A scene from last year:
I sit in the Teacher Support Committee, drawing cartoons on the Staff Development Agenda. We first triy to focus on what new teachers need, because so many of our teachers are new. At our school, you are considered a veteran by year three. So, we begin with a brainstorm. One woman suggests a professional development plan where teachers would set goals and measure them each quarter. It could go into their portfolio that they would be required to teach. "I think the biggest problem is that there is a lack of focus. A plan would keep them organized. I mean, who doesn't like plans?" Nobody says anything.
Next, another teacher offers the creative idea of requiring a New Teacher Binder. "We could color code it and do all the initial work for them. All they would have to do is add their lesson plans." Another teacher adds, "Yeah, and we could have the directions for a fire drill and we could have rubrics." Then another suggests, "You know what we need is a journal that they keep. The teachers could write reflections and then their mentor teachers could read the journal."
Everyone keeps adding ideas to the list, until it becomes apparent that new teachers will need a binder, a professional plan, a weekly meeting, a monthly book report, a mentor teacher and a book where they write reflections.
I speak up at this point, "Let's ask new teachers what they want. We could do a survey and someone could cover their class while they take a survey. It's not ideal. I know we have too many surveys, but it could work." The group is skiddish about this idea. One man suggests, "What you think you need and what you need your first year are different. I don't know if we should base it on feelings."
So, I eventually drop out mentally from the committee and this year teachers have a fat stack of binders that simply grow dust on the bookshelves. They have a calendar full of meetings and they are struggling to keep afloat.
When I was a first year teacher, I wanted three things: more time, more resources (in terms of books for the students to read, supplies to use, etc.) and someone to simply say, "John, you're doing a good job. You'll make it." I was so insecure that I didn't need to write reflections. My whole life was introspective already. I didn't need a binder given my already overcomplicated, disorganized teacher's desk. I couldn't handle more meetings, when what I really needed to do was grade papers.
I think the problem is that what methods work for some (binders, meetings, reflection sheets) do not work for all teachers. What if the best place to get "teacher support" was at Happy Hour with coworkers or in the staff lounge, after a rough class? It seems to me that teacher support cannot be standardized. It has to happen sort of organically.
Which leaves me with a question: What did you want when you were a new teacher?