Transforming School Culture – Chapter 4 Resources – The Tweeners (or – how can we ensure success for new teachers?)

This is a series of posts on Transforming School Culture by Anthony Muhammad – On Audible and on Amazon. More from Dr. Muhammad on Twitter and on his website.

In this book, Dr. Anthony Muhammad shares his research on four categories of teachers found in schools. In Chapter 4, he discusses “Tweeners”. Tweeners are the teachers new to the culture, primarily those also completely new to the profession. Below are some further resources on some of the key points found in the chapter. Even if this book is not on your reading list, the resources are valuable tools in helping others take an inclusive stance, where ALL children are capable and competent. What other resources can you share on these topics?


Teaching is an overwhelming profession like no other. Teachers in many jurisdictions are paid poorly. The work is challenging and unpredictable. There are deep emotional costs, including exposure to trauma. Yet people often choose this profession because of a deep desire to make a difference in the lives of children and young adults.

There is a gap between leaving a teacher preparation program and working as a truly successful teacher. It’s true that teaching is a learning profession, and teachers are always learning more about their students and their practice so that they improve, but the gap can be biggest at the beginning of a teacher’s career.

“When teams of educators believe they have the ability to make a difference, exciting things can happen in a school.”

Jenni Donohoo, John Hattie, Rachel Eels The Power of Collective Efficacy

Many new teachers have a dream of making a difference. Most are positive they can. Principals play a key role in assessing new teacher learning needs and creating the conditions to help them develop the skills and strategies to meet the learning needs of their students.

How do Tweeners fit into the school culture? Often, new teachers don’t have strong connections to the community, which make them a flight risk if their first year does not go how they had hoped. What can we do as school and system leaders to connect them to their interests in the community and improve the experience of the first year teaching?

Often we see that schools in need have the most difficult time recruiting and retaining teachers. A cycle of turnover and a lack of organizational knowledge negatively impacts student outcomes (p. 59). School Districts that are serious about growth and improvement in student learning, need to focus on how to retain new teachers and build their competencies to ensure positive student outcomes.

Generally, new teachers are enthusiastic and willing to try new things. They present a school with the best opportunity to ensure the number of “Believers” in the school continues to increase. However, there are some potential pitfalls.

Tweeners want most of all to impress the principal. Principals can fall into the trap of forming opinions of new teachers that relate more to their pleasantness and compliance than to their ability to ensure positive growth in student learning. Principals need to be intentional in observing the impact of the teacher on student learning, and offer assistance in improving teacher capacity where needed.


So how can Principals work to ensure new teachers are successful?

  1. Learn about the challenges facing new teachers. Here are some resources to get you started.

a) “The biggest problem about the first year? There’s an enormous gap between what you learned about teaching and what teaching is really like. Having a great administrator that first year can be a lifeline.”

b) No One Starts Out Awesome: Advice for New Teachers

c) So how can we help new teachers?

d) Research: Factors Influencing Teacher Survival in the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study

e) Research: The New Teacher’s Survival Guide to Behaviour

f) Research: Survival Guide for New Teachers: How New Teachers Can Work Effectively with Veteran Teachers, Parents, Principals, and Teacher Educators

g) Helping new teachers stay and thrive in rural schools – several strategies for connecting to the community

h) Research: Supporting new teachers on the road of teaching: The role of the
elementary school principal

i) More Teachers Than Ever Are Considering Leaving the Profession

j) Lots of resources for first year teachers – from Cult of Pedagogy.

k) How Principals Can Support New Teachers (ASCD)

l) 4 Things Principals Can Do (and 4 Things They Shouldn’t) to Build Relationships With Teachers (Education Week)

m) Conferences for New Teachers!

2. Don’t ignore new teachers. Put them in your work plan. Check in regularly in a non-evaluative way.

3. Create opportunities to build efficacy. What is your embedded structure for improving teacher practice in your school, and how will you ensure your new teachers become an important part of this collective structure?

Dr. Simon Breakspear provides open access to research and protocols to ensure principals can quickly create structures for teacher learning and improvement.

4. Co-construct a learning plan. Celebrate growth. Provide professional learning. Make the evaluation process of your probationary teachers’ learning and check in frequently. Ensure teachers are safe in bringing problems of practice to the principal to work on together.

5. Create the conditions for success. The New Teacher Induction Program in Ontario provides a good starting point for principals to consider what those conditions look like.

“The four core goals of NTIP are explained below from the perspective of a new teacher:

Confidence

  • I can do it…I have the supports to be a successful teacher

Efficacy

  • My teaching makes a difference in the lives and learning of every single student

Instructional Practice

  • I am able to respond to the diverse learning needs of my students with an array of effective instructional strategies

Commitment to Continuous Learning

  • I want to continue learning and growing as a professional in collaboration with my students, colleagues, administration, parents/guardians, and school community”

What strategies can you share as a new teacher, a former new teacher, or a school leader to help ensure “Tweeners” build the confidence and competence they need to continue to contribute to the positive learning outcomes of children in the school? Please share your ideas in the comments.


Featured Image Shared by Jeremy Beck on Unsplash.


Transforming School Culture

by Anthony Muhammad

Updated 2021-2022 Resources by Chapter.

Chapter 1: From Status Quo to True Reform

Chapter 2: The Framework of Modern School Culture

Chapter 3: The Believers

Chapter 4: The Tweeners (new teachers)

Chapter 5: The Survivors

Chapter 6: The Fundamentalists (Part 1: Who Are They?)

2 thoughts on “Transforming School Culture – Chapter 4 Resources – The Tweeners (or – how can we ensure success for new teachers?)

  1. Excellent resources. I would also suggest that the new teacher not be given the most difficult class as often happens.

    1. So true! I’ve watched this in many schools. It takes courageous leadership to ensure that new teachers are supported and that the “pecking order” is not the priority – student learning is!

      Thanks for taking the time to contribute. Anthony Muhammad also addresses this practice in Chapter 5.

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