Pedagogy: Supporting New Teachers, One Method at a Time

Recently, after completing our fourth session in a literacy training series with a group of tech center instructors, a few of us hung around for the rain to let up and had a candid discussion about teaching and the first few years in the classroom.  
The instructors, both very capable business people and well spoken, confessed that being thrust into a classroom with little more than keys and an Instructor Manual  was terrifying, dizzying, and chaotic – all at the same time.  

They also shared with me that they felt the strategies I was presenting  in the training were probably being learned by their fellow participants/colleagues for the first timeever.  

Excellent feedback requiring immediate attenton! 

As a veteran educator who’s taught students grade 7 – community college and mentored fellow preservice and inservice teachers (with academic training, even if mostly in theory), I found myself needing  to  listen and regroup.  Academic teachers, even brand new ones, generally have had  some exposure to literacy strategies, even if it was in a college class discussion or textbook assignment.

These tech center instructors, conversely,  came from industry with  little to no  foundation on which to scaffold the material they’re learning. 

Oh my!  Could it be that my presentation of strategies might be making some sense to some, but missing the mark for many?  I was glad that I had already planned for formative assessment in more than one way:  in the classroom, observable by their administrators, but also in our sessions, through informal writing and focused discussion.  

Stop. Regroup. Assess. Adjust as needed.

just.like.with.students.

Our discussion also helped cement the direction of my staff development plans for new(er) tech center teachers, most of whom  come directly from industry.  They have the credentials to share information about their industry, but what they’re lacking is HUGE:  pedagogy, the study or process of being a teacher,  sometimes referred to as the ‘the art or science of teaching.’

Now, for many folks who haven’t stepped foot in a classroom since their high school or college days, it’s easy to assume educators have a cushy job,  8 – 3  Monday – Friday, weekends and summers off, and oh, don’t forget all those holiday vacations.  Ha! If THAT were the truth, everyone would teach!!  
Here IS  the truth:  teaching requires a skill-set far different than that of most other professions.  And I can make that statement with confidence from lots of  anecdotal research.  
In my last school-based teaching assignment before moving to the district office, I met many  people who decided to make a career change, and pursue teaching.  There were business owners, lawyers, space center employees (even engineer-types)… all who decided to ‘try out’ teaching.  Located in a somewhat rural county, our school was near the  Kennedy Space Center, with  lots of very smart folks mixed into the otherwise  mostly blue-collar community. 

When the business people-turned-educators arrived for their first day, I’d make it a point to chat with them, find out why they wanted to teach, what their expecations were, and offer my support.  I was curious. With that, they’d head off with keys and Teacher Manual in hand, to find their classroom and begin their new career.  The classroom door closed.

After Christmas break, most were gone.  Lots of reasons.  Mostly underprepared, overwhelmed, and just plain burned out

For those who came back that first week in January, they looked hesitant… and determined.  The majority of them never returned after the final bell in June.  

Teaching (‘done right’) is tough.  Many new teachers don’t survive. 

One of the primary reasons: little support and lack of understanding of pedagogy.  So, what does effective teaching look like?  What is this thing called ‘the art and science’ of teaching?

Take a look at the extremes, presented by veteran educators, and see if you recognize any of your colleagues, your children’s teachers (or yourself or your teachers!) in them …

New teachers need support. 
All teachers need a community. 
Learning is lifelong.
Pedagogy…. understood, practiced, and refined, is key.   
Highly Effective Teaching is the Outcome.
Now, let’s get to work….

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