North Carolina New Teacher Support Program Continues to Help Beginning Teachers Thrive While Working From Home, Says College of Education Coach Lindsay Lewis
As teachers across the country navigate the new online learning environment established in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many first-year teachers are struggling with balancing their emerging classroom skills with the need to shift to an entirely different educational format.
The North Carolina New Teacher Support Program, a statewide, university-based teacher induction model that has partnered with the NC State College of Education and other institutions, is making sure that beginning teachers across multiple school districts are continuing to receive the support they need through coaching and professional development.
“Our commitment has always been to the teachers and students of North Carolina. While we have made a shift to a virtual setting, our commitment remains as strong as ever,” said NC State instructional coach Lindsay Lewis, Ph.D. “We realize this is a new and potentially trying time for many and we are dedicated to being there for our teachers so that they can be the best for their students.”
Educators supported by the New Teacher Support Program are in their first year of teaching and have varying degrees of preparation, with many of them previously working with coaches on face-to-face teaching practices, writing lesson plans and creating engaging activities for students. With the quick shift from the classroom to online learning, Lewis said that many educators feel that the classroom skills they have been honing are now less relevant.
In addition, many are now balancing their role as a teacher with parenting duties at home. Because of this, Lewis said that coaches have been working with teachers to establish parameters in which they will work as well as to accept the limitations presented by the current situation, including the fact that some students are not doing the work.
“I have supported teachers as they processed that many of them are working very, very hard to create learning opportunities for their students and, because students aren’t being held accountable for their work by parents, most of it is not getting done,” Lewis said. “That is frustrating and disheartening, so we have to process what that means and how we can make the most of our time when planning.”
Lewis said she and fellow NC State coach Wayne Williams have worked one-on-one with teachers on ways to make their work from home experience productive, beneficial and fulfilling, understanding the importance of designated times and spaces for work and the need to incorporate self care practices into their routines to maintain cognitive and emotional strength.
Coaches with the New Teacher Support Program have always taken a “whole teacher approach,” assisting with everything from planning, teaching, relationship building and assessing learning for students. Since the shift to online learning began, coaches have also been helping educators make the most of their time, including helping them to consider professional development opportunities.
Coaches at NC State have started a book study professional development group for new teachers and developed a podcast to offer resources and advice. They have also created a series of private YouTube video check-ins to reach all new teachers in the program.
Melanie Smith, a clinical educator in the NC State College of Education and NC State regional director of the New Teacher Support Program, said that coaches have created a sense of continuity for teachers during this uncertain time by continuing their work in a different landscape.
“What teachers and students have accomplished thus far is remarkable, but this transition is a work in progress,” Smith said. “Becoming your best teacher self is a dynamic, challenging and ongoing process made even more complex with a sudden and drastic shift in context. Now, more than ever, our teachers need to know that the support of their coach is a constant even when everything else seems to be constantly changing.”