My materials are ready for my learning table, ticket printed, parking pass on my phone, and phone/computer chargers packed. I was excited and proud to attend #Empower18. Part of getting everything ready was to make sure I had the content and visuals for my time at the learning tables.
My Boston College study (that I will be sharing at @ASCD) was guided by two research questions:
- What aspects of school culture do novice teachers identify as contributing to their job satisfaction?
- What strategies do school leaders utilize to create a supportive school culture for novice teachers?
After analyzing the data the primary aspects of school culture that novice teachers identified as contributing to their job satisfaction were collegial collaboration and collaborative practice. Novice teachers identified the contributions of colleagues as the most important factor of school culture that increased their satisfaction when beginning their role in the school. Novice teachers shared concerns about possibly feeling isolated being new to a school. However, novice teachers praised actions of their principals for providing a culture that promotes collaborative opportunities with colleagues. They expressed that these activities in a school culture have enriched their teaching and removed the feeling of isolation. One elementary teacher said, “Knowing I have veteran teachers supporting me gave me the confidence to come to work everyday.” Another teacher expressed, “Seeing smiles after a tough meeting and having the feeling that we are all in this together let me know I am part of something special and it motivated me to be a better teacher.” Due to these activities and building connections with colleagues through interpersonal relationships, novice teachers’ job satisfaction in the early years of their teaching career was enhanced.
I will be diving into the below topics at the learning table, but to help me prepare I am writing a brief overview of specific recommendations to enhance collegial collaboration and collaborative practice.
Scheduled grade level collaboration opportunities: Novice teachers voiced that having the opportunity for grade-level common teacher time was helpful in learning the early needs of the teaching role (i.e. schedule, curriculum, school/building processes). The Columbia School District has weekly scheduled meeting times for middle/high school teachers and elementary administrators worked hard to allow for at least one common grade level time through integrated arts (i.e. PE, music, art, library). One novice elementary teacher observed: I didn’t have a background for this school since I was hired so late in the year. It was nice to have my new team to help me out and I knew I could go to them with any questions I had. Another teacher stated, “If I ever have questions I always feel I have five people I can go to. It’s never a burden on my colleagues to support me because I am new.” When one novice teacher was asked to describe the benefit of meeting with colleagues she explained: “When you are meeting with … core veteran teachers … those conversations are really important for my learning and growth because they have experience I don’t have and I can learn a lot from.” The novice teachers spoke about the benefit of a school that has a culture of collaboration and a dedicated time for collaboration, but they also noted that they met after school or at lunch to continue the conversations when needed. The novice teachers all praised teammates for their willingness to support them in their growth and were thankful to have this time to talk and listen to more veteran teammates.
Scheduled content level collaboration opportunities: Novice teachers also spoke positively about a school culture that promotes a level of collaboration across the whole building, not just at their specific grade level. The majority of novice teachers said it was “critical to have collaboration across a building and disciplines” to develop a school culture that increases job satisfaction. One teacher said: “Everybody works as a team here. Everybody’s supportive. If we need help with something, we can go to whomever we need help from. They are always willing to go that extra step. We are here for the kids and supporting each other supports them.”
With a supportive culture and this additional level of collegiality, the novice teachers felt more confident and satisfied with their job. Another teacher specifically noted, “Once a month staff had designated time for school-wide collaboration and professional development across grade levels.” When talking about that process the teacher said, “that is great and I look forward to it and soak in the information.” Another practice noted for school-wide collaboration was visiting other classrooms. One teacher spoke about peer-to-peer observations by stating, “I got to go and watch another math teacher and then sit and talk after. I think the biggest benefit of those collaborations are the conversations that come out of it.”
Middle and high school teachers had dedicated “team” time. The novice teachers interviewed all found this was a valuable time to learn the role, learn from veteran teachers, and felt comfort in knowing the school had consistent structured time available for support. One teacher commented, “I meet with content teachers to just collaborate on our math needs, and he taught me the ins and outs on what does this school expect out of a math teacher. It was extremely helpful.” Another teacher explained: We have a dedicated time twice a week in the morning called data dialogue with our team to talk strategies and assessments and three days of grade level teams to discuss grade level goals and PBIS. Without that time, I would have struggled my first year.
The novice teacher acknowledged the scheduled content blocks give time to content teams to learn and build curriculum and skills needed to be successful.
Unscheduled collaboration opportunities: Collaboration was not reserved to the confines of the school schedule. Teachers interviewed indicated they also worked together to plan lessons and activities on their own time.. One teacher said, “My first year, our team met once a month after school to build lessons and have dinner. That was a more relaxed environment to work. It was a big help my first year and we still do it.” These appeared to foster a culture where intrinsic motivation to collaborate allows teachers to share what works and does not work in their classrooms. Novice teachers noted this environment enhanced their satisfaction in their new role.
Reciprocal collaboration: Developing this level of collegial collaboration also garnered reciprocal collaboration as novice teachers gained confidence. One teacher spoke of supporting her past mentor with new ideas, “I know Chris, she’s been teaching for a very, very long time. She’s towards the end of her career, but I’ve given ideas and we collaborate.” A teacher in a different school noted that she is supporting new teachers now that she has more experience by saying, “We now have other new teachers in our school that are coming in so I try and reach out to them and make them feel comfortable.” These informal mentoring opportunities builds a lasting and ongoing growth mindset in a culture that not only support teacher improvement but job satisfaction.
Visibility: Visibility of the principal was another theme novice teachers identified as a positive aspect of school culture that contributes to their job satisfaction. All teachers interviewed talked about the positive aspects of a principal being present either in classrooms and meetings, or open to conversations.
Administrative Support: When analyzing the strategies school leaders identified as creating a school culture for novice teachers, the theme that resonated most with principals was fostering a culture where new teachers felt supported. Principals spoke very proudly about ensuring novice teachers had the support, both with materials and mentorship, to start their careers at the school. One principal was very clear that his/her first step in support is ensuring the new teachers “feel a part of the school.” Another principal expressed he/she took the time for “a lot of listening and reassuring people that this is a safe place.” Creating an environment where novice teachers feel supported resonated throughout the principal interviews.
Administrator Visibility: Principals, similar to novice teachers, expressed the need for a school culture that includes a visible leader in order to support novice teachers. One of the principals visits classrooms every day. He stated, “I’m a very visible principal. I’m very involved in what they do in their work because those connections are important.” Principals shared how they provide these opportunities through an “open-door policy” or giving face-to-face “positive reinforcement” or just taking the time to “get to know the teachers as people first.” One principal spoke about scaffolding visibility in supervision to increase the confidence of teachers.
To wrap up, deeper analysis of the data showed that a common theme in the job satisfaction of novice teachers was the belief that teachers felt valued as individuals, teachers, and members of the school. When teachers were given collaborative opportunities to learn and grow or felt the principal was approachable and supported them, they felt valued in the culture and this positively enhanced job satisfaction. Novice teachers expressed that it was important to build a relationship with the principal. Believing the administrator would listen and could be approached with any problem—personal or professional—increased job satisfaction.
TO hear and learn more – swing by the learning tables or visit the resource folder: http://bit.ly/josephASCD18
Location of Sessions:
- Exhibit Hall B in the BCEC
Participation at Sessions:
- Saturday, March 24, 2018, 4:30–5:30 p.m.
- Sunday, March 25, 2018, 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.