There is something magical about beginnings. The dawn of a new day, the first cup of coffee in the morning, your first job offer, the first day of kindergarten, and the start of a teaching career. Each example listed above evokes a feeling of optimism and the anticipation of positive experiences in the future. And yet, beginnings are not without challenge, especially within the teaching profession.
Over the past two decades I have observed the launch of multiple teaching careers as a teacher, mentor, and administrator. While the teaching assignments varied, there were striking similarities between the beginnings for each teacher involved. Summer orientations gave way to mentor meetings as teachers became immersed in their new professional culture. It’s typical for beginning teachers to work through an identity crisis midyear as they process the realities of their context and let go of any unrealistic vision of teaching that took hold during their pre-service experiences. Veteran teachers play an important role here, supporting this crucial stage of induction, inquiry, and identity development.
Working with beginning teachers can be a rewarding experience as you witness collective inquiry, reflection and focused effort contributing to confidence, commitment, and improved instructional practice. Despite safeguards such as induction protocols or mentoring programs, beginning teachers experience a wide range of success even within the same learning community. Why is that the case and how can we better support beginning teachers through this process?
Our pattern of thoughts and actions reinforce our practice. Positive or negative, effective or destructive, this tends to be the case. We could all probably think of collegiate or professional athletes who were once labeled as “the next big thing” or a “can’t miss prospect” only to watch as their dreams unraveled. What is it that takes a person from good intentions to best practice? Why do two teachers in the same career stage follow different developmental tracks despite a common climate and culture? I’m convinced that present experiences are the result of mindset, disposition, and work habits more than circumstance. Simply put, I refuse to be a victim. That’s a choice. Negative thinking, undisciplined practice, and the inattention to results can lead to a pattern of victim thinking. These behaviors may suggest an external locus of control, or low levels of self-efficacy.
Personal accountability can be the first step toward establishing a winning mindset as a teacher. Our circle of support is just as important. Surrounding ourselves with positive colleagues can help foster a growth mindset that brings back the magic of that first year of teaching. Beyond mindset, personal habits play a key role in achieving high performance. The best teachers have a vision for where they want their students to go. Whether it be classroom management, student work, or performance events they know what excellence looks like and they push relentlessly toward it while maintaining a culture of trust and respect in their classroom.
When beginning teachers commit to collective inquiry and reflective practice they can overcome almost any challenge or barrier in their way. Teachers require different types of support depending on their career stage. By examining our practice, investing in social capital, and connecting our actions back to student learning we can improve our practice and rediscover the optimism we once had at the start of our professional journey.
What about you? How do you maintain your edge and keep a consistent focus on results? How do you support the development of your colleagues and encourage effective thinking and powerful instructional practices school-wide?
Photo: cc licensed by BenSpark