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Teacher Turnover: Invasion of the Classroom Rookies

Bronx Classroom Tales

TeacherHelp!  New teachers are taking over my school!


This year, we hired about seven teachers and for a small school that’s a lot. As a new school that just graduated our first class, this is the first year we’ve had teacher turn over at my school.


I suppose that’s the way things go now – people don’t seem stay in the same place for more than four or five years. In fact, a recent Department of Labor poll reports that the average person (all ages represented) has been at their current job for only four years. 


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What does this trend toward job turnover mean for education? 


Glass Half Empty Answer: You might look at it as the country never again having master teachers in the classroom.


Glass Half Full Answer: You might also look at it as an opportunity for education to change – with new hires, school districts through their principals are able to mold teachers the way they want and meet little push back. 


With society seemingly changing at a greater pace and potentially students today learning very differently than they did even ten years ago – having fresh teachers to mold may just be the best thing. 


New Teacher Learning Curve

Despite my desire to take the “glass half full” perspective, the new teachers have presentend a new challenge for me this school year. Nearly every one of them has come to me this week asking where they can find a stapler, a key to the bathroom, and the person who will take care of detention (It saddens me to have to break the bad news: that person doesn’t exist).  I selfishly acknowledge that new teachers can be a lot of work. 


Theoretically, I want to give as much support as I can, especially early on. I’m afraid my face may not be showing my irritation though because most of these novice teachers now preface every question with, “Oh-my-gosh-I-know-I’m-asking-a-lot-of-questions-you-must-be-so-annoyed-I’m-so-sorry-but...” 


Putting Myself in Their Shoes

I continually remind myself what it is like to get started in this profession: terrifying in a lot of ways. They’ve imagined every conceivable classroom disasters and watched every inspirational teaching movies ten times (and Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, counts). 


They are worried about potentially rowdy teenage students who are:

-         better cursers than spellers,

-         completely ungrateful that you were up until one last night grading their “critical” responses to Of Mice and Men, i.e. “Why I think Lennie’s Not So Smart,” and

-         who can see the fear in their faux-confident new teacher faces

Not only that, but these recently-hired teachers are also scrambling to tweak or create curricula they’ll start with only a week or two of lead time. It’s a whole lot. 


Among these first-day freak outs, it is probably little consolation that their flexibility and energy may one day pay off to solve many of public education’s woes. 


My Message to New Teachers

So, new teachers - if you are worried, let me ease your mind – the first day tends to come and go quickly and with very little incident. 


Particularly for 9th grade teachers (the classes new teachers are often given) - those little freshman are so disoriented and scared themselves that first day, even tomorrow’s most notorious class clowns forget to act up. As for staplers – if you haven’t gotten yours by now, it will likely come in the next few days (or months…). 


Remember, it only gets easier from here. Thanks for signing up. We couldn’t do it without you.       


What advice do you have for new teachers? Share in the comments section!


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