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Tips for New Teachers: Teaching During COVID-19

By Katie Sandberg, Alex Kajitani, Dorina Sackman-Ebuwa, Chelonnda Seroyer, and Alan Sitomer

It’s back-to-school time during a pandemic, and elementary teacher Vita Lusty has been seeing tears all around. Between comforting parents and colleagues remotely, “my virtual shoulders are wet,” she said.


According to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office, as of August 24, 2020, over 4.8 million students statewide are still not eligible for in-person instruction. Remote learning technology issues are burgeoning as schools run out of loaner devices and computers already distributed require tech support. Teachers and families are struggling to keep up with daily requirements set by the state legislature for hours of instructional time.


In schools that are allowed to meet in person using social distancing practices because of favorable public health measures, uncertainty often still rules as labor-management challenges mean many details are not yet ironed out.


All of this turmoil is especially hard on new teachers. What is usually an exciting time -- organizing your classroom, wondering who your students will be, planning icebreakers -- can feel more anxious than thrilling as the typical butterflies connected with first-year teaching are compounded by societal and health and safety pressures.


What can new teachers do to prepare for teaching and supporting their students in a shifting, dynamic education landscape? How can administrators help their new teachers in a year when everything is upside down and there is little time or energy left for extra support or professional development?


CLS touched base with four exceptional educators who have co-created a meaningful course for new teachers, the CLS New Teacher Masterclass. Here are some of their thoughts on what will help new teachers navigate the 2020-21 school year:


Alex Kajitani, California Teacher of the Year

The single most important thing new teachers can do right from the start is to build relationships with students, Alex explained. “For many students, it will have been quite some time since they were in a formal classroom setting, so it's critical to make sure students are safe, know that you are excited to meet them, even virtually, and know that you are thrilled they are part of your class,” he said. “It's also critical to make sure students know what showing up for class means in a remote setting -- be clear in your expectations of them, and in communicating what they can expect of you.”


Alex also advised new teachers to take care of themselves as the school year begins. “Do everything you can to stay healthy, well-adjusted, and excited about teaching,” he said.


Alan Sitomer, California Teacher of the Year

Alan had three additional tips: First, “The number one thing you can do to take care of your students is take care of yourself,” he said. “Get the rest, exercise and balance that you need. In traditional classrooms, we’re up and moving all day long, which gets us plenty of exercise. With remote learning, we're sitting in front of screens for much of the day.”

Second, “Recognize that you're going to make mistakes,” he said. “From the internet freezing up, to getting Zoom-bombed, or the lesson just falling apart, things are going to happen. Try to laugh about the mishaps, and show your students that everyone makes mistakes, tries to correct them for next time, and keeps on going!”

Third, “Ask for help,” he added. “Remember that we're all in this together. You don't have to create every lesson or every video by yourself. Connect with other teachers, find out what they're doing, and learn from them!”


Chelonnda Seroyer, a Toyota International Teacher Award Winner

Chelonnda Seroyer is widely known as an expert on classroom management, and she touched on a vital bright spot that comes with teaching remotely. “Remote learning has forced teachers to push aside traditional ways of teaching and learning to rethink how we interact with our students,” she said. “There are many students who sit quietly in our classrooms, day after day, without ever really expressing themselves or their thinking. Remote learning removes the awkwardness that many students feel while sitting in traditional classrooms and gives them an opportunity to learn without pressure from their peers.”


Dorina Sackman-Ebuwa, a National Teacher of the Year Finalist

An emotional intelligence authority, Dorina Sackman-Ebuwa pointed out that the current generation of students is the most technologically-savvy generation ever, and that remote learning offers students the opportunity to use the skills they already have to demonstrate their thinking in new and creative ways. “Let's be honest,” she said, “as teachers, many of us depend on our students to teach us new things!”


Dorina also emphasized that the most important thing new teachers can do is surround themselves with good people -- educators who inspire and motivate them, understand their needs, and keep everything in perspective while maintaining a good sense of humor.


Learn with Dorina, Chelonnda, Alan and Alex


Each of these educators has been in the profession for many years, yet has never forgotten what it's like to be a new teacher. All four are also dynamic speakers and accomplished authors.


So if you are a new teacher interested in getting support around your areas of need, come join a fun community of peers and master teachers ready to help!


You’ll gain real strategies that can be implemented immediately to help you become a highly effective teacher. Sign up by September 14, 2020, so you don’t miss a day!


See tips on funding PD during COVID-19.

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