Sunday, July 25, 2010

The 7 Things New Teachers Want To Know on the First Day of School

In past years, we have spent a good deal of time in new teacher orientation discussing Harry and Rosemary Wong's "The First Days of School". It's a great book for new teachers (and veterans as well!), particularly stressing the importance of the procedures and routines teachers should communicate and rehearse with students on the first days of school. There is a lot more to the book, but it's very user-friendly, and provides excellent strategies to start off the year, and a career.

For a variety of reasons, we have less time to discuss "The First Days of School", and I've been asked to summarize the book for our new hirees in 30 minutes. Not a particularly easy task.

So, as I was trying to figure out how to cram this massive amount of material into our new teachers' brains in a half hour, I quickly realized how ridiculous a prospect this was. Furthermore, I was in danger of inflicting the pedagogical sin of "coverage" on our new teachers, one that I would never want them to emulate in their own classes. "Because I have covered it (meaning I have said it once and put the words on a powerpoint) you have learned it". Ugh.  What horrible modeling!

However, in "The First Days of School", the Wongs discuss the 7 things students want to know on the first day of school. These are:

1. Am I in the right room?
2. Where am I supposed to sit?
3. What are the rules in this classroom?
4. What will I be doing this year?
5. How will I be graded?
6. Who is this teacher as a person?
7. Will you treat me as a human being?

It occurred to me that new teachers, like new students, want to know -need to know--these things from their school leadership. They might take on a slightly different form, but for all our pontificating and info-overloading, these are the things that they really want to know.

I mean, honestly, before we can get to any of the Mission and Vision stuff, the Marzano teaching strategies, the educational philosophy, the RtI stuff, the cool educational technology stuff, or ANYTHING else, teachers need to know the answers to these questions.

Below I have translated the "7 Things Students Want to Know" into "The 7 Things New Teachers Want To Know". While giving our new teachers some resources on "The First Days of School" (including the book itself), I've decided this is what I should concentrate on. 

Students want to know: 1. Am I in the right room? and 2. Where am I supposed to sit?

New teachers want to know: 1. Where is my classroom? and 2. Where can I put my stuff?

Students want to know.....What are the rules in this classroom?

New Teachers want to know.....  What are the rules that I am supposed to follow? What are the procedures for tardies, attendance, and grading? When am I supposed to be here? What’s the dress code?

Even though these might seem to be "trivial" questions, they are absolutely crucial to a new teacher.  Before we get upset that some procedure isn't being followed, why not make sure they know the "simple" rules, and have a place to obtain that info in case they forget (like all of us do).

Students want to know.....What will I be doing this year?

New Teachers want to know.....  What will I be teaching this year? This includes: who are my colleagues? What am I expected to contribute to the curriculum team? When do we have time to collaborate? What resources do I have? What are the assessments I will be giving? What are the "gotta haves" in the curriculum? What's "nice to know" versus "need to know" in the courses I'm teaching?

Students want to know.....How will I be graded?

New Teachers want to know....How will I be evaluated? What's the evaluation policy? What is important to administrators and department chairs?  Is it OK to take an instructional risk now and then? What are the limits of those risks?

Students want to know.....Who is this teacher as a person?

New Teachers want to know....Who are these administrators and Department Chairpersons as people?

While we have a supervisory role over our teachers, we had better spend some time getting to know each other. It's a long, long school year (and hopefully a lot of them). We all need to know who we're in the trenches with.

Students want to know.....Will you treat me as a human being?

New Teachers want to know....Will you treat me as a human being?

Nothing different here. Both students and teachers need to know that they are going to be valued and supported. As the old saying goes, "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."