Dec 06

Professional Development for New Teachers

Teachers often cite their lifelong love for learning and desire to make a difference as top reasons for getting into teaching. Understanding that education doesn’t stop after their degree, many new teachers search for advice on areas of improvement for teachers in their first years on the job. Professional development for new teachers is a key way to learn proven strategies that can positively impact students’ learning. This post covers some of the best professional development topics for teachers, including effective time management, classroom management, and building relationships to connect with students and parents.

Time Management

Time is one resource that both seasoned and new teachers often lack, and learning to manage it better is one of the most frequent suggestions for teacher improvement early on.

  • Whether you go digital with Outlook or iCal, or use a traditional planner and calendar, select a tool that you’re comfortable with for planning your week that includes a clear view of time commitments and must-do items.
  • Set aside time before the next week to address top priorities and list all upcoming meetings, appointments, and responsibilities. Visualizing how your schedule is shaping up will help you determine how to effectively approach your free time and planning periods. And it gives you more flexibility to handle unexpected interruptions in your week.
  • Break up assignments to avoid an overwhelming amount of grading. Grading in batches gives you a sense of accomplishment and creates time for you to evaluate and give better feedback to your students.
  • Give yourself the gift of time. Burnout is not the goal. When you make time for personal needs, your energy levels are up, and you are able to be more effective in the classroom..

Classroom Management

Even if you’ve had prior experience working with children, don’t be discouraged if you find it difficult to manage and control an entire classroom at first. Here are some ways you can handle your classroom, depending on the grade level you teach.

Elementary Schools

  • Make a point to publicly acknowledge examples of positive student conduct and good behavior by announcing them to the rest of the class or presenting small rewards. Students could earn the chance to choose a classroom activity or earn points toward having lunch with you in your classroom. When students know the potential for recognition exists, this can help dissuade disruptive behavior before it begins. 
  • Inevitably, students will test your boundaries at times. When misbehavior occurs, choose your battles wisely. Veteran teachers recommend focusing on larger issues and disruptions that could impact the rest of the class.
  • Set up dedicated learning zones when arranging your classroom space. A “news zone” can display classroom announcements or current events, a “community zone” can host collaborative discussions, and a “discovery zone” provides sparks of imagination via arts and crafts, games, and puzzles.
  • Utilize verbal, visual, or auditory cues and reminders to get students’ attention or shift their focus to a particular task. Following a period of small-group collaboration, for example, ringing a bell could signal that it’s time to wrap up or move on to a new activity. Avoid raising your voice—which can create a negative classroom culture—and try alternative attention-getters such as a clap-in, countdown, or turning off the lights.
  • Make students a part of creating and maintaining classroom rules and procedures. Ask them what behaviors they think are unacceptable or punishments they believe are fair. Then enforce the classroom rules and apply discipline fairly, equally, and consistently.

Middle/High Schools

  • Involve students in regular discussions about your expectations of them before new units. Clearly communicate what you expect them to learn or be able to accomplish at certain checkpoints through the unit’s lessons and assignments. 
  • Master “the look,” (a facial expression or nonverbal signal) to indicate to a student that they’re off task or doing something they shouldn’t. When used correctly, the look can convey an effective warning and manage a student’s behavior without calling them out in front of the rest of the class.
  • If a student isn’t responsive to nonverbal tactics, respond to undesirable behavior logically and speak calmly, keeping your tone between firm and friendly.
  • Create a welcoming environment that allows students some freedom and comfort for learning. In addition to traditional rows of desks, you could use couches, pod seating, or other flexible seating solutions.

Building Relationships

Strong relationships between teachers and students lay the groundwork for successful teaching and learning. Students lacking positive relationships with their teachers or peers can feel isolated and become further disengaged. Recent research revealed positive teacher-student relationships can lead to better teaching, while one study suggests good relationships with teachers help prevent student misbehavior, anti-social tendencies, and delinquent acts.

Elementary Schools

  • Greet your students as they enter your class each day. Depending on their preferences, it can be as simple as warmly welcoming students by name, using a “greeting board,” or individual handshakes.
  • Begin each morning with a community “circle time.” Circle time may be a chance for daily announcements or previewing the day’s upcoming activities, and it is also a great opportunity for getting to know your students better. For example, Monday morning circle time may involve students sharing fun stories from the weekend. A light-hearted discussion can help relax students and prepare them for a day of learning and give you insight into their interests outside the classroom. 
  • Sharing glimpses of your life outside school will help students see you as more than just their teacher. They’ll feel more comfortable with you as they become more familiar with you.
  • Communicate early and often with students’ parents. Whether it’s an email, social media posts, or a hard-copy newsletter, weekly updates about what’s going on in the classroom will be appreciated and give parents topics to discuss with their children at home. 
  • At the beginning of each school year, ask parents about their child’s communication preferences and ways that might work best for you to connect with them. If you’re having trouble reaching a student or they’re frequently exhibiting negative behaviors, parents can provide helpful intel.
  • Frequent contact throughout the year will help make parent-teacher conferences more productive. When meeting with parents face to face, always lead with areas of progress and examples of positive learning growth. Highlighting student strengths is a good foundation for motivation to address challenges. When addressing issues, share the next steps you plan on taking and at least one parent support suggestion to make it a collaborative effort. 

Middle/High Schools

  • Teachers often find it helpful to share information about themselves so that students see them as human. Let students know about your family, pets, or things you enjoy outside school, but maintain a professional distance by not oversharing. Use the discussion as an opportunity to learn more about them, too.
  • Conduct quick personal check-ins, asking students to share their feelings, feedback on assignments, or any struggles they face. You could create an online survey form, shared document, or email thread as a safe space to facilitate check-ins or do brief one-on-one conferences at your desk while other students are working on an assignment.
  • Get out, about, and involved in the larger school community. Attending sporting events, concerts, theatrical performances, or other school community events sends a message to children and their parents that you care about and respect the whole individual, not just the student’s learning capabilities. 

Avanti as a Resource for New Teachers

Avanti’s brief, on-demand videos present proven strategies on relevant topics to new teachers with limited time. Avanti’s library of more than 300 videos spans categories including rules and procedures, building relationships, engagement, assessment, learning goals, and direct instruction. 

The more you use Avanti, the more you’ll expand your teacher toolkit with the knowledge that will benefit your entire career and all the students you’ll impact. Get started with a free seven-day trial membership today.

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