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Prepare now to help your new teachers flourish

By May 23, 2024No Comments

Teachers meeting in an officeBy Bryan Goodwin

As graduation bells ring in U.S. schools and classes race toward the school year’s end, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate all the educators who inspire their students, families, and colleagues every day. We’re grateful for the amazing work you do and are honored for the opportunities to work alongside you. We realize the work is not easy and the hard realities don’t always align with the expectations.

We also know that as this year draws to a close, many districts are filling lots of teacher vacancies in preparation for the next school year. Nationwide, teacher turnover rates have spiked in recent years even as the number of college students seeking education degrees has plummeted. That has left many districts with little choice but to fill openings with increasing numbers of unlicensed teachers who, while eager, are apt to need more support than previous cohorts of new teachers.

What can school leaders do now to set up new teachers for success? Here are a few ideas, drawn from research.

  • Provide new teachers with a classroom management toolkit. As I wrote recently in Education Leadership magazine, most new teachers, even those arriving from traditional teacher preparation programs, receive very little practical preparation in classroom management. We can ease their learning curve by showing them ahead of time how they can establish consistent rules and routines, be a visible presence in their classrooms, build positive relationships with students, and reinforce good behavior with positive feedback. High-performing schools and districts don’t assume new teachers come equipped with these insights or skills. Instead, they provide new teachers with a manageable toolkit of practical strategies they can put to use on day one.
  • Give them model lessons and units. New teachers report feeling overwhelmed by the demands of the job—grading, paperwork, communicating with families, unit/lesson planning, and searching for high-quality instructional materials. One of the simplest and most effective ways to support new teachers is to throw them a lifeline in the form of well-designed lesson and unit plans. Research shows, in fact, that doing so has a significant impact on student success—the equivalent of moving teachers in the 50th percentile to the 80th percentile, with twice the effect for low-performing teachers.
  • Surround them with a supportive school culture. Studies show that a key driver of teacher retention is having access to colleagues and administrators who support them. Studies show, for example, that new teachers benefit from having a capable mentor assigned to them who can answer their questions, provide encouragement, and help problem-solve issues. At the very least, new teachers need to know that at least one other person in the building cares about them and is committed to their success.

Interested in more ways to build your new teachers’ survival guide? Check out these resources:

This post originally appeared in our May 2024 Changing Schools newsletter. Click here to sign up to receive McREL’s free monthly newsletter.

Bryan Goodwin, president and CEO of McREL, thrives on translating insights from education research into practical strategies and professional learning for effective teaching and school leadership. He is the author or co-author of several McREL books, including The New Classroom Instruction That Works, Learning That SticksBuilding a Curious School, and Instructional Models. Before joining McREL in 1998, Bryan was a college instructor, a high school teacher, and a business journalist.

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.