New Teachers Commend Principals Who Are Instructional Leaders

New teachers commend principals who are instructional leaders, and those who encourage them to participate in professional development opportunities and get involved in the school community. Since new teachers often feel overwhelmed, they are not always sure what opportunities are available to them, how to allocate their time, or how they will be perceived if they participate in certain activities. Having guidance and support from the principal made these decisions much easier and gave teachers evidence that the principals cared about their professional development.

Teachers greatly appreciated being observed in the classroom by their principals. Despite how anxiety producing this could be, teachers felt getting direct feedback and guidance was critical to their growth. The only complaints teachers had regarding observations was that there were not enough of them and that the principal was too gentle in critiquing them, thus limiting the usefulness of the observation.

Support from principals for disciplinary decisions was another important factor in job satisfaction. Inevitably, situations concerning student discipline, some involving parents, are brought to the attention of the principal. New teachers were highly gratified, and sometimes surprised, when the principal publicly supported their decisions.

More often than not, however, teachers found that principals fell short in giving them support. Some teachers said they had little contact with their principals. They described principals who were not instructional leaders and did little to bring teachers together to work with one another. Some teachers said their principals directly contributed to tensions in the teaching staff. Teachers also felt that principals, as well as other administrators, did not spend enough time in classroom observation and in providing feedback. Some teachers had not received any direct observation from a principal. Also, principals were not always helpful in giving teachers guidance. Some would criticize teachers and tell them what they did wrong, but not offer any advice on what they should be doing or show them how to do it.

Principals who were ineffective building managers, and those who lacked organization and planning skills, also created stress for new teachers. Some teachers had difficulty dealing with school schedules and procedures. In some schools, schedules often changed without prior notice or explanation, disrupting instructional plans. In others, principals did not have the curriculum or instructional materials available for new teachers when the school year started. This is a particularly critical issue for new teachers who, typically, have not had the opportunity to accumulate resources and materials.

Advice for Teacher Education Programs

– Prepare every teacher to teach students with special learning needs, English language learners, and students achieving below grade level. A focus on the skills needed to teach these students should be integrated throughout the preparation program, to include coursework and field experiences.

– Prepare teachers to address academic diversity. A focus on heterogeneous instruction— meeting the needs of students with a broad range of skill levels in the same classroom— should be an integral part of preparation programs, fieldwork, and in-service professional development.

– Incorporate opportunities for teachers planning to teach in urban schools to gain experience working in diverse communities prior to their first teaching assignment.

Advice for School Systems

– Provide good working conditions. Smaller class sizes; a secure environment; and adequate facilities, equipment, and materials will attract more teachers to the profession and keep them there longer.

– Give new teachers a coherent, clearly articulated school program. Administrative responsibilities should be laid out at the beginning of the school year. Changes in the daily school schedule should be kept to a minimum.

– Don’t ask teachers to teach courses in which they have neither training nor expertise. If there are teacher shortages, give teachers professional support with the subject matter and the kinds of students they are being assigned to teach.

– Provide opportunities for teachers to observe and be observed by experienced teachers.

– Give new teachers more contact with school administrators.

– Give teachers adequate time to participate in on- and off-site induction activities.

– Assign mentors to all first-year teachers.

– Choose experienced teachers as mentors and match them to new teachers according to subject-area and grade-level expertise.

– Carefully select mentors; do not assign or force teachers into the mentor role.

– Give mentors ongoing training and support to help them articulate expectations for teachers and plan how they work together.

– Have mentors first meet with new teachers before the school year begins.

– Build sufficient meeting time into the schedules of new teachers and their mentors.

– Limit the teacher caseload, teaching assignments, and administrative responsibilities of mentors to give them sufficient time with new teachers.

– Give new teachers opportunities to observe and be observed by their mentors.

– Provide mentoring to long-term substitutes. Assess how mentoring policies impact individuals waiting to be assigned to permanent positions.


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