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New Teacher Guidance

I’m not even sure where to begin.

I talked with the BTSA AP, and she’s listing off all sorts of things she wants the new teachers to do: standards compliant bulletin boards, backwards planning, text rich classrooms, and so on.

I’m wondering how to explain to them how to take roll on the first day and how not to get killed.

The worst part about being a new teacher is cognitive load. All those things listed above make your life easier, but you need experience to be able to do them. It’s a horrible chicken and egg problem – all the stuff that makes your life easier later on will only make it more difficult if you try to do it from the start.

As a result, my thoughts are that I need to pare back, heavily, on the information they get. I need to let them know what the small stuff is, so that they don’t have to sweat it. (thanks, sam). I need to make them aware that they’re going to be overwhelmed, and that their easiest way through is to focus on one thing at a time:

  • Attendance.
  • Teaching the students your expectations.
  • How to distribute their textbooks.
  • Where to get supplies and how to make copies.
  • Who to go to when they have a question (me, or one of two other teachers).

That’s five things – it already feels like too much. But I don’t know what to pare out.

(I plan on throwing more stuff at them, but less in a “this is what you need to do” way, and more of a “when you’re ready for it, this will make your life easier” way. Which means that I need to make clear to them the distinction between havetos and niceideas.)

{ 4 } Comments

  1. sam shah | August 28, 2008 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    “the distinction between havetos and niceideas.” absolutely crucial.

    I love your list because it’s so very practical. Don’t pare anything out — they’re going to need all that information in the first few days!

    We were also told, which was really nice and comforting, that if you’re asked to be on a committee, organize something, chaperone, run an independent study, anything at all, to say NO. The higher ups said they will ask, because that’s what always ends up happening, but you need to say NO, and not feel pressured that someone higher up than you is asking.

    If that’s something your school believes, I’d definitely highlight it, because saying that one thing to us really took the pressure off me to overfill my plate last year, and focus on getting my daily lesson plans done well. (And in the second semester, I did get involved. But that’s when I knew what I could handle.)

  2. Mike | August 28, 2008 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    It’s like on The Wire, the first year isn’t about teaching. It is about surviving.

    I would say to leave in your list of five, they are all important and I would want to know all that day one.

    HOWEVER, one thing that always drove me nuts when I was student teaching or started out teaching in large schools was when I would ask a veteran teacher a straight up question like,“do you hang on to papers kids leave laying around in the classroom or throw them out?” And the response would be, “every teacher has their own classroom” or “that is just something you’re going to have to figure out.” I always felt like I am aware that I can choose this for myself, and I know I’ll have to figure it out in the end, but I’m drowning here making every single little decision and I’m asking for advice.

    Maybe I was just unlucky, but it seemed like I could never get a straight answer to a question. Almost like it was hazing.

    So the niceideas sounds great because it’s great to have some of those hanging around, even if you are being a little overwhelmed.

  3. Mr. K | August 28, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Thank you guys for your feedback –

    Aspecially the “don’t say yes”, which is also advice I got as a first year teacher and which I completely forgot in the meantime.

    Also, the concrete examples – I’m more than willing to tell them what I do, as well as give them a couple other options, and I think that I also need to give them a haveto/niceidea rating on each thing they’re worried about.

    Odd that you mention “do you hang on to papers kids leave laying around in the classroom or throw them out?” in particular. I was thinking that I should see if we can budget a couple of those file boxes for all the new teachers, to set them up with a place where they can just have the kids put their work, so they don’t have to worry about places to put what will end up being stacks and stacks.

  4. Mike | August 30, 2008 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a good idea. Stacks are the enemy. For serious, worst thing at the end of the day is a two inch deep pile of papers sitting on your desk.