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Supporting New Teachers with Ashleigh from Rainbow Skies for New Teachers [episode 120]


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Overview of episode 120:

Do you remember what it was like in your first year or two of teaching? We remember the late nights and early mornings, the struggle to find the most effective classroom management system, and just all around, unsure of what we were doing. If this sounds like you as a new teacher, or as a veteran teacher you remember these feelings, this episode is for you! We have a special guest, Ashleigh from Rainbow Sky Creations, to share her tips for supporting new teachers.

Ashleigh is one half of Rainbow Sky Creations, an Aussie duo dedicated to helping teachers survive and thrive through the ups and downs of teacher life! They are resource creators, online mentors, and fellow teachers who want to help you work smarter and not harder! 

Ashleigh’s passion is supporting new teachers and finding ways to provide them with resources, strategies, and encouragement as they navigate their first few years of teaching. Likewise, she shares common concerns new teachers have and then different ways veteran teachers can support them and set themselves up for success. And for the veteran teachers, Ashleigh gives advice on ways to recognize when new teachers need support and how to balance guiding them and developing their own skills. 

As the veteran teacher in your school or team, you have a responsibility to help guide the new teachers who enter your building. Sometimes, we don’t always know the best way to give them the support they need, but that’s where this episode comes into play! With Ashleigh’s help, you will learn ways to support new teachers and how to nurture their own needs as they grow and develop.

Highlights from the episode:

[2:28] Common concerns that many new teachers face

[5:23] Ways for new teachers to set themselves up for success

[11:20] How can veteran teachers support new teachers?

[17:14] Advice for veteran teachers balancing guiding new teachers and developing their own skills

[22:22] Ashleigh’s teacher-approved tip for turning transitions into a game


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Read the transcript for episode 120, Supporting New Teachers with Ashleigh from Rainbow Skies for New Teachers:

Emily  0:04

Hey there. Thanks for joining us today. We are so excited because today we get to share with you our interview with Ashleigh from Rainbow Skies for New Teachers, a podcast that we love.

Emily  0:17

Ashley is one half of Rainbow Sky Creations, an Aussie duo dedicated to helping teachers survive and thrive the ups and downs of teacher life. They are resource creators, online mentors and fellow teachers who want to help you work smarter and not harder. We cannot wait for you to hear her episode all about how to nurture and support the new teachers that you know. And if you’re a new teacher yourself, you will love her tips.

Emily  1:11

We are so excited to have Ashleigh from the Rainbow Skies for New Teachers podcast here with us today. Welcome, Ashleigh.

Ashleigh  1:26

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I am super excited to talk to you all the way from Australia, as you can probably hear from my accent.

Emily  1:35

We love it. And you and your partner, Alicia, love supporting new teachers, is that right?

Ashleigh  1:42

We should do. We remember what it felt like it to be a new teacher, it was many years ago now. But we can still remember what it felt like that feeling of overwhelm that feeling of there’s so many things to do. I’m just not sure where to start, where to go, how to get help. So we want to make sure that we’re those people for new teachers, if they don’t have someone trusted in their school, or they don’t have a community that they can lean on, they can come and join us in our community.

Heidi  2:09

That is such a gift to give a new teacher. I remember like my first year of teaching was even way way before yours where like the internet was barely a baby back then. And so it was just so isolating to feel like I’m in this role. And I don’t know what’s happening.

Heidi  2:25

So I can’t imagine like what a gift it is to have a community of people that are in the same boat as you, but also to have these mentors that are there to support and help you figure out what the next step is, like. So many decisions have to be made as a new teacher. And so to have some hand holding has got to be such a gift for these are new baby teachers that need our support, if we want to keep growing our profession.

Ashleigh  2:46

Yeah, absolutely.

Emily  2:48

So Ashleigh, what are some common concerns and worries that you think new teachers face?

Ashleigh  2:53

I think that this list really is endless. But don’t worry, we won’t talk for an hour about this. I’m just gonna give you some of the common ones.

