As I reflect on my first exciting years of teaching, let’s continue my list of Tips for New Teachers. I am sure that you are “enjoying your students” and “using humor judiciously” to help lighten your loads. Tip #3 is to FIND A MENTOR. Mine was actually provided to me by my state. Other states are also using some form of mentoring program to help new teachers get started. Hopefully it will also encourage good teachers to stay in the classroom. A mentor can provide corrective feedback, offer suggestions, provide information about resources, and generally help to get you started in the “right” direction. A good mentor also provides opportunities for questioning, hand-holding, help with lesson plans, classroom management, building level protocols, etc.
However, if there is no structured mentor program available in your state, seek out a veteran teacher to help answer your questions. Most teachers are very willing to help someone new to the profession. Keep your ears and eyes open in faculty meetings, in the hallways, and in the teacher’s lounge (it may be good to visit occasionally) and you will soon be able to decide who could be helpful.
Above all, be friendly to all. Get involved. Don’t stay in your room feeling overwhelmed (even though you probably are). Reach out and ask questions. Be willing to jump in and help occasionally. After all, you are probably not the only one feeling overwhelmed. Others may just be having a bad day or need a helping hand or some encouragement, just like you. You can be that encourager – even though you are a new or fairly new teacher. These things can lead to a wonderful “informal” type mentoring relationship.
Tip #4 is to JOIN PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS. There are many good ones out there but I will discuss just two. I was advised to join a teacher organization (mine is NEA) for liability insurance. That was and is good advice. We live in a legalistic society and even with best intentions, things happen. You need to protect your license and opportunity to practice your chosen profession. However, these organizations offer so much more than liability coverage. They provide opportunities to network with caring and competent professionals and to develop leadership skills as you accept roles in the organization. There may also be opportunities for professional development provided by competent presenters. Finally, your organization can provide you with information on current education issues in the political arena and how your voice can be heard to affect positive changes. (By the way, I hope you voted today!) In summary, your teacher organization is a great place to grow in your profession.
The other organization that I would recommend is the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). I am sure many of you already belong. I was introduced to this organization as a university student. My state CEC Conference group presentation was part of a class that I completed, but that opened the door for me. There are opportunities to attend and present at conferences where you also get to network with others practicing in your field; this is so beneficial. You may also wish to join one or more of CEC’s divisions that are pertinent to your practice. I always felt that paying my CEC dues was my own professional development that I provided for myself. The publications and news briefs (different names over the years) have helped me keep current with best practices and the law. I will discuss this further in next post.
Have a great day. Feel free to share your experiences on mentoring and professional organizations.
Jane H. Humphrey, NBCT