First Days.....by Paul Bailey
Second year of teaching, first day at a new district….I was organizing my desk when the science teacher at the end of the hallway came in to introduce himself. He told me that if I needed assistance with anything to stop by his classroom.
A few days after being hired for a math position…. I received a phone call from the math department chair. The chairperson wanted to inform me that he was glad I was going to be part of their team and that he was excited for me to share my experience with using technology to teach math.
1st official day of my contract….While setting up my classroom, the veteran science teacher brought a small chalkboard to me. The front had my name painted on it and the back had a personalized quote, “Have fun and no day will be a bad one. Respect the kids and they will reciprocate” You can see he was proud of using a math term. That board has been in my classroom/office every day since.
1 week before the first day of school….I arrived at the building principal’s house for a staff barbecue. The principal answered the door with a big smile and told me that he was glad I made it. He escorted me to the food and introduced me to teachers that we passed along the way.
These four instances have stood out to me and have stuck with me since I began my teaching career. The individuals went out of their way to make the ‘new teacher’ feel welcomed and supported before the first student stepped into my classroom. The summer after my second year of teaching I reflected upon the science teacher stopping by my room to offer assistance. I realized the impact that moment had for easing the apprehension I had for the first day with students. Each year after, I have made it a point to introduce myself to the new teachers and offer any assistance that they may need.
One year a first year science teacher collaborated with the STEM teacher and me. Through these collaborations she expressed her struggles with student behaviors and learning for a particular class. It so happened that class period was my planning period, so I offered to co-teach with her for a few weeks. The class would be balancing chemical equations which aligned well with balancing algebraic equations that I taught those students two years earlier. After that time the teacher continued to collaborate and have discussions with me. More importantly she decided to return to our district the following year.
I made it through my first five years in education through the friendships formed with my colleagues and I made it through my next five years of teaching through the connections I followed and formed through my professional learning network. It is critical that the veteran teachers in our schools mentor and guide the teachers that are new to the profession. Every teacher in the building has an impact on the retention of teachers in the building/district. Each year new teachers learn new strategies to improve their teaching practices and help students succeed. Through teacher retention, schools can foster a sense of community that greatly impacts the culture of that building therefore leading to the success of all students in the school.