Ashleigh  2:53

But I think the first one really is around the idea of imposter syndrome. And if your listeners don’t know what impostor syndrome is, it’s when you go out and you’re doing your job and you feel like everyone is going to somehow work out and figure out that you don’t know what you’re doing that you’re not supposed to be there.

Ashleigh  3:20

And I think that new teachers really do feel this, especially when you might have gone straight from school to study and then straight into the classroom and you’re feeling that little bit younger, you don’t have the life experience. And you think, oh, no, these parents of the students are older than me. And they’re going to work out that I don’t really know what I’m doing. So I think that’s one huge worry and concern.

Ashleigh  3:42

And that is a concern that people have in all sorts of jobs. I was watching a documentary on Robbie Williams the other day. And he was saying that well, and truly after he was famous, he was going out to do a big show and he had a huge, awful, deep feeling of imposter syndrome. And I thought, wow, if Robbie Williams can feel that no wonder teachers going into the classroom can feel it. So I think that that is a big issue.

Ashleigh  4:09

And then there’s other common things that we are always hearing from your teachers like classroom management, that they’re worried that they’re not going to be able to manage the class or certain behaviors that come their way.

Ashleigh  4:19

They’re worried about fitting all the curriculum in how do I fit all of the all of the stuff in and there’s always seems to be things being thrown at you left, right and center and to any new teachers out there that are listening. This gets easier over time because you learn how to handle all of these things being thrown your way. But that is another concern.

Ashleigh  4:38

And then, of course parents is a concern too. Dealing with parents talking with parents, when they have issues and you’re not quite sure how to help them or they’re cranky. And I mean, as a veteran teacher, sometimes I feel a little worried about parents. Oh yeah, definitely parents can be scary.

Ashleigh  4:59

One of things we like to say to our new teachers, though is that when parents come in, their job is to advocate for their child. So that’s their number one job. And that is all that they’re doing that is being mostly protective. It’s not generally about you, it’s generally their emotions are high, because they’re dealing, they’re talking about their own child. So we sometimes we need to remember that and just remove ourselves like it’s not personal.

Emily  5:23

Yes, I love that. So what can you teachers do to best set themselves up for success?

Ashleigh  5:30

Well, there’s a few things that they can do to set themselves up for success. But it’s all really in my opinion, it’s mindset based. So one of the things that I love to say is that your To Do lists as a teacher is always never ending, like you could continue to add things to that list forever and ever, and you’re never gonna get through it all you could say at school or weekend, and there would still be things to do on that to do list.

Ashleigh  5:52

So one mindset shift, I like to tell our new teachers is look at that to do list as a wish list. So anything that you get ticked off that list is a bonus, not just oh, one thing down a million things to go. So I love that analogy. I also love the idea of pulling one or two key things from your To Do lists or have a master to do list for one or two key things to do each day. And putting that big list aside. Because then you’re going to get a feeling that you’ve actually achieved something in the day, instead of feeling like you didn’t get very much done, because there’s like a million things to do, and you only got two of them down.

Ashleigh  6:34

So that’s that’s one little tip that I like to give. Another one is choose an afternoon after school to make completely yours and make it the same afternoon each week. And when I say that, I mean get yourself all packed up. When the bell goes and you finish all of your your duties and anything that you have to do leave school straightaway and go and do something for you.

Ashleigh  6:53

It might just be going for a walk, it might be indulging in a hobby that you enjoy. You might love drinking coffee. So you can go and grab a coffee with a friend or read a book, anything that you enjoy, if you’re a parent maybe want to just go and have some quality time with your kids that afternoon.

Ashleigh  7:09

But leaving school that afternoon and making it a weekly routine can really be helpful, because I think sometimes not sometimes, all of the time, let’s be honest, you could stay at school really late just to try and get ahead of the game. And what we need is time for ourselves to refresh and re energize because the more that we are refreshed and re energized, the more that’s actually going to help you be a good teacher.

Ashleigh  7:36

And I think that we need to remember that to be the very best teacher that we can be we need to be rested, we need to be feeling good within ourselves, we need to make sure that we fit in all of those things that really feel our bucket really fill us up hobbies, connecting with people that you really enjoy connecting with. So you don’t want your whole life to become about school. At first, that might seem fun. But over time, it wears you down and you get resentful.

