How can principals help teachers build energy? It's an enduring question for a reason, with many possible answers. Don Graves once visited a school where each Wednesday morning the faculty met to have a breakfast of rolls, juice, and coffee and then moved into various curriculum focus groups. The faculty had one half hour together before school and then one halof hour after the children arrived on the busses. The staff ran the sessions and discussion groups. “I have but one requirement,” the principal said, “that everyone attend and no one be alone in their room. I make sure the kids are in a good situation for their half hour. Every June we reevaluate the Wednesday morning program and decide what specific interest groups will follow for the next year. In previous years we’ve produced lots of things: parent forums, a new math curriculum; we prepared a language arts presentation for parents.” This particular program had been going on for ten years. There is renewal for the staff in the middle of the week, and above all, keeps the staff in touch with each other and develops new ideas.
I began to teach without the threat of assessments and with colleagues who did support me, especially the principal. Yet, I remember the bewildering array of personalities in my thirty-nine students, the range of different parents, and the volume of curriculum to be grasped. I had trouble eating and sleeping and was short-tempered when I cam home from school in the afternoon.
First-year teachers will need to consider access points for making contact with other teachers, especially beginners. The most obvious are before and after school. During school there may be special breaks, lunch, or even teachers’ meetings, where you’ll have a chance to sit next to someone you wish to get to know. I am not speaking about extensive time commitments. Initially, the greatest need for new teachers is to know they are not alone, and that someone recognizes their place in the building. Simply saying, “How’s it going?” goes a long way.