Teachers desire to be effective. While aspiring to be the “teacher of the year” maybe a worthwhile and admirable goal, most teachers just want to be good teachers. For the novice teacher, surviving their first years aside, their effectiveness hangs on whether or not they can be a good teacher. Being a good teacher depends heavily on a teacher’s perception or assessment of their own ability to produce the desired effect in the classroom—teacher efficacy. Teacher efficacy encapsulates the single most important variable related to learner achievement (Darling-Hammond, 1997). Teacher efficacy can be defined as the teacher’s belief in his or her capability to organize and execute courses of action required to successfully accomplish a specific teaching task in a particular context (Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy, & Hoy, 1998). Various influences account for shaping a teacher’s identity in the classroom and whether you are a traditional route or alternate route teacher, both your teacher preparation programs as well as your pre-suppositions about school and teaching play a major part in shaping who you become as a teacher. Novice teachers who exhibit a greater sense of efficacy are more likely to reap greater career satisfaction (Krumboltz, 1994) and persist, staying longer in their teaching careers (Knobloch & Whittington, 2002).
Novice teachers lack what seasoned teachers have—experience. Novice teacher rely heavily on the “knowledge” they’ve acquired through education programs and person research and also what they’ve experienced as a students, teaching models they’ve witnessed throughout their interactions with teachers and from the opinions of others. All of these things shape a teacher’s belief as to whether or not they can do the job of a teacher to the best of their ability. These factors are not limited to only shaping a teacher’s perceived belief of their ability to teach to different student populations, their perceived belief about their level of knowledge regarding their content area or their perceived ability to meet district and state benchmarks and/or educational initiatives. These factors can have either a positive or negative impact on a teacher’s ability to “produce” in the classroom. Once a novice teacher gains experience and acquires new knowledge and skills from attended professional development seminars, they’ll rework those perceptions about their levels of efficacy. But in the meantime, what does the novice teacher do about affirming their ability to produce in the classroom? Here are some simply tips that may be helpful:
- EMBRACE THAT YOU ARE AN INEXPERIENCED TEACHER. Remember that you are a young teacher—young in the profession. Thus, you don’t know it all and you will make mistakes. Embracing you inexperience allows you to make mistakes and not beat yourself up; it allows you room to grow as a professional and it allows you to not take yourself seriously. Do yourself a favor, rid yourself of self-imposed pressure and embrace the fact that you have a lot to learn and a lot of maturing to do as a teacher.
- WALK INTO THE CLASSROOM WITH A CLEAN SLATE, DAILY. Each day is a new teaching experience. Each class is never taught in the same way. No one class raises the same questions or reaches the same conclusions. Some days will be better than others and some days will be tougher than others. Like athletes who treat each game as its own game, treat each day and each class as a new class and a new experience. When you do well one day, do not get overconfident the next day. When you do horrible one day, do not get too down on yourself the next day. Each instance will set you up for disaster. Start each day with a clean slate.
- SEEK TO BECOME A MASTER IN YOUR CONTENT AREA. When you are a master, or at the very least confident, in your knowledge of your content area, your belief about your own efficacy increases and improves. This is one of the most direct ways to improve your ability to “produce” in the classroom.
- BECOME A STUDENT OF PEDAGOGY. Along with knowing your content area, you should be a student of the science of the teaching profession. All topics such as curriculum, instruction, classroom management, assessment and cultural competence are things that you should study and increase in knowledge. Professional development sessions either at your school or outside you school will help with increasing such knowledge. Tactics and strategies with respect to pedagogy can and will help you implement your lessons and improve teacher efficacy.
- SIMPLIFY YOUR INSTRUCTION. Remember what being a teacher means… teaching. Teaching is as simple as having a conversation and when you have a conversation, you are simply relaying information to another person and they are doing the same to you. When one has a conversation with another person, they are casually speaking about a topic of interest. In a conversation, the people involved are passing along information, whether it is vital or trivial. Often times, teacher, administrators and policymakers making teaching a difficult and complicated endeavor. Teaching was never meant to be, nor is a difficult and/or complicated endeavor. Remember that teaching is holding a conversation with your students; you are simply relaying to them information about the topic of the day. In a conversation, one person doesn’t do all of the talking, the receiver of information processes that information and becomes a speaker, delivering their own information. Allow your students to question and provide comments. Teaching and learning does not take place when one “drills” and one regurgitates information. Teaching and learning takes place when two people converse back and forth intelligently.
- REMEMBER THAT EACH DAY, YOU ARE ADDING TO THE “BANK ACCOUNT.” All of your acquired experiences, all of your acquired knowledge and skills and all of your acquired practices/tactics are deposits in your teacher/educator “bank account.” Each day you make a deposit. Whether the good, the bad or the ugly, you add something new and something worth value. Over the course of a school year, your bank account grows and at certain points throughout the year, you withdraw from that bank account to help with the “costs of the classroom.” Maybe you bring to your remembrance a strategy learned at the professional development session that deals with classroom management or you remember an activity done with a class when discussing a certain topic. Withdrawals are necessary as a teacher. Continue making those deposits. The perk about making deposits is that there is no limit on how much you can deposit and you can never drain your account.
It is always a challenge when entering the classroom for the first time. However, forgiving and empowering yourself will move you ahead in your career. It isn’t about moving up as much as it is about moving up your students. Engage yourself in teacher self-care and you’ll be better able to care for your students.
Let us continue to press towards the mark!
Darling-Hammond, L. (1997). Doing What Matters Most: Investing in Quality Teaching. New York: National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.
Knobloch, N., & Whittington, M. (2002). Novice Teachers’ Perceptions of Support, Teacher Preparation Quality, and Student Teaching Experience Related to Teacher Efficacy. Journal of Vocational Education Research, 331-341.
Krumboltz, J. (1994). The Career Beliefs Inventory. Journal of Counseling and Development, 424-433.
Tschannen-Moran, M., Woolfolk Hoy, A., & Hoy, W. K. (1998). Teacher Efficacy: Its Meaning and Measure. Review of Educational Research, 202-248.
 A novice teacher is either a teacher candidate or classroom teacher in their first 3 years of teaching (Gallavan, 2007).