Supporting New Teachers: Moments To Celebrate During Teacher Appreciation Week

May 7, 2024

Supporting New Teachers: Moments To Celebrate During Teacher Appreciation Week

Our third part of this series falls on a very special week for all of us in the education field: Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! As we take this time to reflect on the light that great teachers bring into our lives and classrooms, it is no coincidence that we will be covering two key tips honoring this very same practice: celebrating excellence in the field and creating opportunities that allow new teachers to grow and be recognized. 

In Part 2, Clearly Defined Instructional Practices Build Confidence in the Classroom, we dove into how defining instructional practices and using rubrics to drive improvement was an important piece in supporting new teachers. 

Feedback and instructional practices are essential, but educators know firsthand how positivity and taking time to celebrate promotes growth and boosts morale, too. It is not just students that need this - our new teachers and all of us make progress in positive environments as well. Here is how some shared their schools foster communities of growth through collaboration during year 1. 

Support is more than a buzzword for new educators - it is a necessity in the field

In my conversations with our panel of new teachers, two words came up more frequently than any other: support and help. The teachers mentioned these words more than 75 times within the hour-long discussion. It is a top area of concern and it should be: supportive school environments attract and retain teachers, especially new ones. 

“It's always nice to hear a compliment,” one teacher shared. “I feel like I'm very hard on myself, so hearing the positives honestly means so much.” 

New teachers join the field because they want to be here, to succeed and follow feedback. They also want to help their students grow into the best versions of themselves. Taking the time to recognize that during Teacher Appreciation Week - and every day - is important, particularly as districts seek solutions to teacher shortages.

Teachers have as much impact in making a school setting a positive one as school leaders and mentors too - and that was an empowering thing to see during our conversation. Even among new teachers who did not know each other, they built off each other’s answers, complemented each other, compared experiences, and likened their struggles to one another. 

“It's nice having the support of someone else that you can ask, ‘Is this a dumb question? And she'll say, oh, no, I was wondering that too.’ Then you feel validated about asking it,” one teacher said. 

Teachers need time to center themselves around their passion for teaching

Taking moments to reflect on positivity in the classroom also allows teachers to center themselves and rediscover their joy in teaching, echoed by all the panelists during our conversation. Here are some of the highlights they found in the classroom.

“I just love the relationships that I have with these kids. I mean, I've got seventh graders. So they are weird as heck, but they are so funny. And you can joke around with them. I have kids who come in at lunch. At first it was like they just wanted lunch help but now they say, ‘We really like just hanging out with you and so it'll just come in and they will just sit and do other work or we'll chat and hang out.’ I mean, those are my favorite moments.”

“We take a selfie every Friday. In our very first selfie, everyone's just standing there smiling and not opening up at all. And now looking back like this Friday, they're all showing their personalities, and you can just tell they're very comfortable. Seeing them grow is so rewarding.” 

“My favorite thing is when my first graders’ faces and eyes light up when they finally understand something. Especially when it's taken them days or weeks of not getting something before they finally understand it. I love seeing them get so excited about actually understanding it.”

“I was helping groups on the carpet with subtraction and I asked this girl, ‘Show me how you got your answer,’ and she said ‘I did it because you showed me how.’ And I was like.’Well, we did it together!’ It made me feel so good because she did not know many numbers in August, and here she was doing 3 digits telling me I was the best teacher ever. It just made my Friday.”

Validation, collaboration, and celebration: As educators and leaders, we must protect the spaces where new teachers can find these positives in the profession. This may look like dedicated time to review best practices and share questions in weekly professional learning teams. It might look like a kind note from a mentor or district leader who sees a teacher taking strides to improve a lesson. By being intentional with these spaces and moments, we can promote positivity in places where our new teachers need it most - and based on my observations of how they related to each other during our conversation, they will be quick to follow in our footsteps.