Life Among the Newbies

30 January 2007

I haven't put on my "beginning teacher mentor" hat in too long of a time. Between winter break, multiple snow days, meetings out the yin-yang, cadre presentations, and other events, there hasn't been much time to peek in on my charges. I have added two more teachers to my case load in the last week as mid-year hiring is happening.

There are so many stories that are shared about new teachers. If you're pregnant, what might that mean for one's job in the fall? What might happen if a student finds a teacher's MySpace page---and then remarks that his hot teacher "friended" him? What do you do if you pick up an additional period of instruction, but aren't being compensated for it? How do you deal with the changing whims of a teacher you replace during the year? And so it goes. If you wander enough of the blogosphere, you'll see these sorts of issues.

There are some things I can't help them with. I have nothing to do with their contracts or (re)hiring, but I will have the HR director come to our next group meeting. I can't keep kids from exploring MySpace, but I can help teachers understand that their private lives aren't completely private once you enter the classroom realm. I can't change the fact that a student is autistic, but I can pay you to go and receive further training and staff development as support.

I don't know quite what will happen with the program next year. The state does supply a bit of a grant, but it only covers stipends---no release time to plan or observe classrooms, no resource materials, no conference registrations. It may be, of course, that we have no beginners next year. We are closing schools and reducing programs. Available staff with continuing contracts will be reallocated and any open positions will be advertised on the market. The noobs will have to compete for their jobs yet again.

I'm sure that I'm fooling myself to think that I'll get out more this spring and spend time with the beginners. It is energizing to be with them, as well as their students. I want them to feel safe and supported. We need their enthusiasm and the new vibe they bring to our schools. Right now, I just have to cross my fingers and hope that there will be places for them.

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