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Tips From Dr. Marzano

Supporting Beginning Teachers


Supporting Beginning TeachersThe following tips are designed to assist you in applying the latest research in tangible ways in your classroom, school, or district.



One way that mentors can share their expertise with new teachers is by providing physical support.

Physical support involves helping new teachers with the practical or logistical aspects of teaching, such as organizing the classroom, gathering supplies, learning school policies, and navigating the school building. While new teachers frequently need physical support during the anticipation phase of the schoolyear when they are preparing for their first weeks of class, they may need additional physical support when starting new units or changing the arrangement of their classrooms. Mentors can also consider routinely evaluating specific procedural habits with new teachers to make sure they appropriately support student learning (pp. 22–24; 27).

An important aspect of physical support includes helping new teachers arrange, organize, and decorate the classroom before the beginning of the school year.

When planning the layout of the classroom, mentor teachers can remind new teachers to consider where small- and whole-group instruction will take place as well as how resources and learning centers will be used by students. Teachers will also want to easily be able to monitor different areas of the classroom, so placement of the teacher’s desk may be an important factor to consider. In addition to organizing classroom furniture, mentor teachers can help new teachers identify where important announcements, examples of students work, and lists of assignments will be displayed and assist teachers in understanding how decoration should relate to learning objectives throughout the year. New teachers will also need classroom supplies, so mentors may wish to demonstrate how to request specific supplies and explain any school policies related to this task (pp. 28–32).

The first day of school can be a source of anxiety for new teachers, so a mentor’s support when planning for this day can boost a new teacher’s confidence.

Before the first day of school, mentor teachers can assist new teachers in developing classroom rules, procedures, and disciplinary interventions by describing their own practices and the experiences that have informed their choices. Mentors may also suggest icebreaker activities, like handouts and games, that new teachers can use to help students feel comfortable and welcome during the first day of class. Once new teachers and mentors have collaborated to develop materials and activities, new teachers may wish to draft a letter to students’ parents that explains classroom policies and the goals for the schoolyear. Mentor teachers can also use this time to share supplementary advice on communicating with parents throughout the year and recommend preferred strategies such as newsletters, emails, class webpages, and notes (pp. 33; 36).

Traditionally, beginning teachers transition through five different emotional and mental phases during their first year teaching.

As a beginning teacher embarks on his or her first year in the classroom, it is likely that he or she will transition through the following five phases: (1) anticipation, (2) survival, (3) disillusionment, (4) rejuvenation, and (5) reflection. The anticipation phase marks a period of excitement about the profession and a desire to finally get into (or back into) the classroom. Next, during the survival phase, beginning teachers realize the amount of work the job necessitates, and they may begin to struggle to keep up with their work. When the survival phase transitions into the disillusionment phase, beginning teachers begin to doubt their abilities and dedication to teaching. The rejuvenation phase traditionally follows the disillusionment phase after winter break, and a beginning teacher becomes optimistic about his or her competency as a teacher. The reflection phase occurs toward the end of the school year, and beginning teachers look back on their year to consider what went wrong and what went right. Finally, beginning teachers transition back into the anticipation phase during the summer, and the cycle repeats itself (pp. 8–9).

Each of the five phases of a beginning teacher’s first year is associated with a different time during the year.

Though beginning teachers do not all progress through the five phases at the same pace or in the same order, each phase is generally associated with a different time during the school year. The anticipation phase occurs during the summer and the first few months of the school year, and the survival phase happens sometime between the start of school and the end of fall. Disillusionment typically sets in after a month or two of school and continues until winter break, and, after winter break, beginning teachers traditionally enter the rejuvenation phase. Toward the end of the school year, beginning teachers enter the reflection phase until after school lets out for the summer. Finally, teachers reenter the anticipation phase during the summer, as they begin to look forward to the upcoming school year (pp. 8–9).

Awareness of these phases can help school leaders and mentors provide the appropriate supports for beginning teachers and reduce teacher attrition in their schools.

Mentoring programs in schools have been associated with many benefits including reduced teacher attrition. However, to maximize these programs’ positive impacts, mentors and school leaders should be aware of the five phases of a beginning teacher’s first year and the specific types of support that each phase requires. Generally, the anticipation phase necessitates physical support; the survival and disillusionment phases require emotional support; the initial anticipation, rejuvenation, and reflection phases need instructional support; and the anticipation and reflection phases warrant institutional support. Armed with an understanding of the various phases of a beginning teacher’s first few years, school leaders and mentors can work with new teachers to help ensure their success in the profession (pp. 12, 27, 39, 47, 61).

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