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September 1, 2019
Vol. 77
No. 1

Reader's Guide / Starting New Teachers Off Right

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Professional Learning
The theme of this back-to-school issue of Educational Leadership, you might say, is by request. Over the past couple of years, several readers have asked us to do an issue focusing on the needs of beginning teachers. These requests differed in context and emphasis, but they shared a sense of concern about the challenges facing new teachers today—and about these educators' overall preparedness to meet them. They also suggested, with some urgency, that veteran educators and school leaders needed greater support in helping their new colleagues thrive.
If there's angst in the field about improving support for new teachers, it's not hard to point to reasons why. We've all seen the statistics about the number of teachers (varying but always sizable) who abandon the profession in their first few years. A less well-known but equally compelling data point is that the sheer number of novice teachers in U.S. schools appears to be dramatically rising. A recent analysis by University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Ingersoll and colleagues found that, as of 2016, the modal (or most common) years of experience for a U.S. teacher was 0–3 years, down from five years in 2012 and 15 way back in 1988. This means, among other things, that new teachers make up a vital constituency in today's schools. They are integral to student success, no matter how green they may be.
Given this context, the articles and resources in this issue aim to help novice educators and those who support them hit the ground running, as well to provide rich material for discussion and reflection. Several of our authors share advice on high-leverage instructional practices and approaches. Mike Schmoker, for example, outlines three indispensable pedagogical competencies that he feels are sorely lacking in many classrooms, while Robert Jackson and Craig Simmons both divulge insider details on what they learned—mostly the hard way—about classroom management and working with difficult student behaviors in their early years as teachers. (Advance takeaway: Cultivating a respectful, composed presence is big.) Mark Wise and Beth Pandolpho, meanwhile, offer guidance to school leaders on helping new teachers free themselves from problematic but hard-to-resist instructional habits.
Other articles look more closely at the social-emotional aspects of educator development and school culture—the "whole teacher" dynamic, as we at ASCD might say. Chase Mielke, a high school teacher and ASCD book author, offers heartfelt guidance on how new teachers can stay optimistic and maintain their passion in a profession that is both unquestionably demanding and awash in unconstructive negativity. "Thriving teachers know that conditions matter but that our actions matter most for preventing burnout," Mielke writes—a statement that in itself could be a nice prompt for team discussion or reflection. In a similar vein, Paul Emerich France discusses the importance of building school cultures where new teachers feel safe enough to take risks in instruction and feel a sense of creativity and excitement in their work.
Appropriately for a resource on new teachers, this issue also delves into important matters of diversity and cultural understanding, with articles on developing awareness of unconscious biases and building connections to students' communities. With this issue, we are also proud to introduce Matthew Kay as the new author of our regular "Confronting Inequity" column. Kay is a high school English teacher in Philadelphia and the author of a terrific recent book, Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom (Stenhouse, 2018). In his inaugural column, he writes about maintaining the curiosity and humility to develop "substantive, honest relationships with our students, so that we can trust each other in the work that lies ahead."
That sounds like a perfect message to start off the school year, perhaps especially for new teachers.

Reflect & Discuss

"Avoiding the Siren Calls" by Mark Wise and Beth Randolpho

➛ Which of these Siren calls has had power over you? Why?

➛ Does your school do enough to help teachers—especially new ones—improve their instructional practices?

➛ Are there any other Siren calls that you would add to this list for new teachers to avoid?

"Focusing on the Essentials" by Mike Schmoker

➛ Does your teacher development lean more toward novelty than "evidence-based priority"?

➛ How could your school or district's PD be reoriented to build teachers' mastery in the three essential competencies Schmoker describes?

➛ Do you agree that the adoption of these principles of sound instruction would lead to a dramatic improvement in education? Why or why not?

➛ Consider Simmons's "lion or lamb" metaphor for a teacher's style. Do you approach students as a lion or a lamb—or a bit of both?

➛ Simmons says teachers should use assertive body language when giving directions—standing still and upright, making eye contact, using a "teacher voice." Do you agree? Are you conscious of your body language with students? Might it need some modification?

➛ Think of a time when you wished you had let a disruptive student "save face," while still addressing the disruption. What might you do differently next time?

"How Principals Can Support New Teachers" by Todd Whitaker, Madeline Whitaker Good, and Katherine Whitaker

➛ What's one practice mentioned here that you could commit to trying with your new teachers?

➛ How could your staff be more intentional about welcoming—and positively connecting with—new teachers?

➛ How might you shift your schedule or school culture to make new teachers more of a priority?

"The Anti-Racist Educator" by Tracey A. Benson and Sarah E. Fiarman

➛ Consider the authors' question: What impact are your practices having on students of color? Does anything in your mentoring or induction for new teachers help new teachers reflect on this question? Might you include something to help new hires think about this?

➛ Do you ever talk with fellow teachers about racism or racial identity? Do you think there is enough trust among some of your colleagues to let this happen? If not, why not?

➛Does your school foster a growth mindset with respect to racial bias?

End Notes

1 Ingersoll, R., Merrill, E., Stuckey, D., & Collins, G. (2018). Seven trends: The transformation of the teaching force—updated October 2018. CPRE Research Reports.

Anthony Rebora is the editor in chief of Educational Leadership.

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