FWSU’s New Teacher Program is designed to exceed the state’s requirements for mentoring new educators. During this 2-year program, new teachers receive differentiated support from mentors or mentor colleagues based on the level of experience they bring to our supervisory union.
In their first year of the program, all teachers who are new the SU participate in the FWSU Professional Practice Forum. Each year, we use feedback from the previous cohort of new teachers to modify and adjust the program. Last years’ cadre of new teachers recommended a focus on teacher wellbeing. Toward this end, we have crafted a series of live meetings that alternate with online discussions to share new teaching practices featured in the book Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms by Timothy D. Walker. I chose this book because of its relaxed and readable framing of Finnish educational practices which celebrate and integrate holistic aspects of learning, including wellness and belonging. It also aligns with FWSU’s focus on global learning.
For new FWSU teachers, this hybrid learning model begins each school year with a focus on becoming comfortable with their mentor, acclimating to their new school, and becoming familiar with Schoology, the Learning Management System we use for Professional Practice Forum.
In October we held our first live session with guest presenter, Marcy Perrotte. Marcy is a Special Educator at BFA Fairfax whose experiences as a new teacher led her to pursue graduate work focusing on teacher wellness. Teachers were able to weave their learning from Marcy’s presentation together with their initial reading from Teach Like Finland.
Teachers examined the practices outlined in the first chapter of the book that promoted the well-being of students. After their discussion, their assignment for the month was to “try-on” one of these practices in their own work setting. Teacher “try-ons,” which can be described as “high yield, low threat” changes in classroom practice, are a feature of each face-to-face session and designed to promote efficacy.
After the book discussion, Marcy began her presentation with a “Stress and Wellness Poll.” After each teacher completed their own poll, the group did a quick gallery walk to discuss the findings. Marcy shared the Wellness Wheel (from Northwest Missouri State University) with teachers, emphasizing the importance of personal wellness and techniques for managing stress.
Marcy ended the session by teaching a simple body scan technique called Stop Breathe and Think that teachers could use themselves and also teach to their students.
The session ended with a door prize of a Buddha Board, which Marcy used in her presentation. Marcy showed how simple water-based painting on the board reminds us that nothing is permanent, everything changes. She illustrated several ways both teachers and students could use the board for stress reduction. Mike Malinowski, the new guidance counselor at Georgia Elementary, was the winner.
Our next face-to-face session is in December. We look forward to welcoming FWSU Prevention and Wellness Coordinator Bonnie Poe to speak on the topic of stress reduction through time management.
Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward