The Care and Feeding of New Teachers

  • Teachers & Tutors
Carroll Connection, Winter 2016

The first year of teaching in any new school is challenging. It’s even more so at Carroll—where we recognize that, for our population, the teacher’s skill is the #1 determinant of student success. “Even if you’ve taught before, your first year teaching at Carroll is like entering a foreign country,” says Allison West, Middle School Curriculum Director. “That’s why, over the past few years, we’ve made the choice to invest heavily in teachers’ first-year training.”

Carroll’s new teachers—seven in the Lower School this year and 16 in the Middle School—appreciate the effort. At the summer’s end, they came back two days before the rest of the faculty for orientation. They now meet monthly for a series of Friday morning workshops. “It might be to look at new standardized assessments or at assessments for students from their own classrooms,” says Lower School Curriculum Director Glens Colman. 

The group has lunch together every Friday before the monthly professional development session, where they discuss topics such as preparing for parent conferences or IEP meetings. Every new teacher also has a coach who meets with him or her weekly to provide support throughout their first year. “That’s important because we want them to feel comfortable and proficient,” West notes. 

The new approach is paying dividends. “My first year at Carroll has been a whirlwind of names, acronyms, rituals, and learning,” says Andrea Lordan, a Middle School math teacher. “Both the formal and informal training have been incredibly helpful getting me acclimated.”

“I’ve found that the teacher orientations have broadened my understanding of our students’ profiles and expanded what I account for in my lesson plans,” says Phil Newman, who teaches Middle School history. “Overall, I think I’m in a better position to meet my students’ wide variety of needs.”

Catherine Hirsch, a Lower School teacher on the fourth grade team, enjoys the opportunities to talk with other new faculty. “There’s not a lot of time during the day to just chat,” she observes. “The lunches in particular have created a sense of community for the new teachers, which I’ve found really helpful. Carroll has been so welcoming—I think the school does its best to support teachers.”

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