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Tool: Helping beginning teachers in the classroom

Principals play an important role in helping ensure that beginning teachers become effective teachers for all their students. Principals have the primary responsibility for conducting classroom observations of beginning teachers. A challenge for principals in this area is to balance development and evaluation. Effective school leaders spend more time and energy in developing teachers than in summative evaluation of them. Tom McGreal once said that if you spend your time developing teachers, evaluation will take care of itself. Principals also have a central role to play in helping beginning teachers deal productively with classroom management. This section provides you a number of tools to help beginning teachers in these areas. (See links at the end of this page).

Purpose of this tool: Here is a list of questions for a principal to see if s/he is doing everything possible to help beginning teachers become effective teachers.

On the limits of evaluation by checklist

With the many demands that are placed on building leaders, it is easier to use templates for observing teachers because they provide a single set of teaching behaviors that can be checked off as being observed in a lesson and often rated for how well the behaviors are practiced. The problem is the experience is not very satisfying! In templates, effective teaching appears to be present when more items from the set are checked off and when the items are demonstrated. There's typically no discussion about whether a particular item on the checklist is relevant, no debate about what certain items might mean in a given context, no discussion about what is or is not appropriate for a given goal, lesson or group of students. The list is it! The checklist or template rules and it's less likely the teacher will be learning and that the practice will improve.

Which of these tips have you considered in your desire to support teacher growth and still maintain integrity of teaching standards?

1. _____ Do I talk with teachers about the standards that are being used in our district to determine teacher effectiveness?

2. _____ Do I stress to teachers that I view them as professionals and that that means continuous learning? Within this dynamic, context standards should be expanded as teachers learn and grow.

3. _____ Do I encourage teachers (with my guidance) to select a subset from the appropriate core standards and incorporate them in their planning? Less is more .

4. _____ Do I encourage teachers to assess themselves and monitor their own performance by asking questions such as:

  • What did I intend?
  • What is unique about the students being taught that influences the standards (and subsets) I select?
  • How did my actions vary based on the context? Content? Students?

5. _____ Do I informally converse with teachers about the results of their self-audits?

6. _____ Do I provide opportunities for mentors to observe their mentees using the same self-selected standards and subsets?

7. _____ Do I encourage the teachers to invite me into their classrooms to observe the implementation of the standards and subsets they have selected?

8. _____ Do I leave my observational notes with the teachers and arrange for follow-up conversations at their convenience?

Process for supporting beginning teachers in the classroom

Tool: Teacher attributes that contribute to student success

Building safe and supportive learning environments