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Advice to new teachers: a place to hide

September 4, 2008 am30 1:42 am

Last evening I spoke with my friend, a brand new teaching fellow. He assured me that Sunday’s warning was well-taken: he managed to get his shoes off first, but collapsed asleep before 4.

Don’t sit with the AP

He told me that between classes, it was convenient to hang out in the AP’s office, plenty of space, the AP encourages teachers to take advantage of it, etc, etc. He said that about half the teachers sit there, the other half go somewhere less convenient.

Same thing happened to me when I was a new teacher. I passed on, modified by time, the advice an older relative, retired Brooklyn teacher and chapter leader gave me a dozen years ago:

Don’t sit with the AP. It may seem easy. It may be convenient. He may be friendly. He may invite you. He may chat with you and offer tips about your teaching. He may praise you. He may take you into his confidence.

But he is your supervisor.

  1. If things go badly later on (and we hope they don’t), but sometimes things go badly for first-year teachers, it’s a hard job, then everything you’ve said, everything you’ve shared – they are already in his possession.
  2. You have colleagues who do not know you yet, who do not trust you yet. What will they think, what sort of relationship will you develop if they see you sitting in the AP’s office every day?
  3. Why do you think all those other teachers walk further to sit somewhere else?

Sitting with other teachers is preferable. But starting out, the best thing is having a place to hide. A place where you can get work done, with no one bothering you. A place (maybe?) close your eyes for a few moments. A place where you can hang your head and feel overwhelmed without worrying about who is watching. A place, occasionally, to cry. A place to regain composure.

Sounds strange. As a new teacher (double for a fellow, ten times for a TfA) you have been told that you will save the system. That you will run rings around old, worn-out, dud teachers. They lied. As a new teacher you will be mediocre, at best. Growth will come. But for now, consider surviving to be a major feat. Concentrate on getting yourself through the day, the week, the year. The good teaching, that comes with time (among other things).

6 Comments leave one →
  1. pbpcbs permalink
    September 4, 2008 am30 2:24 am 2:24 am

    Complete agreement. Even if your AP is wonderful and helpful, establishing specific periods as “private” time will help a new teacher. Go to the library, media room, lunch room (during non-food hours of course), or where ever (I used a textbook storage room my first year). You can certainly let people know that “4th period you’re in the media room” but if the room becomes popular, move on. Absolutely the worst place to be is where the complainers gather. New teachers have enough to deal with without adding the poison and drama that some people feel the need to express. Expressing it helps them cope, but it won’t help you.

  2. September 4, 2008 am30 3:47 am 3:47 am

    Now is the time to observe your colleagues, your students and your administration. ” Actions speak louder than words”. Assume you don’t know, look perplexed and sometimes appear that you don’t understand the sarcastic or needling comment. Keep all these people at arm’s length without isolating yourself. Observe and reflect.

    I was amused reading the tired self-serving mantra that NYCTF will save the system/children from the uncaring union veterans. Why am I amused; because I’m a 5th year NYCTF. I believe Cohort 16 is starting their careers and the NYCTF (8or 9 yrs old?) advertises how many teachers in the DOE are TFs so is the DOE/NYCTF saving itself from itself? The nature of any job is that you become experienced
    and a veteran. Why should that be a bad a situation for DOE/Bloomberg…doesn’t extending term limits mean we’d be getting an experienced, veteran mayor?

  3. September 4, 2008 am30 5:00 am 5:00 am

    My message to all new teachers “NEVER TRUST AN ADMINISTRATOR.”

  4. September 26, 2008 pm30 9:52 pm 9:52 pm

    Interesting unexpected advise!

    We need more advise from senior math teachers to new ones. Right now at Lehman College we are creating the Mathematics Teacher Transformation Institute (MTTI) funded by the NSF for experienced Bronx public high school and junior high school teachers who want to learn more about leadership and mentoring their fellow teachers.

    There will be free classes on math content, education research and leadership and the schools involved in the program will support mentoring by the participants and the creation of new classes. See .

    At the moment we are recruiting schools for the program who will then be contacting individual teachers. However if one of the more experienced teachers participating in this blog is interested, let me know. We can try to include your school in the program.


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