What Do All New Teachers Need to Know?

The other night I participated in the weekly evening #edchat about new teachers and how they should be supported and whether or not they should be giving special consideration. I was not able to stay for the entire chat, but the conversations really got me thinking about new teachers and what they face when they enter the classroom.

There are really three categories of new teachers who will joining our profession. (I am sure we can come up with more, but these are generalized categories.)

New Teachers fresh out of college with a degree in Education

New Teachers fresh out of college without an Education degree

New Teachers who are older and coming from other careers

When I started teaching, I was a blend of category 2 and 3. I was a new teacher without a degree in education and I started teaching after serving six years in the Marine Corps. So, I was a 31 year old newbie who needed help, but the strange thing was I did not know what questions to ask nor did I understand the lingo being used. My team helped me a lot, but as I reflect back on those first few weeks I see much of the same happening today. Do we effectively help the new teachers. In my case, I had a mentor assigned to me and she helped me, but those meetings didn’t start until after the first month. Nobody told me specifically what I was supposed to be teaching, where to find the standards, what planning time actually was, where the bathrooms were, how to use the copy machine … heck no one told me how the school discipline system worked. Yes, my team helped me, but it seemed the help came after I needed it instead of before. It was reactive and not proactive.
What do all new teachers need to know before school starts?
1. Where are the bathrooms?

Finding the student bathrooms are usually pretty easy, but where are the staff bathrooms … can I make it there during the class change time period.

2. Where are the break rooms/vending machines/coffee pot/refrigerators?

Finding a snack or cold soft drink can make or break a day. Is there a staff coffee pot? Where can I put my lunch to keep it cold. Are there any secret locations? Yes, there might be a big refrigerator in the break room, but is there one closer … like in your neighbor’s room.

3. Where is the copier and how do I use it? … Please don’t make them wait for the “training.”

The assumption that everyone can use a copier should be avoided. Every copier seems to have a demon that likes to frustrate teachers. Do the new teachers know the secrets to avoid the copier demon.

4. Who are the Administrators and what is their purpose (Discipline/Facilities/Curriculum)?

It is important that teachers know which Administrator does what. Yes, we know the Principal is the top of the school, but what roles do the other members of the team fill. Many schools have defined roles for the Administration team. New teachers need to know who does Discipline, Testing, Curriculum, or Facilities. It makes it easier to ask the right questions of the right person.

5. Who is “the” secretary … you know the one who really runs the school.

If you do not know who “the” secretary you may be doing yourself a disservice. The secretary is the one who controls payroll, ordering, and more than likely is the Principal’s secretary. It may be one person or it could be several people, but it is important that new teachers know who this person is and how they make life easier at the school.

6. Who is the Media Specialist/Network Manager – Technology

Make sure your new teachers know who this person is and what services they provide. In many schools they are responsible for checking out the technology and handling any issues that may arise. What are their schedules?

7. How does the school handle the discipline

Many schools have home grown discipline methods to track student behavior. Some have cards that the teacher marks or demerits or in my previous school they had an “economy system” where the students were fined and had to write checks for infractions. It is important that new teachers know how these systems operate. At my previous school I had no idea how the system worked and it took a student to show me how to use it. Even when I started at my new school no one showed me the cards we used.

8. Where are all the classrooms … are they in sections … how do you get to them?

Very few campuses are set up in a nice neat fashion. It is important for teachers to know where everything is located. Are certain sections of the school for specific purposes? Is there a place for specific grade levels … science rooms … where are the computer labs?

9. What is “Duty” and where does it happen?

Where are the duty stations and what am I supposed to do when I am there. A Cafeteria duty post is different than being a hall monitor. We have to make sure we are not setting up these new teachers up to fail.

10. How does lunch work?

It is always nice to know where to get food. How do teacher’s lunch accounts work? Do I need to walk the kids to lunch … supervise in the halls. Do I get to cut in line in front of the students or is there a special teacher line?

11. What are lesson plan expectations?

I get I need to make lesson plans, but is there a special format I should follow. Where do I need to put them. Do I send them to someone or upload it some where? What elements need to be there?

12. Is there a curriculum map?

Is there some sort of template that gives me an overview of the curriculum with possible resources. As I was reviewing curriculum maps last year for our district we noticed there was a lack of resources included. As we reworked them we made sure they included resources that would help teachers. Sometimes it is not about being able to answer questions, but rather to just point teachers in the right direction.

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are some things that could help new teachers not be quite so lost.
What would you add?

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