...And no, I'm not just talking about first year teachers, though they are important - this also includes the veteran who's simply new to your building, the familiar teacher who changed grade levels, and the person teaching a new class.
I've been in a middle school setting for four years... but every year, either my job title, my co-teacher, or my standards have changed. (Seriously?! Can't catch a break...). And in that same duration, I've had to go through Ohio's new teacher program... a constant reminder that I'm still new at this. (Yay for government-mandated insecurity...)
A few smart mentor teachers and helpful colleagues did a lot to help me through the learning curve of our building and how to have serenity through periods of change, and some of their acts of kindness are listed below.
But First Thing's First...
Before you look at the list, remember that...
- Another teacher's happiness is not your sole responsibility. Period.
- ...But don't assume that someone else will care, either. Even if she's been assigned a mentor teacher, it might not be a good match, or might not be enough.
- You and the teacher might never become "friends", and that's okay. You can professionally welcome someone and have a bond without a personal-level friendship.
- Don't overthink it. Now's not the time to analyze every little interaction. Just offer what you can and let that be it.
...and now, without further ado:
Five Ways to Help a New Teacher:
1. Give them at least one heads-up.
Maybe you'll poke your head in his room to let him know what to bring to the faculty meeting. Maybe you'll give her forewarning about what a specific parent will be like before that teacher conference so she can operate with a context.
But whatever insight you share, throw them a lifesaver or two in advance of a new or scary situation to ease nerves and help them feel prepared.
2. Give one sincere, honest compliment.
Teachers can sense fake, forced, or generalized feedback just like the kids can, and right now, this person may need some reassurance that he or she is doing something right.
Make sure you tell them if:
- The classroom looks great
- She's already got great rapport with the kids
- His lesson idea was genius
- He handled a situation really well
- She's meeting a building initiative or has good school spirit
- She made a good first impression on parents
- There is literally ANYTHING ELSE you appreciate about him or her!
If this isn't your thing, or you're not sure how it will go, write him/her a note and leave it in a mailbox or on his or her desk. Whether on cute stationary or a plain post-it, a written compliment can go the same distance (or further) than a verbal one.
3. Get them OUT of the classroom.
Based on your comfort zone, try to either:
- Offer to take the person out for coffee/dinner/adult beverage (and live up to that offer), OR
- Give them a gift card to get them out of the house... even if it's just a $5 Starbucks card.
Okay, this one is partially in the hopes to get that teacher to leave the classroom before 6pm, especially in back to school season when there's a lot to do, BUT more importantly, this is your best shot to get to know the person and give him/her a chance to vent OUTSIDE of the school building, where it is probably safer for both of you to open up and be honest.
My mentor teachers (who are now also friends) did this more than once each. It turned out to be important for our bonding, but also massively helpful for my sanity.
Side bonus: if the teacher is new to the area, then show him or her a great place to eat!
4. Give them your contact info... with a promise.
Write down whatever contact information is okay - your email address, your cell phone #, or something else - and let them know if and when it's okay to ask you a question, especially after hours, when he or she will likely feel the most alone.
Do NOT assume that he or she has your contact info in a Directory, or that he or she "knows" it's okay. Maybe she's hesitant to bother you, or doesn't know if that's the best number to call!
..And don't be offended if the teacher doesn't take you up on it, either. Maybe she'd rather ask you things in person, or maybe she's still too shy. The reason why isn't important.
5. Hook them up with something helpful.
Maybe it's your favorite website, an article that rocked your world, a coupon that's still valid, the name of a great parent volunteer, or even your own time. Your offer to help, directly or indirectly, is heartfelt and usually needed!
Not sure what to offer? Ask. You never know if she needs a great seating chart more than a sticker set, wants a way to teach ____, or just needs ANYONE to help her alphabetize for less than five minutes!
Do you have any other suggestions, or did one of these resonate with you? Tell me in the comments below!