July 29, 2017See All Newsletters
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This Week: New Teacher Survival: Planning | Setting Up Productive Group Work | 8 Essential Skills for New Teachers
Watch a new teacher go step by step through planning a day's lessons.
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Sarah Brown Wessling prepares her students for successful collaboration.
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With the help of mentors, teachers focus on eight essential first-year skills.
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My first year was a little different than most. I was hired about a week before school began without any formal training in the education field. (I’d start my schooling right away at the Notre Dame of Maryland University as part of their resident teaching certification program.) I was in over my head for the first few weeks — maybe the first few months — but I did make it through.

Now 12 years later, I can point to a few things that helped during that first year and beyond:

  1. Owning My Own Learning. I took advantage of district-led PD, I read a ton, engaged on Twitter, and attended conferences.
  2. Honoring Student Data. I looked at all data, not just the test scores. I wanted to know how my students experienced life in and out of school.
  3. Finding My Go-To People. I found the people who knew the most about the school and really made it tick.

There are also a few things I wish I had done a little bit differently:

  1. Find a Mentor Outside of My School. It would’ve been great to have someone who could coach me and be honest with me about my glows and grows — someone who could’ve helped me navigate life as a Black, male educator.
  2. More Care in Decorating My Classroom. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve had some awesome classrooms; but they could’ve been maintained much better. Pictures and work documenting our growth throughout the year could’ve given the space an emotional quality that I feel was missing.
  3. Take Time To Give Better Feedback. As the years fly by — and they will — I regret not giving the type of feedback on past essays and assignments that could’ve led to better student performance.

So as you begin, or continue, your teaching journey this year — remember that each decision you make should benefit children. If this is your compass, you will always be moving in the right direction.

JoshJosh Parker
Teacher Laureate at Teaching Channel
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