My first teacher job was a split math and biology position at a great private school. I was brand new, and I mean BRAND NEW! I had previously taught and tutored several subjects in math and science, but I had never had my own class of high schoolers before and my degrees were not in teaching – they are in biology and genetics! I really wanted to teach and I was excited to start, but I really underestimated (like most people who enter teaching) how hard it was!! I really think I made it and became a decent teacher because of the really awesome mentor teachers I had that first year. Because I was actually in two departments, I had two official mentor teachers and many unofficial ones that year. Here are a few things they did for me and a few things you can do, the teacher who has been around the block a bit, to help the new teachers in your department this semester.
Ideas for ways to help new teachers in your department:
- If you’re a science teacher, you could show the new teacher how to set up a particular lab and let them sit in on your class during their prep, so they can see how you introduce it to your students. It helps SOOO much for a new teacher to watch you introduce it and go over the pitfalls and directions and watch your handling the class as they start doing the lab. If you’re not a science teacher, please still invite new teachers to observe a teaching technique or a unique style of teaching that you use! New teachers get a lot out of observing other teachers.
Note here: Some teachers don’t want other teachers watching them; they are afraid of making mistakes and being embarrassed. They are afraid of being seen as not perfect. The best mentor teachers aren’t afraid! Don’t be anxious or worried; if you do make a mistake, the new teacher will just learn the truth – that we are all learning and we all make mistakes sometimes!
- Ask the new teacher how he/she is doing and offer to be a sounding board (or a shoulder to cry on if the new teacher needs that too and you’re the crying-shoulder-sort-of-person!) Teaching is a tough job (you already know that!) and many new teachers do not have training in real-life school issues, like how to deal with the kid who draws pornographic-style images on his lab report margins or how to deal with the parent who shows up at their classroom 10 minutes after school started or how to help with a student who tells her that he has thought about hurting himself. There are things like this that happen every week in the life of a teacher and new teachers need someone who will listen, who will support them, who will help them find the answers they need to deal with all of these issues. Listen and put yourself in their position of being totally new to all of this-that-is-teaching, and let them know you’re there for them if they need someone to work through an issue with. I can’t tell you how many times I cried my first month of teaching! I am so thankful for the teachers who helped me a long the way.
- Try something new with the new teacher! Sometimes new teachers come up with some really genius ideas or new ways of doing a lab or a new way of teaching something. Encourage them and try it out after you’ve talked with him/her and worked out some of the expected kinks beforehand. I was so excited when some teacher friends tried a termite behavior lab with me for the first time. And my mentor teacher allowed me to do my decorate-the-classroom-as-a-cell project in the room we shared, and then my second year, she even joined in and had her class do my project too!