Monday, February 13, 2012

New Teachers Know It All

Here's a guest post from Deia Sanders, a teacher from Mendenhall Jr. High in Mendenhall, MS!

 As the school year quickly approached, we were in our staff development meetings staring at familiar faces we had missed all summer and excited about the new faces that had joined our team.  It was my turn to speak.   I had gone from a classroom teacher to the new title of Master Teacher.  Part of my new duties now included professional development and new teacher induction.  Today’s talk was to be about Classroom Procedures.  

As I stood and presented about the procedures for entering the class, going to the restroom, leaving class, getting in groups, going to the bus, riding the bus, etc…  I could see on the new teacher’s faces that in their mind this was overkill.  And when I said this needed to be rehearsed for the first couple of weeks of school, I could feel the deep breaths of doubt exhale from their bodies. 

Actually, I guess everyone could feel it, because that’s when a second-year teacher I had mentored stood up and said “I know this sounds like too many procedures, and I doubted it when she tried to tell me this last year, but I didn’t do these things and I paid for it all year.”  Yes!! That was the testimony I needed to get buy-in from these teachers… or so I thought. 

As the first day came the nervous first year teachers were following the Power Points on procedures and practicing in the classrooms and halls.  I was so proud to see the progress.  But by day 3 and 4 their routines were waning and their thoughts had turned in to trusting these nice, quiet junior high kids in their classrooms.  It was a stark contrast from the experienced teachers who were turning their class around for more practice when procedures were broken, correcting mistakes, and addressing issues before they happened. 

As the year progressed, the new teachers who doubted the importance of drilling procedures and expectations for two weeks, showed their inexperience with their loud classrooms, low homework return, and chaotic lines as they trekked back and forth to the cafeteria and assemblies.   It reminded me of warnings from my parents about my own behavior as a child, which I didn’t heed, and eventually felt the consequences of.  As much as we tried to help the teachers regain control, the expectations are set with the first impression, and it’s difficult to recover when they don’t take you serious.

Just the other day I was talking to a new teacher who was reflecting on his experience so far this year. He was sharing that next year he would start out like we suggested, and had learned his lesson. It seemed like the appropriate time to warn him about “spring fever” and how wild the kids would get as the weather warmed. Once again I was given that same look of doubt that they had with my procedure warnings in the beginning, and again I related to how my parents probably felt when I was a teenager and thought I knew it all.  I immediately knew that once again they would have to walk through the fire to feel the flame.

So… it’s almost March and here we go again!

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