Be a Leader in Your Hallway

We teachers are already planning lessons and units for next year. Yep, that’s true. Some of us started after Christmas break and some after spring break, but we have, at the very least, jotted down an outline of some kind with enthusiastic ideas and details about subjects we are not even certain we will be teaching.

Others are making plans, too. Our brand-new teachers are finishing up their student teaching assignments or observation documentation and dreaming of their very own classroom—imagining bulletin boards and management systems—and thinking of that first day with “their kids.”

It’s tough out there for these newbies, friends. The digital age moves fast, and it sweeps teacher training and traditional systems up in the whirlwind. Many new teachers are going into schools and classrooms that are different than the classrooms they themselves sat in just six or seven years before. Sometimes they go in with less training than many of us received.

Some of our new colleagues are joining campuses that are more casual than the ones they remember attending. Others will find themselves on teams with teachers advocating for “what we’ve always done.” One thing is just the same as the day we started, though—each of these teachers is very likely there because of a calling, a lifelong dream to teach. It almost sounds old-fashioned amid the crazy testing atmosphere we find ourselves working in, but ask around—it’s true.

This is a call to action for veteran teachers: REACH OUT, STEP UP, LEND A HAND, SHARE, and BE A FRIEND. Too often, a stressful school climate leaves educators operating in “survival mode,” feeling like they don’t have much to give. You may find, however, that reaching out to your new colleague is a kindness that multiplies and returns to you. Model professionalism and courtesy. Share lessons and ideas. Be a team player even if you find yourself amongst colleagues who really aren’t. Let at least one new teacher know they can count on you for answers to policy or procedure questions.

As you continue to plan for next year, give some thought to how you can help new teachers succeed. Jot down those ideas, too. If every ATPE member commits to be a pal, informally, to one new teacher, it could change the climate of our profession noticeably.

Don’t succumb to rumor mill and avoid someone based on “what you heard.”

Don’t let a new teacher eat lunch alone.

Offer advice when asked, and volunteer ideas if you see your new friend struggling.

Teacher turnover is often more about how teachers were treated on their campus than pay or other factors. That treatment is not just from administration/parents/students—it comes from us, too. A next-door neighbor can make all the difference for a new teacher and can, sadly, contribute to discouragement. As cliché as it sounds, it really does take a village and that village includes us.

Thirty years in education as a classroom teacher (23 as an ATPE member and volunteer leader) taught Kathy Bailey Partin that the big changes in education reform are beyond the power of most classroom teachers, but we each have the power to create positive change each day, in countless ways.

Views and opinions expressed in guest posts are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of ATPE.

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