Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Adjusting to a New Teacher

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Freefotouk

Our beloved Sunday water aerobics instructor was replaced recently. The class is having a hard time adjusting to the new instructor. She uses a different set of moves and it's hard to hear her instructions. She has dismissed one of my favorite moves, saying that it goes against the guidelines of <insert unknown acronym>.

I've been thinking a lot these past few weeks about what it's like for our students every fall as they adjust to new teachers and what we can do help them start thinking about what to expect and how to deal with the changes. Things we can do this spring while our students are still a part of our close-knit, safe and predictable classroom communities include:

• Talk about changes they've undergone in the past. List the positives of change along with the negatives. 
• Think about what they've learned from favorite teachers. Remind them that when you move from teacher to teacher, you carry them all with you -- you never really leave a favorite teacher behind.
We can encourage our students to
• Be patient. Give the new teacher a chance. 
• Be an independent learner. (For our children, this might mean reinforcing the importance of the learning they do on their own at home after school and on weekends and holidays. For me, it has meant abandoning the water aerobics class in favor of my own self-styled hour of water exercise. It feels good to swim laps again, and to decide for myself what arm, leg, and core exercises I'll do and for how long.)

In the fall...(I can't believe I just wrote that! We have only 6 days of school left before the much-needed summer break, and I'm thinking about next fall!!!)...In the fall, when I greet a new group of students, I'll try to be even more aware of the adjustments they are going through as we figure each other out. I'll try to remember to

• Ask for their input as we establish routines and norms and make the classroom ours
• Have them tell me the things they loved about teachers in the past...not that I could make any promises that I would be just like them, but so that we can explore my similarities and differences to their former teachers. 
• Be gentle as I guide them in their learning so that I don't completely contradict or disregard what another teacher taught them, but rather show them how learning is layered, and how the new learning they do with me will be added to, but will not replace their previous learning.


  1. Good points, Mary Lee!

  2. What a thought-filled post, Mary Lee. I like that you began comparing this new teacher to you to what students experience each year when they move to the next grade. I like this part: "Remind them that when you move from teacher to teacher, you carry them all with you -- you never really leave a favorite teacher behind." I think students will like hearing that! It's like that Cisneros piece when she celebrated her birthday. She became 10 (or 11?) & felt all the years stacked under her new age. Thanks!

  3. I so needed to read this! We have four weeks to go, and I'm already feeling sad at having to bid goodbye to this year's set of kiddos. Yes, there is much that I can still do to prepare them for what lies ahead...and thank you for the inspiring words to help me do so, Mary Lee.

  4. It is such a challenge to connect so much to a group of people to only have them all dispersed and jumbled up with a new teacher each year. I love how you gave a reassuring message here and a means of reflecting on how good change can be. I too am already thinking of fall, but can smell the beach and have considered sprinkling sand in my shoes!


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