With 44% of teachers quitting within the first five years of entering the profession, it is statistically likely you know a teacher like me: one who has yet to cross the five-year threshold. I am almost there, approaching my fifth year, but have yet to earn esteem as a “veteran teacher” among my colleagues. Rightfully so; I am by no stretch of the term a “veteran.”
From my time as a pre-service teacher to the present-day, I have been welcomed into classrooms by experienced educators eager to offer their advice, expertise, wisdom, and knowledge. Fully aware of my comparative inexperience, I greet their guidance with open arms. I have much to learn, and veteran teachers have much to teach.
My first year of teaching, I had a fabulous mentor. My mentor was widely known and respected professionally throughout the school, and I had admired her work when I student taught. What amazed me most about my mentor during my first year was not just willingness but eagerness to collaborate with and learn from me. I questioned her optimism and enthusiasm in working with me often. After all, what could I, an inexperienced first-year teacher, possibly have to offer to such a renowned educational expert?
My mentor and I planned collaboratively on a weekly basis, and she thanked me frequently and specifically for what I offered to her growth and learning. The suggestion that I was teaching an experienced teacher was astonishing to me. I was constantly asking my mentor questions about everything from calendar events to curriculum clarifications to parent communications to the location of office supplies. I didn’t feel I could be helpful when I was feeling somewhat helpless.
What I have since realized is in the midst of our eagerness to teach new and pre-service teachers the ropes, we sometimes overlook what they have to offer in terms of how education could be. Below are a list of gifts new and pre-service teachers have to offer that veteran teachers need not take for granted.
I left college with fresh, creative ideas we were able to integrate within the comfort and standards of the grade level curriculum and pacing. Students created green screen advertisements for persuasive writing, took notes with foldables, and studied through new online platforms. Pre-service teachers are learning all types of new tools for engagement and learning that even I, as a relatively new teacher, haven’t heard of or explored.
As researchers learn more about learning and the brain, the coursework for college students is changing–for the better. Future teachers are learning about educational neuroscience, cultural competency, trauma-informed teaching, and other cutting edge practices serving students and educators. We may not have the time or means to attend every professional development offering on new and exciting education topics; but, pre-service teachers and teachers new to the field can provide us with quality, present, relevant professional development in-house when we work with them as not just mentees but also colleagues and collaborators.
My sisters are in high school and are regularly helping me stay relevant and aware. This is not in an effort to be viewed as “cool,” but rather to learn what matters to the students seated in front of us and how to make connections with them. The reality is, newer teachers are not as far removed from the world of our students as we are the longer we have taught. This relevancy of newer teachers can support planning for student engagement and understanding in our varied ways of teaching and assessing student learning as it relates to their interests.
As a pre-service and first year teacher, I was filled with questions about why certain actions took place and how decisions are made. I learned early on teachers are people who act with intentionality. Little happens in a classroom without a teacher being able to provide you with a sensible explanation as to why. On the other hand, as a host of pre-service teachers, I have learned to challenge my own thinking in their asking of questions. If I’m not able to answer the question of why I am doing something, it allows me to examine that practice and determine what makes it effective and what could make it better. The reflective nature of pre-service and new teachers provides perspective and allows more experienced teachers to become introspective about their work, encouraging constant learning and growth professionally.
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