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August 25, 2014

5 Back to School Tips for New Teachers – from Lisa Dabbs
This post first appeared on Edudemic.
Supporting new teachers in a way that’s relevant to their needs is important. I spent over ten years as a school principal, and it led me to become an advocate for actively supporting teacher practice. Observing teachers new to the profession allowed me to have a better sense of the day-to-day challenges teachers face and the skills needed to be successful. Now, as an educational consultant, my ongoing passion is to guide and mentor new teachers in a way that’s effective and practitioner focused. My desire to support teachers ultimately led me to create New Teacher Chat #ntchat, a chat on Twitter for New and Pre-service teachers. (You are invited to join me and other committed educators on Twitter Wednesday’s at 5pm Pacific Time.) I’ve seen many recent “back to school” posts on how to provide guidance to those new to the profession, and I’m here to offer my own take on this important conversation. As new teachers ready themselves to start their first year teaching, I’d like to share 5 tips to help ease them into a successful school year:

1. Start to Build Relationships

As you start your first year, building relationships with grade-level colleagues and others at your school will be critical to your success. Take the time to reach out and let them know that you’re eager to get to know them. Seek out your administrators and begin to build positive relationships with them, too. Invite them to your classroom, even if you are a bit apprehensive. It will not only allow them to see you in action, but also help you to receive feedback. However, the most important relationship to build is the one with your students and their families. You are central to their lives now, and your actions will play a big role in all that they do this year. Take some time to read this article on relationship building, and then begin thinking about how you will work to build trusting relationships with your school community.

2. Communicate Often

Your early communications with students and parents will be a reflection of your commitment to them as their teacher. Communication now and throughout the school year is so important. It's essential that it be on-going and create an environment of collaboration -- with parents as your partners in this journey. How can you do this in a way that’s warm, friendly and welcoming? Will you use a newsletter, a blog post, or an Animoto video? Take a look at teacher Pernille Ripp's suggestions for how you might get started.

3. Collaborate with Others

As a new teacher, I worked very much in isolation as experienced teachers at my school were unwilling to share resources or lesson plans. It was a tough time for me, and I had to rely on my own skills and talents to get me through those early years. A lack of sharing and collaboration meant that every time I wanted to launch a project, I was on my own to make it happen. It doesn't need to be that way! Open yourself up -- share and collaborate with your grade-level team or college classmates. Share resources, join planning teams, be a part of the conversation! You will find that the road to developing lessons and projects will be so much more meaningful to you because you did it with a collaborative spirit!

4. Seek out a Mentor

I believe strongly in the power of mentoring and that a supportive relationship is vital to the success of a new teacher. However, not all experienced teachers at a school are able to take on this challenge. A few years ago, I had the idea that if there weren't enough experienced teachers at a school who could, or would, mentor a new teacher, why not a virtual mentor who would be willing to lend support? For information on how to incorporate virtual mentors, check out my New Teacher Mentoring Project. Educators from around the globe are available to support and mentor you through the first years of your practice and beyond!

5. Ask for Help

During my time as a school principal, I noticed that new teachers failed to ask for help. Many didn't ask for help from me, their mentors, or even their own colleagues! Then, when big concerns arose, they spent time apologizing for why they weren't successful. Don't make this same mistake. Ask for help! Asking for help is important and should never be seen as a sign of weakness. On the contrary, you will more likely discover that most will see it as a strength. Isn't this what we expect from our students? Don't we tell them to ask for help if they are struggling with a concept? So why wouldn't you? As I review these 5 tips, it’s clear there are many more great ones that could be shared. What would be yours? For more tips for new teachers, come join us on Tuesday, August 19th, at 7pm EST for a FREE, LIVE webinar on Tips for New Teachers.