I remember my first year of teaching like yesterday! In fact, I even remember that interview. I did everything I learned in my teacher preparation program in order to prepare. I bought a binder to create a portfolio of my student teaching experiences, I had pictures, I had cards and letters from students and above all, I brought my enthusiasm. The principal and vice-principal asked me a lot of questions—mostly situational type and then offered me the job the next day. It was February and I had 7 months to get ready for the first day of school in September. I was going to change the world!
I spent most of that summer going into my classroom and putting up bulletin board displays and rearranging the desks twenty different ways until I found the arrangement I liked. Decorating my classroom was probably my favorite part!
Then came the part I was most nervous about—planning out units. Luckily, my principal was a big proponent of professional learning communities and believed strongly in the power of collaboration. She introduced me to my teammates and we immediately became friends. It was the four of us, and we started meeting twice a week during the summer to plan our units together. They shared what worked and what didn’t work—I contributed to the discussion based on what I learned in my teacher preparation program. I was incredibly prepared for my first year of teaching thanks to my amazing PLC members! I never learned about the value of collaboration in my classes but what a great concept! We each got better and better in our teaching as we openly discussed not just plans but what strategies we were using to help our students and what results we were seeing (or not seeing).
In addition, my school system in Canada offered a great support program for all new teachers. More and more school districts are providing this support to new teachers. In fact, my current school system, Fulton County Schools has received awards for its new teacher induction program (GO TIP). This comprehensive program offers professional development for new teachers, opportunities for self-assessment and reflection, in addition to development of effective teaching practices to ultimately improve student learning. New teachers begin their year with an orientation and a kick-off event. Then throughout the year, systematically, new teachers receive support and professional development. This support through the district level, combined with the support from your local school’s professional learning community culture, can contribute to ensuring a long, successful teaching career!
My first year of teaching came with plenty of challenges from unexpected increased enrollment resulting in my class size being 40 students, being moved from a classroom to a portable etc. But I was able to navigate through all this with the support of my PLC and through the support of the district. My advice to all new teachers is to embrace your PLC and embrace the new teacher support your district has to offer. It’s okay to be vulnerable and to admit where you are weak so they can help you get better. Getting better at teaching is a never-ending journey—but one that is worth taking with your PLC!