How Can We Grow?

Caitlin Gawlowski Uncategorized

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The theme of my life this year is all about growth. I am growing as an educator by teaching a new grade at a new school district, so I am seeing different perspectives on teaching philosophies as well as learning new ways to teach a different age range of students. I am growing as a person by becoming a wife, and a mother, and watching my little guy grow. (By the way, he now has a tooth and can crawl all over the place.)

As I prepared to begin the new school year, I had to go through new teacher training since I am new to teaching in this district. I never went through new teacher training when I first began my teaching career since I started mid-school year. I thought I was going to start the year better prepared than I had before because I would have a chance to look at the curriculum ahead of time and learn how to use it at the week-long new teacher training. I figured this would be a great opportunity for growth, and was excited to get in the door and get the new year started.

Now that the school year has been underway for several weeks, I have to say that new teacher training significantly hindered my growth. It was so much information even though there were a lot of similarities between this district and my last one, but more importantly, I only spent about 3 hours in my classroom that entire week. How in the world can anyone set up a classroom in only 3 hours? If I feel this way, a National Board Certified Teacher, who knows how to handle most classroom things like the copier jamming at the last minute; how to handle unruly students; how to survive rainy day schedule; and how to not have a meltdown in front of your students when your most favorite flair pen runs out of ink (at least most of the time), how does a first-year teacher feel?

How can we best help new teachers grow and thrive? Schools are still struggling to attract and retain quality teachers, so this is worth investigating if we are ever going to get out of the teacher shortage that is plaguing our state. Here are my suggestions for ways to help our first-year teachers grow:

1. Allocate time and resources effectively. Sitting in meetings all day for a week is difficult in general, but it is extremely stressful for teachers at the beginning of the year when your mind is on your classroom that is full of boxes and mismatched furniture. If your work environment (read: classroom) is a mess it diminishes productivity. Allow teachers to work in classrooms before the meetings, or start new teacher training earlier to allow teachers to have an entire week to set up their classrooms.

2. Differentiate the training to meet the needs of the teachers. New teachers need different types of training than experienced teachers. Breakout sessions are a great idea and should include something to meet the needs of the teachers in attendance. Send out a survey to get information on what types of sessions would be helpful.

3. Food. Provide lots and lots of food. No explanation needed.

What are your suggestions to help our new teachers grow? Would you add or change anything on this list?

photo credit: pstenzel71 Scilla via photopin (license)


Caitlin was born to be a teacher, although she did not realize that teaching was her calling until she went to college. She has always loved to write, and began college with the mindset of becoming a journalist. Before beginning her freshman year of college, she changed my major to Elementary Education on a whim and has never looked back. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University, and won the Outstanding Student Teacher Award during her student teaching experience in the Cave Creek Unified School District. Caitlin spent 9 years in the classroom teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. She became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2018, and holds a certificate in Early and Middle Childhood Literacy: Reading/Language Arts. The 2021-2022 school year marks the beginning of her 10th year teaching, where she will be working as an Academic Interventionist, and supporting other National Board candidates on their journey toward National Board certification. If she is lucky enough to have free time, you can find her traveling Arizona with her husband and son, spending time with her friends and family, taking group fitness classes, or enjoying a good book.

Comments 2

  1. Elizabeth Schley

    I love this! I think also adding a buddy who is familiar with the school so when the new teacher needs to know who to go to for something, they have a smiling and familiar face to ask! Also, I completely agree about sitting in meetings all day. I’d add to put anything in an email that can be, because it gives the teacher a reference point and honors their time.

  2. Randi Fielding

    Changing schools or districts takes so much more energy and cognitive space than I ever realized. For myself, I’m at a new school this year and I was really surprised by how much extra energy it required to just navigate the new building. Learning the most efficient routes , how to time it so I’m not caught in the middle of a big student transition in the hallway, and who to talk to for various needs that come up. This was surprising because the last time I changed schools I was also a relatively new teacher so I never associated that feeling of being overwhelmed with the new environment per se, just the newness of the job itself. But it is an extremely important factor to consider as we support new-to-the-building staff and faculty. All the support we can possibly provide should be provided so we can ease that stress. Even just acknowledging the stress and empathizing with it has made a big difference for me. Thank you for this post! Love it!

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