Cultivating Capacity: Nurturing New Teachers into Impactful Educators

New teachers are full of passion and potential. It’s our job as leaders in our schools to cultivate the capacity of every teacher in our building. How effectively we do that depends on the system of support we create to help teachers thrive. Designing and implementing a plan that attracts, maintains the teaching talent through professional learning and coaching, and grows it beyond the walls of the classroom ensures all students benefit from the expertise of these teachers. The wave of impact one great teacher has on an entire school building is monumental.

Attracting Teacher Talent

Cultivating Capacity: Nurturing New Teachers into Impactful EducatorsSetting the stage for teachers to want to work at a school or in a district begins with how they experience you, your staff and your offerings. Instead of advertising with a focus on the specific job openings, ask for future educators to apply who have certain attributes, goals or desires. Invite creative, passionate individuals who are dedicated to putting the learning needs of students first to a hiring event. Here they can engage in a meet-and-greet with potential colleagues, listen to school or district personnel testimonials, learn about competitive benefits and potential job perks (ie. staff lounge stocked with goodies, duty free lunch, free prep period, etc.). A personal invitation to the hiring event should also be given to current connections in the pipeline such as graduating student teachers, undergraduate university observers and other volunteers who have already begun their work in the school or district.

The most important component of attracting teaching talent is sharing the robust onboarding system available to new hires. Many districts offer new teacher orientation where teachers can receive school calendars, staff directories, site maps, daily schedules as well as the district mission and vision for instruction. A thorough onboarding system ensures the new hire acclimates to their specific school with ease (tour, building access instructions, assigned mentor, grade level expectations checklist, etc.) while also engaging in ongoing check ins to answer questions, provide feedback, and recalibrate expectations. Onboarding is not a single event; it is a continuous process. When done well over a period of years per hire, it leads to greater retention and stronger classroom performance.

Maintaining Teacher Talent

Once new hires are in place, the onboarding process continues with more intense support through professional development, coaching, and mentorship. A supportive work environment where new teachers receive personalized guidance through a clearly laid out plan diminishes confusion, anxiety, and stress. Trainings cover curriculum, district initiatives, instructional strategies and more. Based on the implementation of the knowledge and skills presented in the trainings, new teachers receive individualized feedback and coaching from mentors, teacher leaders and administrators. Additional learning can occur peer-to-peer where colleagues observe veteran teachers to see great teaching in action and engage in monthly meetings with mentors. Maintaining teacher talent allows the onboarding process to expand to deeper learning and support. This results in a reduction in staff turnover and burnout. New teachers are able to voice their concerns, have a choice in how they navigate obstacles, and feel empowered through the web of support surrounding them.

Sadly, according to the North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey, 58% of teachers do not receive time to observe other teachers and 51% have never observed their mentor teaching (NCTWCS, 2022). Teachers, especially new teachers, deserve job-embedded learning opportunities led by their peers. With more than half of the teaching population missing out on these added layers of support means we will not be able to maintain that teaching talent for long. Teachers want to learn and grow, and they want to work in a place that provides that for them.

Growing Teacher Talent

Schools that invest in the future growth of their teachers are at an advantage. They can utilize the talents and skills of teachers to enhance their school offerings, climate and academic performance. This is why it is important to conduct one-on-one retention interviews to understand long term plans and interests of teachers. Leveraging the talent within the building allows a teacher’s impact to move from a single classroom to benefiting an entire student body within the school. Beyond these interviews, teachers can job shadow to experience teaching different grade levels, subject areas or working in different leadership positions. Teachers can continue their peer observations but expand them across the district to experience other school dynamics and options.  Exposing teachers to the multiple avenues in education increases the chances teachers remain in the profession. Building in ongoing, on-demand professional development with feedback that doesn’t require staying beyond contracted hours motivates teachers to perform well over a long period of time. When we support the growth of teaching talent, everyone wins.

As a result of attracting, maintaining and growing teacher talent, we are able to provide a learning environment that nurtures their capacity to thrive. This is an essential step in helping new teachers transition from knowledge acquisition to knowledge application. Moreover, when it comes to alternatively licensed new teachers, they experience an additional set of obstacles- having to acquire the knowledge at the same time as putting them into practice. This is why personalized support that matches the needs of each new teacher must be provided in the onboarding process. The three-prong approach of attracting, maintaining and growing teacher talent becomes a well-designed pathway of success to support the growth of new teachers. This allows them to experience confidence, competence and excitement for their future in education. Our students deserve to be taught by the best version of their teacher, year after year. The investment leaders make in implementing a system of support will allow schools across the nation to attract, and grow teacher talent. Together, we can help new teachers thrive and make a long-lasting impact in our classrooms!

Grab my latest book Always A Lesson: Teacher Essentials for Classroom & Career Success to cultivate teacher capacity!

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About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.