What defines a new teacher? According to the school district I work in, you are considered a new teacher for the first two years. (And here at Reality 101, it’s three.) Now that I am entering my third year of teaching, I wonder if I missed the finish line where one becomes less of a new teacher and more of a veteran teacher.
One sign that I have graduated from new teacher status is that I get more and more responsibilities at work. This year I have been asked to sit on administration interviews of teacher candidates and to take on students from different universities as they complete various requirements for their teaching courses.
As a first- and second-year special education teacher, I was lucky enough to receive mentoring services from an induction coach through the Chicago New Teacher Center. My coach last year gave me exactly the support I needed. When she came into my classroom, she would know if I was having a good day or a bad day; she would know when to take notes and when things should be “off the books.”
Best of all, after she listened to me complain, there would be a pause . . . and she would ask me how the situation could be fixed. That seems like such a logical step, but when you are frustrated and aggravated, it is sometimes hard to think of it.
I recently met with my former coach because I wanted to discuss some plans I’d made for centers, scheduling, and progress monitoring for this upcoming school year. After I shared everything that I had come up with, she looked at me and said, “You have this all figured out, you didn’t need my help at all.” I explained that I simply needed to get some feedback: My ideas sound really great in my head, but when I share them with my dogs I don’t usually get much of a response besides, “Can we go for a walk now?”
Anyway, it was nice to hear that what I am doing is up to par. Working with a mentor has definitely given me the extra boost that I needed to get through some tough school years.
It can be hard to find someone to trust and feel comfortable venting to in your own school. I have found that sometimes other teachers do not always understand the frustrations that occur with being a special education teacher. There are the moments when you feel like you are in the movie “Groundhog Day”—you could swear you’ve taught this before, but the students are looking at you like they’ve never heard it before. Then there are the other times with the blank stares that have you wondering if you are speaking to your students in a foreign language.
But these are the things that special education teachers find the humor in. While I will not be receiving any “official” coaching this year, I know that I have found and created a great support system in veteran and not-so-veteran teachers that will support me every step of the way.