by Heather Garcia

Think back to your first few weeks as a teacher—admittedly, some of us have to look back a little farther than others, but we most likely remember. Some memories just stick.

I know I was frantic. I was excited. I was wrong (so many mistakes). I taught juniors in high school as a 21-year-old, fresh out of college, so I remember dealing with behavior issues—so many behavior issues. I had to learn 12,000 acronyms. I had to jump through new teacher hoops for my district, and as much as I loved the job, I was tired. I was frustrated. And there were days when I was absolutely certain I had chosen the wrong career.

Now, having considered your first years of teaching, think about the new teachers currently in your school—and add in a global pandemic. Add in hybrid teaching, virtual teaching, brick and mortar teaching, masks, hand sanitizer, clear desk separators, and the desire for a container of Lysol wipes the size of a Mac truck. Now we have a vision of a new teacher this year. Add in all the emotions of a new teacher, plus the added stress of pandemic teaching.

Veteran teachers, I have a job for you: reach out to those newbies. This may be their first couple of weeks or months as a teacher, or as a teacher in a new school, or as a teacher in a new grade, but they are still newbies, and they need encouragement.

Here are five quick (and cheap) ways that you can encourage a new teacher before the week is over:

  1. If you are in a physical school, write an encouraging note like “You are doing great!” on a post-it note and stick it on the door to their classroom. Chances are, they don’t feel like it is going great—and honestly, it may not be. Their classroom management might be a mess, their desk may be overflowing with papers, and they may have a to-do list that never gets done. But they continue to come to school, they continue to try, to learn, to grow, to teach, and that is great in and of itself.
  2. If you are in a virtual setting, record a quick video saying how awesome this new teacher is and send it in an email. They may be feeling isolated, and the video will perk up their day for sure. Yes, you could type up an email, but the video will be unexpected and will brighten their day.
  3. Bring them a cup of coffee. It is a small financial investment, but the payoff for a newbie will be worth SO much more. This small gesture lets the new teacher know you were thinking of them, and in a large school, it is easy for a new teacher to feel forgotten in the fray of school starting. This tells them they are seen and they are valued.
  4. Send a runner to their room after lunch with a candy bar and a kind note of encouragement. Again, it is a small financial investment. Sure, you could put it in their teacher mailbox, but having unexpected chocolate delivered is always a pick-me-up.
  5. Call or stop by their room to tell them they are doing a good job. That is all it takes. Encourage them. Remind them that they are in the right place. Explain to them that it doesn’t always feel this weird, that not all years will be like this.

We want our new teachers to love their jobs as much as we do (otherwise we wouldn’t be veterans, right?). We want these new teachers to stay, to learn, and to grow. Let’s encourage them to do so in what is arguably the most challenging chapter in educational history.

If you are looking for more great advice for teachers, check out this article about tips for grading students’ online work.

Heather Garcia

Heather Garcia is an English teacher at Charlotte High School, Florida, where she teaches AP® English Literature and AP® English Language. She is a professional development leader in her district, running annual new-teacher trainings and is now the Curriculum and Instructional Specialist for her district for grades 6-12. After 16 years of hands-on experience, Heather has developed a series of strategies to help her students navigate challenging texts. Her favorite book is the Steinbeck classic, East of Eden.

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