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How Can We Support our First Year Teachers?

2020 August 12
by Mike Vial

I’m thinking about the young teachers embracing their first, second, or third year in the classroom this fall. How can they even prepare? This upcoming semester must be overwhelming for them.

I’m having recurring nightmares during this pandemic, and they often bring me back to being a first year teacher…My first school meeting is in 12 days, and I still don’t know exactly what classes I’m teaching. I’m beginning to feel like a first year teacher again, in certain ways.

However, by now, I’ve taught almost every type of LA class. I have 1000+ books in my own classroom library. I have read 70% of my school’s book room. I have units and project based learning ideas that I’m considering adjusting for a potential virtual learning (which is enviable, even though we are starting mask-to-mask). I have grammar and syntax units designed, shiftable to online.

My first year at Holly, I felt terrified of the unknown, even though one knew that normal classroom’s scene. My vice principal told me classes to prepare in July, including American Lit. I had read the novels in the curriculum in two months.

Then, I showed up for the first meeting in late August, given a different class, including World Literature! Oh no! The anxiety percolated in my stomach acids all day, as staff introduced me to the other technology, the copy machines, the rules, the layout of the school, the teachers’ names.

That first day was so overwhelming; elements of that never go away each first day of school.

Every teacher at Holly gave me ideas on how to prepare classes. Amy Jo Hughes shared World Literature units. Crystal Palace gave me reading strategies.

Dan Majeske gave me supplies, and hours of his expertise throughout the years, later mentoring me through the return back to teaching.

Wendy Farkus, Renee Hard, and Libby Held checked in multiple times that first day as I was setting up my room; they later taught me how to use lit circles.

Charlie Gragg–also a first year teacher starting his second career–became a mentor for life!

Brian Hacker and Bill Broadway extended friendships that lead to being my groomsmen in my wedding party, 11 years later.

And this was just the English department helping me. There were so many others.

I have treasured these friendships, like my high school and college friendships that have lasted decades. Every in the department attended a gig or two of mine, as I started performing music on the weekends…I consider those first eight years teaching in my twenties where I learned to be an adult. I wouldn’t be the same without them.

I am not a first year teacher, now, but I’m still scared of the unknown.

We are going to need these enthusiastic, new teachers more than ever now. We need to offer our support to them in creative ways, just like our students.



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