Monday, October 6, 2014

So your child’s teacher is new to teaching. . .

Every teacher has to have a first year of teaching. Over the course of her school years, your child will have a first year teacher or two. Very few professions expect someone to show up the first day and be ready to take full responsibility for the success of a group. Teachers have to know their content, implement best pedagogical practices to deliver that content, and manage a group of young people in such a way that every student learns to his or her full potential. There are steps you can take to ensure that your child has a great learning experience.

First and foremost, find out what supports are in place for the new teacher.
  • You should expect your school to provide every new teacher with a mentor and strong mentoring program. If your school doesn’t have this support, work with administrators to set up a program linking experienced teachers with new teachers.
  • First year teachers need ongoing education. Some schools offer a first year teacher’s seminar. This provides directed professional development in the areas new teachers most need.
  • Every teacher needs regular, formal evaluative feedback from supervisors. Make sure new teachers receive this several times in their first few years.
Second, assume that the new teacher is the best candidate for this position. Hiring great teachers is as much art as science. Young adults are choosing careers in education out of a paired love of working with young people and passion for content areas.
  • When you meet with your child’s teacher connect your wisdom about your child with the teacher’s passion for teaching.
  • If your child has complaints or concerns in the first two weeks, it may be that the complaints are simple things common in any new situation and will be corrected through the ongoing support of mentors, colleagues and supervisors.
  • Ask your child to tell you what he likes about the new teacher, what the new teacher does well.  You want to help your child discern an honest, correctable rookie mistake from something bigger.
  • Even a ten year teacher veteran has to learn a new school culture.

Third, when things don’t seem to be working reach out quickly and directly to your child’s divisional director or Principal.
  • Principals are responsible for teacher quality and student success.
  • Ask for an indication that action has been taken. While you won’t know what has been done, its fair for you to know that your concern has been heard and that appropriate action (as determined by the Principal) is in process.
  • Be persistent and patient . . . to a point. You don’t want your child to lose a year, but you need to give the new teacher time to make whatever adjustments a supervisor may deem warranted.

Fourth, let your child’s teacher know when things are going well.
  • The best teachers are life-long learners. Knowing a lesson or a practice inspired a child, helped a student solve a problem, or understand himself better as a learner is valuable information for  a new teacher.

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