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Rough Beginning: The Challenges of Initial Classroom Leadership

Page history last edited by Jess Ledbetter 5 years, 11 months ago

The stories below are from very successful classroom leaders who developed their skills despite struggles. These stories are anonymous, but I assure you that these teachers work in our district and have persevered despite initial challenges.


So Much To Do!

When I was a first year teacher I was very unorganized. I could barely keep my head above water but I had 2 assistants. I immediately put my kiddos into small groups but admittedly there was not always something for them to do. When those moments happened, my assistants would sit together and talk smack about the kids and me. Eventually it got so bad that my principal got involved and I was almost put on an improvement plan. My principal  (who never came into my classroom) took the word of my 2 assistants because they had been at that school longer and therefore had credibility with her. As a new person coming in I had very little status. So to make a long story short the following things happened: 1) I was humbled and had to make a decision about teaching. I asked myself “Do you want to teach or do something else? I decided that I wanted to teach.  2) Something had to change. I decided that over-planning was an effective tool to keeping my assistants busy. If they were busy they had less time for nonsense. 3) I made sure that my assistants had a schedule where they did not take their breaks at the same time. We had weekly check in meetings to make sure that all was going smooth. By the end of the school year all was better. My assistants learned to trust me and I learned to rely on them.


Whose EA Are They Anyways?

As a resource teacher, I had difficulty knowing when I had an EA.  Back then, we had 4 resource teachers and two EAs.  The two EAs worked exclusively with two of the teachers.  I spent much of my first two years assuming that the two teachers with the EAs had them because they were veteran teachers and had in a sense "waited their turn to have an EA."  A few times during my first couple years, the veteran teachers let me know that the EAs were for all of us and to let them know when I needed them.  I felt uncomfortable asking to use them even after this statement because it was always left up in the air.  I did eventually utilize them a bit during these years to make copies or assemble centers etc.  I would give the copies to the other resource teachers who would have the EA do them. When the other teachers were absent the EAs would come to my room.  I actually felt uncomfortable having them there, because I didn't know how to keep them busy or tell them directions. 


Man, She Was Mean

When I was a first year teacher, I had difficulty supervising a disrespectful EA. She rolled her eyes, sighed loudly, and made negative comments about my teaching. Every day, I felt worried about pleasing her. I kept thinking that she would learn to "like" me once she saw how hard I was working. I remember thinking, "Doesn't she know that I'm doing my best?" Every time she was in my classroom, I felt worried about whether she would "like" what I was doing or not. When she rolled her eyes or made comments, I felt like a failure. I was scared to tell my administrators because I thought it was my fault or showed that I was a bad teacher. Her behavior made me nervous every day in my classroom. Now that I am an experienced teacher, I wish that I had dealt with the situation differently. I should have used assertive communication to discuss professional expectations or asked for help since I didn't know what to do. I learned that it was not about whether or not she "liked" me and I should not have waited to earn her approval. As the classroom leader, I should have had meetings with her to discuss how her behavior made me feel and set up appropriate times for her to express her opinion (that were not during instruction).

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