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“Appreciation goes a long way as a motivator.” Candice Clark

IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR… RIGHT?

It’s that time of year again. School parties, gifts, and eggnog are the norm everywhere you look. Student newcomers, such as kindergarteners, first time middle schoolers, and freshmen, are now acclimated to the larger schools. For sure the Holidays bring a festive mood for all at a school site.

Actually, it’s a tough time of year for teachers

For new teachers, this first semester has (seemingly) been a five-year journey. They’ve got a LOT on their plates. Often, they are thrown a set of keys to their room, assigned a floating schedule, asked to monitor the freshmen section at pep rallies, expected to attend many meetings, confronted by high emotion parents, and much, much more. This can be overwhelming to most educators, let alone the brand new teacher. We also see school leaders and administrators, who are in the thick of things themselves. They are expected to make adjustments to ensure the second semester continues with consistency and vigor. It seems like something’s got to give.

Usually, that “something” is that new educators decide it’s too much for them. During winter break, the decision to leave teaching has been made. Almost 18% of new teachers ‘quit’ the profession before their third year, and main reasons are lack of support, disorganization, and stress. As an administrator for 18 years I can tell you, amid the joyous moments, this time of year brings to the forefront an attention to detail you deployed in July for the opening school year in August. In math it is called reflective symmetry, when one compares one piece of work to another and gathers feedback for academic upward mobility. For the administrator, it is highly advisable to check on new teachers (new faces) to the school.

Most ‘newbies’ are not local and need a fatherly/motherly figure to regurgitate “what just happened.” During this festive time period, communication is sorely needed to help mend from the perils of the first-year teacher.

The Gift of Appreciation for Teachers

There are a few things I’ve learned in my tenure. They are simple and impactful:

  • I call their parents. Yep. I call to express my gratitude for lending me their child (my educator) and promise to take care of them via an open door policy. You can hear them sobbing in the background…the mothers too. This is always a huge hit!
  • Mid-year informal review. Often times during the initial interview, we hire the new teachers for extra-curricular activities in addition to their main teaching responsibilities. This is a great time of year to take a few minutes to review their progress. The extra money in their paycheck doesn’t hurt either. It helps solidify their loyalty to the school (and our team).
  • Make a trip to see them. Stopping by the classrooms and openly complimenting the teacher amid students is something that proves to the educator and the students that this is the right place for him. When students see that their teacher is recognized by the principal, they tend to see her in a different light, and it’s a good light.
  • Write it down. Finally, sit down and pen a handwritten card during this cheerful time (the worse the hand writing the better…it makes it genuine). This small gesture is almost a lost art and it often makes them feel at home in their new school.

Without reservation, these little pieces of thoughtfulness and generosity make up the entire puzzle – you just have to stand back to view the whole picture. The new teacher will not forget the moments when you treated them with respect and validated their efforts, especially in those perplexing times… their first years of teaching.

Happy Holidays,

Dr. George L. Lockhart

Dr. Lockhart is an administrator from Palm Beach, FL. He is a long time educator, former principal, currently the Manager for the Department of Charter Schools for his region and a new friend of Leaderally’s.

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