Our district considers itself a “destination” district-a magnet for teachers and training and forward thinking. Looking through that lens, the district prefers to hire experienced teachers when a job or position opens. Although I agree that experience is invaluable, I believe that investing in new teachers is important, too.
In my role as Literacy Coaching in an elementary building, I have had the privilege of working with several teachers who have filled open positions. Given my druthers, I prefer to coach brand new teachers instead of veteran teachers. This might seem odd to you, but I enjoy the energy and enthusiasm that they bring. These right-out-of-college teachers who are wet behind the ears, so to speak, enhance our school in numerous ways.
First, these fresh-from-university teachers usually know and accept that they don’t know everything. With this in mind, they actively seek help and support and have a desire to improve their practice. They are open to new ideas and to reflecting on their practices. They don’t seem worried or angry or offended when the coach (me) let’s them know she will be in the room observing the “teaching and the learning.” These educators are glad! These educators fling open the doors! These educators put out the welcome sign. In contrast to some veteran teachers, seeking answers or help with confusions is normal. Never have I heard one Initial educator say, “I’ve done that. The pendulum is going to swing back to…” or “I’ve done it this way for years so….” New teachers bring an open mind and a willingness to to learn and grow.
In addition to this culture of reflection that new teachers bring, I respect these budding educators. They come to the classroom with skills and expertise that far outweighs with what I entered the field. The classroom management skills are awesome. They have a toolbox of ideas to support respectful discipline. They come to the classroom with excellent communication skills. They handle most meetings with parents, teachers, students, and other educators with poise and grace. They come to the classroom with the “native language” of technology. They eat, drink, and speak it. What I struggled to learn seems natural to them. This expertise opens learning to students in fun and innovative ways. Yes, I respect these young teachers.
Finally, the last and most important reason is that working with new teachers is such a pleasure. Their dreams are still shiny and sparkling. “What do you mean?” you may be wondering. Well, in my opinion, most people who enter the teaching profession are motivated by a genuine and intense desire to help children, to make a difference in their lives, and by working with a caring spirit to ensure it becomes a reality. I have never met one teacher who said that he or she entered the profession because they wanted the summers off or because the benefits or pay lured them here. No, most enter because of a hope to change lives. Theses new educators still tuck these beliefs near and dear to their hearts. And, as I work alongside these young men and women, I hope, in some small way, to encourage that spark of a dream to burst into a flame that will continue to burn brighter year after year.
Investing in these teachers, supporting their success, and helping them refine their craft during their first years is exciting and rewarding to me. Far be it from me to withhold support when discouragements come; when unreasonable parents assail; or when a principal’s expectations are unrealistic, wanting them to be a 30 year veteran in a 22 year old body. No, these young women and men are the future of education, the future, really, of America. They will inherit the profession. They will be the educators that continue to make a difference in the lives of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and the next generation of children long after I lock my office door for the last time. These teachers are the future. We would do well to help them.