Typically, the term “rejuvenation” conjures images of relaxing on a warm beach, spending the day at a spa, or sipping hot chocolate by a fire. But for new teachers, rejuvenation takes on a new meaning. As new teachers enter the months of spring, they have crossed several thresholds of what it means to be a teacher. They have left behind the disillusionment phase which often comprises exhaustion and feelings of being overwhelmed. In the rejuvenation phase, new teachers can look forward to feelings of accomplishment as they reflect on their year to date.
Jeff Janda and I hosted Day 4 of our New Teacher Academy on January 31 through February 2, 2022. This year we reorganized our structure for New Teacher Academy by breaking our traditional one-day-a-semester training into three separate days each semester divided by content area. On January 31, we welcomed English Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies secondary teachers; on February 1, we hosted secondary teachers of electives; and on February 2, we invited elementary teachers. By dividing our 40 registrants into smaller groups, we were able to allow our participants a more intimate environment where they could voice concerns and ideas relevant to solely their grade and content level.
Some special topics of interest we covered in Day 4 included designing effective group tasks and inclusive and balanced group formations. We worked through a “Broken Circle” activity where groups had to recreate circles from puzzle pieces they were given in individual envelopes. For this activity, however, groups were not allowed to communicate with each other! This activity introduced the concept of using games and tasks for creating norms for group work. As they reflected on their challenges with the Broken Circle task, groups developed norms that they could use for future group tasks. This activity came from Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom, 3rd Edition which we first learned from Audrey Webb, the Science Content Area Specialist at NDE.
We also circled back to the Nebraska Teacher Performance Standards which were finalized in 2020. Using this resource, we discussed the importance of Professionalism, Instructional Strategies, and the Learning Environment. Along with this, we also hosted a circle discussion where participants could voice questions and concerns to their peers to seek advice and ideas for their unique situations.
Our previous days of training were in October and August. We are planning on offering another round of New Teacher Academy starting in August of this upcoming year, and we can’t wait to learn more from next year’s new educators.