A Wish List for New Teachers

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When I think back to my first year as a teacher, I remember how eagerly I anticipated the opening days of school. More than anything, I wanted to have a good start because I thought that it would set me on the right path for the coming months. My to-do list for the weeks before school started included planning lessons and assembling supplies, but as the weeks passed, I found that although my plans and supplies were ready, I was not. As I struggled to motivate my class or to adapt my lessons to meet my students' individual needs, I wished that I had learned and practiced additional skills in my master's program before I entered the classroom.  

Right now, thousands of new teachers across the country are facing their first day of school. In addition to our hope that their copying machine never breaks, here's a 'wish list' of skills that NCTQ thinks every new teacher should have and upon which many of our teacher preparation standards are based: 

·         Classroom management: Too often, classroom management is seen as something that can only be learned "on the job" -- or that shouldn't even be an issue if the teacher is an instructional virtuoso.  To the contrary, there are techniques that should have been taught and then practiced (with feedback provided) during student teaching.

·         Reading instruction: As a high school science teacher, I didn't realize that reading instruction would be a major part of my job until I found myself trying to teach students how to read lab instructions when they could barely read a cereal box.  Every teacher should know scientifically based reading instruction to the extent appropriate to the grades taught.

·         Content knowledge: I was fortunate to have a strong background in science, but many teachers don't know their content as well as they should. Colleges and universities can help by making sure that future teachers take an adequate number of classes in core content or demonstrate their knowledge through rigorous tests. This is especially true for elementary teachers, whose content weaknesses will only be more evident with the implementation of the more rigorous Common Core state standards.    

·         Assessment: Like many new teachers, I struggled with the most important question any teacher can ask: "What are my students learning?I needed to know effective ways to check my students' progress and how to use the information I gathered to change my plans for the next lesson.  

·         Meeting the individual needs of students: My carefully planned lessons were ready long before the first day of classes, but were immediately rendered inadequate when I found on my rosters many students with special needs or for whom English was a second language. Teacher candidates should have plenty of practice in planning and carrying out lessons that accommodate students with a range of needs. 

To all new teachers, best wishes!