Are you modeling the collaboration skills new teachers need?

By Jennifer Abrams
August 2022

New teacher support is a common part of professional learning, but it varies across states, provinces, and regions. When I was a new teacher coach in California for 16 years, I followed the California Standards for the Teaching Profession, which were applied across my district and the state.

As I travel across the country and the world, I see approaches to content and structure that diverge from the ones I followed. But wherever I go, I see a common thread: New teacher support typically focuses on classroom management, curriculum and assessment design, and instructional strategies. These classroom-level supports are essential for new teachers — but they’re not enough.

We also need to support new teachers in their work outside the classroom, especially in learning how to work effectively with other adults. Research shows that when adults collaborate effectively and trust in one another, productivity and student learning increase (Bryk & Schneider, 2004). New teacher induction programs should help a novice teacher — who may well be overwhelmed — learn the importance of becoming an emotionally self-regulated, mature, and respectful colleague.

Whether in a new teacher induction program, a formal mentoring role, or more informal interactions with our junior colleagues, the best way for veteran educators to help develop those skills is to model, model, model. Here are a few ways we can do so and prompts we can use to reflect on whether and how we are engaging in them.

Maintain a commitment to inquiry and reflection. Sharing your continual journey to become a developed human being and educator is a gift to any new teacher who is feeling vulnerable or experiencing imposter syndrome. As you aim to navigate uncertainty and new challenges with greater awareness, compassion, and self-management, articulating that you, too, are a work in progress and demonstrating that we are all stretching and growing is key.

Ask yourself: Am I showing my newer colleagues that part of my work is developing myself so that I can have a greater impact on my school, community, and field?

Work with others to improve your practice. Taking a learning stance while participating in professional learning, attending team meetings, and seeking out collaboration opportunities shows new teachers that we are part of a profession that cares about the collective. We demonstrate this when we willingly participate in experiences that support the group and the development of staff and students.

Ask yourself: Am I collaborating with others, getting input on my work, welcoming observations, extending myself, and maintaining a positive attitude while doing so?

Self-regulate, especially amidst challenges. New teachers need to know that the work is hard and emotions can overwhelm us if we don’t learn how to manage our energy. We can model building strength and stamina to manage volatility that comes with our work. We can demonstrate ways to manage anxiety and release grief and disappointment in appropriate ways. We can show new teachers that life is full of falling and recovering.

Ask yourself: Am I open to feedback? Have I built the skills to manage myself when challenging experiences happen? Do I have strategies for keeping myself emotionally and psychologically healthy, and am I open about using those strategies?

New teachers are watching us to see what it means to be an educator. While we are providing lesson plan support and little pick-me-ups like a latte cart on Fridays, it is just as important to demonstrate vulnerability, model positive strategies for dealing with challenges, and communicate transparently about our struggles and recovery from them. Those actions should become an ongoing part of new teacher support, too.

Image for aesthetic effect only - J-abrams-2019-36-rt-purplesweater-scaled

Jennifer Abrams ( is an independent communications consultant and leadership coach.

The Learning Professional

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