Are we doing enough for our new teachers?
I am writing this out of a concern I have had not only for myself but more importantly a ton of teachers new to the profession. Let’s start with the supports for new teachers. We know there is already the New Teacher Induction Program and also many boards have beginning teacher groups which offer great support but what my concern is around is the treatment of new teachers from a job perspective. Let’s also at this point assume they made it onto the list, as getting on a list to be hired is a whole other post. Let’s also assume they have survived supply teaching and now doing LTOs or doing a 0.5 or 1.0 contract.
What really bothers me is the inability to provide new teachers with support as they bumped from school to school each year or even as drastically as each semester. It is hard on the students but also on that teacher who is trying to develop resources for the first time and learn the ins/outs and culture of the school. As a science teacher, just trying to find all the equipment for demos and experiments takes a year.
Often word comes around that a new teacher is joining the school either for a semester, halfway through a semester or at the start of the year. By this time the timetables have been settled and in some schools I have seen the most senior teacher get the “best” classes (ex. Grade 12 Academic) and then the new teachers are scheduled into what is left. By giving the first year teacher 6 completely different courses, often more applied and behavioural and subjects across multiple departments, it is setting them up for a hard start. Many teachers including myself, have been there with 6 courses, 2-3 aren’t even in the qualifications of what you have been trained to teach. You have to report to 1-3 different department heads and do a great job doing it. I have watched too many teachers starting out getting overwhelmed, stressed out and not supported. They then finish the semester or year and shipped somewhere else.
They arrive then at a new schools again, you have to re-learn everything as so many procedures are school specific and you need to build up relationships with staff and students. Having staff to support you is huge and many teachers just give up as they know they will only be there for a semester so why bother. As teachers and system leaders we need to support the new teachers. We need to give them timetables that are manageable, we need to have senior teachers take on a section from some of the challenging classes (but are my favourite to teach and have the biggest rewards) and have mentoring take place. The unions and administration need to work together to not just rank and order teachers by years experience and give the junior teacher what is left. I am not commenting on the union, and not saying take away jobs for more senior but let’s spread the load a little. I hope as we enter another spring and teachers get their surplus letters that admin, department heads and unions take this kind of thinking into account.