Survival Guide for New Teachers

Working With College and University Education Professors

"An education program might provide a follow-up appointment in the first semester on the job to deal with concerns a teacher might want to voice but can't bring up at a faculty meeting," --Robert Gress (Lexington, Kentucky)

Many teachers say they would benefit if teacher preparation programs monitored the progress of their graduates--at least those who work nearby after graduation. The program's administrators could keep its graduates informed of professional development opportunities or lectures so that new teachers could retain a connection to the latest research.

But teachers also acknowledged their own responsibility in keeping in touch with professors and education programs.

"Saying that teacher educators should drop former students a card is great, but realistically, it's not going to happen. We don't write notes to all of our past students and shouldn't expect our college professors to do that," says Lori Ann Williams (Clarksville, Tennessee). "We need to take steps to find out what's happening at the college."

First-year teacher Mara Esposito (Seattle, Washington) is still involved in her preparation program. She has given talks to interns, and interns regularly visit her class to observe. She and her classmates get together annually, and they have a newsletter about their experiences. "These are all tools of reflection for us as professionals," she says.

Partnerships With Local Institutions

First-year teachers appreciate any involvement on the part of neighboring colleges and universities in their schools, whether the teacher attended that program or not.

For example, music educators from nearby colleges regularly work with music teacher Jennifer Brooks (Banks, Oregon) and her students, sometimes serving as guest conductors. Watching outsiders with her students "is a great way to learn," she says.

Similarly, Dionne Bennett's (Little Rock, Arkansas) school maintains a partnership with a local university, and she is in contact with the education and biology departments, who sometimes send faculty members to the school to lead activities with students.

The Real World

Some first-year teachers feel their educations didn't adequately prepare them for the daily struggles new teachers encounter.

Edward Boll (Commack, New York) suggests that programs place more emphasis on real world issues. "Offer a course on teaching without appropriate resources, since this is the situation most new teachers face in schools," he says. "The states set high standards, but they don't want to fund resources needed by people who are expected to teach the students and help them meet the standards."

"There needs to be more hands-on with classroom management in the teacher prep courses in college," Michael Higgins (Doylestown, Pennsylvania) says. Claudia Crase (Helena, Montana) echoes this thought: "I needed more hands-on work."

Stacie Weidenbach (Rapid City, South Dakota) complains, "The professors I had hadn't been in the classroom for 10 years." She, too, would have liked follow up and more time in the classroom during her preparation.

Look to College and University Education Professors to...

  • Offer practical courses that reflect reality: lack of resources, classroom management;
  • Institute a formal follow-up to find out how the graduates are doing in their new jobs;
  • Be in touch for questions or concerns by e-mail; and
  • Provide more top-quality classroom experience.

Tips on Working With College and University Education Professors

  • Take part in follow-up programs for recent education graduates, and if there is no such program, stay in touch with fellow graduates during the first years on the job to compare experiences;
  • Give university professors feedback on how well their classes prepared you for a teaching career; and
  • Make yourself available to professors after you graduate to visit the campus and describe your professional experiences.

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Last Modified: 09/14/2004