Veteran Teachers: The Lifeline We Need
Posted by MAXCases Admin on Oct 5, 2021

By teacher guest blogger Kathryn Rose

The 2021-2022 academic year has begun and many teachers are finally welcoming their students back for in-person instruction. Their classrooms are filled with bright posters, desks 6-feet apart, and lots of hand sanitizer in hopes that this year will be filled with a healthy dose of academic achievement. While the new year feels both exciting and a bit precarious for teachers, it is also important to remember that students are equally as emotional after shouldering their fair share of the trauma and difficulties that Covid-19 has injected into all of our lives.

Meeting the academic and social/emotional needs of our student populations is already a tall order for veteran teachers, who have experienced the trials and tribulations of both in-personal instruction and virtual learning. It can seem like an impossible task for new teachers as they seek out ways to find their own unique classroom culture while also navigating irregular school environments at large.

Thankfully, teachers are star performers when it comes to group projects and team collaboration. In fact, cohesive teaching teams are the life breath of well-performing schools. When administrations and teachers are actively working to keep the channels of communication open for the betterment of their students and families true magic occurs.

For rookie teachers, establishing relationships with experienced teachers is a key element to their budding support network. It is their responsibility to actively seek out professionals that can help them achieve success in their new career. Veteran teachers are busy but also set the tone of any school year -- and not just in post-pandemic classrooms. They are in a unique position to influence the strategies of new teachers who, in turn, affect the overall outcomes of the school’s population.

Here are some key ways in which veteran teachers influence their school environments at large -- and a few tips on how to start building mutually beneficial relationships that promote healthy, successful, and compassionate classrooms.

First of all, veteran teachers have a deep understanding of their school’s culture and the unique challenges that their communities have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic. While all students have carried loss and grief as they saw less of their friends, teachers, and programming, the weight of that loss did not break evenly. Each district, school, and classroom had specific challenges and strengths that affected the well-being of their students. For example, affluence played a major factor in student accessibility to technology and teachers on a daily basis. Veteran teachers will know what the absentee rate looked like as students shifted into virtual learning last year. They will also have a better handle on what WiFi access looks like outside of the school building.

In addition to losing valuable classroom time, more than 1.5 million children have lost a caregiver to Covid-19. Veteran teachers are aware of this emotional terrain and are better equipped to handle the emotional landscape of familiar children.

Veteran teachers will also have a better understanding of how to measure success in the coming year. Everything new teachers have been taught about benchmarks and state standards are being tested against the rigorous and ongoing challenges of the pandemic. Veteran teachers know what markers of success look like -- even if they aren’t explicitly measured through a standardized test. Social and emotional goals are important this year -- as is recognizing that each student will have a different academic place of departure after a year and a half of virtual learning.

Veteran teachers will also be better prepared to face individual trauma . This isn’t to say that all experienced teachers will know exactly how to handle the distress that the last year has put everyone through. However, teachers that have previously worked through difficult situations within a classroom setting know what district resources are available and what language to use as they start to rebuild their students’ skills and help them feel confident and comfortable in the classroom.

Along with human resources, veteran teachers know what physical tools are available to make the classroom transition easier . This might be as simple as knowing which computers in the lab regularly freeze and as helpful as knowing how the ins and outs of the Chromebooks and school software. They’re also great resources for knowing which families may need extra support and guidance as they bring new technology into their homes to complete school work.

Building intergenerational relationships may sound like an extra job for all involved, but… -- especially for experienced teachers who already have a lot on their plate-

Here are a few ways to foster relationships in a mutually beneficial way.

1. Pair up your planning blocks with teachers who have different classroom experiences than you once or twice a week. New teachers can pair up with experienced teachers. Veteran teachers can invite classroom teachers into their space to plan and holistically discuss the well-being of students. Easy collaboration and conversation create a friendly work environment and help teachers implement compassionate and supportive strategies for students.
2. Veteran teachers can model language and classroom management skills that work in their particular school environment. This can be done during shared recess time or can be reviewed during classroom periods. Administrators can play a vital role in ensuring that new teachers get the benefit of watching older teachers implement effective classroom strategies.
3. In all-school meetings, veteran teachers should be given the authority and space to discuss the successes and failures of last year’s virtual learning strategies. Their commentary and perceptions can help form realistic goals for the incoming student body. Likewise, new teachers can offer a fresh and hopeful perspective to those conversations. Open dialogue that is monitored by the administration can help get the school year off to a successful start.
4. At their discretion, or as part of a formal program, veteran teachers can offer to mentor a new teacher. While this is an added responsibility on top of a busy job, mentorship provides new teachers with the opportunity to grow in ways that will positively affect the entire school environment. Mentorship can be formal or informal -- just make sure that everyone understands the boundaries before making an offer.

Honesty and vulnerability might not seem like the best tools to use to battle a pandemic that never seems to end, but teachers will need both if they want to move forward into a year that promotes academic success while also healing from the disruptive experience that we have all lived through. Veteran teachers can offer invaluable support to new teachers who are starting their careers during turbulent times. And new teachers? They can inject the hope and energy that our children (and some battle-weary veteran educators) desperately need to rediscover their love of learning!


About Kathryn Rose

Kathryn Rose is currently a virtual tutor and a museum resource teacher. She also freelances for businesses and startups in the education field. She has taught at her city’s botanic garden for 12 years and has been a Social Studies teacher in both private and public schools.

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