Learning the ropes

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When veteran teachers were tapped to be lead mentors, one of their tasks was to create new teacher support plans at their schools. Most plans call for introducing new teachers to the staff, loading them up with supplies and other tools, and providing them with a school handbook. But some enterprising mentors and principals included novel ideas. Here are a few of them:

Larry Thomas, principal

Coles Elementary

Make sure new teachers do not get the least desirable classrooms as well as the most challenging students.

“Around May or June, all the teachers get together at each grade level and we balance out the kids. We know the personalities of our kids—who’s doing well, who needs additional help—and we do an even distribution so that our new teachers do not have all the lowest-performing students.”

Sarah Janega, lead mentor

Morgan Park High

Hold a scavenger hunt to acclimate new teachers to the building.

“We had 25 new teachers. We divided them up into teams, gave them a map and a list of names and office numbers. They had to find the room and get their list signed at each room.”

“We have two three-story buildings. It is critical that new teachers know where everything is so they can direct students, especially freshmen. It was also a way for them to work as a team, get to know each other and build relationships. It took about 45 minutes and they were awarded prizes.”

Thomas Little, principal

Black Magnet

Give new teachers 10-minute breaks during the school day.

“We offer our new staff two 10-minute breaks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Sometimes they just need to sit down. Or sometimes they use that time to have someone listen to their concerns. All they have to do is buzz the office and say, ‘I need a little break.’ I’ve gone in and taken over their classes.”

Annette Dluger, lead mentor

Taft High

Host an ice cream social for new teachers a few weeks after school begins.

“This was something new this year. After four weeks, teachers are really stressed out, so our assistant principal [decided] to throw an after-school ice cream social for first- and second-year teachers. The second years were [invited] so they could assure the new ones that things would get better. They loved it and said they needed it.”