Saturday, September 26, 2015

7 Strategies to Save Struggling Teachers

The first 6 weeks of school is coming to an end, so how are your new teachers doing?  How are they feeling?  Where do they feel competent now, and where are they still lost?  If you don't know the answers to these questions, there's a strong chance you don't know your teachers well enough to save them if they're in danger of falling through the cracks.  And let's be honest, if new teachers fall through the cracks, so do their kids.  If you think about your first year as a teacher or your first year at a new school, you can vividly remember the exhaustion that you felt at the end of the first few weeks of school.
Principals shouldn't ignore these facts about new teachers or just chalk them up as a necessary evil that they all have to go through in our first year.  Leaders owe it to their teachers to do something about it. After all the best way to retain new teachers is to make sure we don't kill them.  Most new teachers struggle in the first weeks of school, but they shouldn't have to struggle for the rest of the year. They need campus level supports to help them overcome the stress from the beginning of school. 

7 Strategies to Save Struggling Teachers

1. Mentor

Every new teacher needs a mentor or a buddy, but it's what that mentor does for the teacher that makes the biggest difference. Great mentors take time to visit with their mentee weekly to help them overcome the obstacles from the daily grind. Effective mentors check on their mentee regularly and ensure that they have all the supports they need to succeed. 

2.  PLC 

Being a member of a professional learning community that meets on a regular basis is a good thing, but being a member of a PLC that focuses on helping every teacher grow and improve is a fantastic support.  Every teacher, especially ones that struggle, deserves to be on a PLC that focuses on the adult learning coupled with a mission of guaranteeing that all kids learn. 

3.  Resource Expert

If a teacher is struggling with how to complete day-to-day tasks or how to use resources for learning, they should be provided with tour guide to develop those skills.  Whether it's the gradebook, email, digital textbooks, GAFE, or some other tool that they are expected to master, schools and administrators should provide resource experts to help all teachers when they experience difficulty with these resources and the tasks associated with these tools. 

4.  Lesson Planning Support

Some teachers struggle with planning engaging lessons.  In these situations, struggling teachers should be provided time to plan a week of lessons with a veteran teacher or administrator. This support gives struggling teachers structure and organization so that they can be more efficient with the time they spend planning for instruction.

5. Walk-throughs / Instructional Rounds

Walk-throughs aren't just for administrators.  They are a great strategy to help a struggling teacher in their instructional delivery.  By watching another teacher deliver instruction, they can pick up new ideas to make their lessons pop.  An even better activity than walk-throughs is instructional rounds because the struggling teacher can observe instruction with fellow teachers and discuss the pedagogy as well as the components of instructional effectiveness with their peers.

6. Coteaching

Another great way to learn how to deliver effective instruction is to coteach a lesson with another teacher. By preparing a lesson and teaching with a veteran teacher, a struggling teacher can gain first hand instructional experience in planning and delivery. The most beneficial aspect of coteaching can be found in the opportunity to reflect on the strengths and struggles of the lesson afterward with the coteacher. By working with an excellent teacher from the beginning to the end, struggling teachers learn the unwritten rules in designing powerful lessons.

7. Administrator Time

Probably the greatest support that struggling teachers can receive is time with their administrator. By having regularly scheduled times to visit with the principal, teachers can gain valuable experience and insight of how to make it through the difficulties that they face. The best administrators spend a lot of time serving as a sounding board for teachers as it helps teachers find their own solutions to traditional problems. Additionally, when administrators spend time with struggling teachers, they learn how to lead more effectively, support more efficiently, and respond more precisely.

Saving Struggling teachers Takes All of Us
Every teacher struggles at the beginning of their career and in the beginning of a new position in a new school, but we owe it to them to help them succeed.  We mustn't forget that when a teacher struggles, their students suffer as well, and that isn't just a problem for he struggling teacher. That's a problem for the teacher who will receive those kids in the following year also. If we truly believe in the mission of meeting the needs of all kids, then we must all believe in doing our part to meet the needs of all teachers first. After all, we will meet the needs of all kids when every teacher is properly equipped with the tools and skills to meet their needs first. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Pal,

    Just a quick note to let you know that I dug this piece -- particularly the suggestion that when a new teacher is struggling, his/her students are struggling, too. That's an important reminder.

    What bugs me is how little we do to invest in the kinds of people/positions that can make all of these suggestions a reality. While I nodded my way through your entire list, the question in the back of my mind is how the heck can we pull this stuff off? In our district, those additional responsibilities would fall on other classroom teachers who are often just as buried as the new teachers in responsibilities.

    That's why full time coaches of all shapes and sizes are a worthwhile investment for schools and districts. Sadly, those positions are often the first cut when budgets are tight.

    Anyway -- hope you are well!