovery learning approach, something, but don't just move on because your curriculum and the district/county says you need so many indicators covered.  Work toward mastery and understand these skills build on each other.  Now I am not saying spend weeks on a single concept, interweave it into other lessons, reteaching time, homework, early finishers, etc.
5.  Be a Thoughtful Planner:  it is your first year, PLAN for everything to there is no way you have forgotten a minute.  Write down the questions you will ask, make sure you are using equitable strategies, make sure you are checking for understanding, and all of this is written down.  Don't just write in the plan book your objectives and call it a day, a veteran teacher can do this because all this has hopefully become second nature, but even veteran teachers still write/script out their plans.  I know I do sometimes especially when the lessons are particularly demanding and I want to make sure I teach the skill/concept well.
6.  Think outside the box: the new common core standards allow for wonderful integration even if the district's curriculum doesn't and puts you in that box.  You can do many projects/activities/assignments that span over subjects and they students really see how everything is connected and reading strategies are isolated to just the subject of reading, you can use it in socials studies, science, math, writing, and life.
7.  YOU are the teacher: Ultimately, you are the one making decisions about your classroom.  You are getting advice from teammates, staff developers, administration, consulting teachers, etc, but it is up to you to make the decisions and your responsibility.  I am not saying ignore the advice, especially administration, they are your bosses, but use what you can, think about the rest, try it, you never know, it might work.
8.  Be reflective and own your mistakes: You need to reflect on what went well and what needs improvement in your lessons and classroom.  If you made a mistake, own that mistake, and reflect about how you will do things differently next time.  New teachers don't know everything; even veteran teachers don't know everything.  Teaching is a learning profession, and not just for the students.
9.  If you don't know something, ask: I know that is easier said than done, and you probably don't know what you don't know, but once you figure out that you don't know, ask.  Your teammates and the rest of the staff are more than willing to help.
10.  Relax: this is a hard job, take some time for yourself.
11. Don't grade everything: don't check everything.
12.  I know there is more, and I've said more, but I am spent, add on please!

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