Emily  8:04

And you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Ashleigh  8:06

No, you really can’t pour from an empty cup. I think we if we keep that in the top of our mind and just remember, if you are not caring for yourself, then in turn, you’re not really caring for your students, because they’re not going to get what they need.

Heidi  8:22

Those are such good tips for new teachers. But I think maybe even veteran teachers need to hear that as much if not more, like it’s so easy to just like death by a to do list, right? You’re just, you’re never going to feel caught up. And so it’s so easy. And maybe this is just me talking.

Heidi  8:39

But it’s just so easy to feel like I can’t do it all so if I’m taking any time out from like trying to do it all, I’m gonna get farther behind instead of seeing it as like, if I’m taking the time to pour into myself, to connect with myself my life and what matters to me, I’m going to have so much more energy and willingness to keep trying instead of like just letting me get snowed under by all the impossible tasks that are just heaped on us every day, every day. It makes such a difference.

Ashleigh  9:11

It does. Sometimes we heap tasks on ourselves as well, we think oh, because we’re teachers are generally high achievers, we want the best for our students, we want to do the very best job. So we’re adding things to that list.

Ashleigh  9:24

But I think about when I take my kids to the emergency room. If your child has got a broken arm or a cough, they’re not going to be seen by the doctor straightaway. Someone who has got a much bigger problem may come in and jump the line. And I think that’s a triage system.

Ashleigh  9:40

And I think if we look at our to do list and triage our to do list some things are really important. Some things have a deadline, get those things done, and then there’s other things on there that are just things that you would really love to happen. And if you don’t get them done then that’s that is okay. You need to give yourself permission to be like That’s okay, I’m going to leave that maybe I’ll I’ll try it next year.

Ashleigh  10:02

Teaching is the long haul, you’re in it for many, many years. It’s not just a one go this year, and then you’re done.

Heidi  10:09

Yeah, that’s something we try and do here at the Teacher Approved podcast is our tagline is to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. And that just is something that comes with practice.

Heidi  10:20

But also, with practice, you have to keep that in your toolbox so that you’re always kind of having that framework of evaluating things like, Is this really going to move the needle? Is this worth sacrificing my free time for? Is this going to make a difference for my students? Or is it just something that you know, looks really cool on Instagram? It’s such a filter to have to have all the time.

Ashleigh  10:41

Yeah, it sure is. I think, did you guys you guys were teaching before Instagram was a thing? Yeah, me too. I started teaching before really, you got emails from your principal, which was actually quite blissful. But I think that having Instagram and Pinterest they’re great to share ideas, but it can also really add to that overwhelm.

Emily  11:06

Definitely. And for veteran teachers too. And here at teacher Approved, a lot of our audience is veteran teachers. And so I think it would be good to talk about what we as veteran teachers can do to support those new teachers.

Emily  11:19

So what can veteran teachers do to help those new teachers? Because we typically think of helping new teachers early in the school year, but here in the US where a lot of our listeners are, what kind of support do new teachers need as the school year is kind of coming to an end?

Ashleigh  11:36

Yeah, we do help new teachers that first day that first week, we’re checking in on them, we have our first lot of parent meeting nights, we check in on them, and then they kind of left to their own devices.

Ashleigh  11:48

And I think that new teachers, they do need help, not only in that first year, but the first couple of years, because a lot of things we do as teachers, we’re doing them once and then we don’t do them again until the following year. So it’s really hard to get into a bit of a routine. So definitely keep checking on those new teachers in your building. as the year goes on.

Ashleigh  12:11

They might need help with, what do I need to do at the end of the year to wrap everything up? There might be some sort of testing that you need to do I know in Australia, we need to do some standardized testing towards the end of the year, we need to pack up our classroom. If you’re moving classrooms to a different grade or a different classroom, there, there’s a bit of an art in that as well. And I know veteran teachers would say, Well, you know, start organizing things a few weeks out, those little tips can be huge for new teachers. So supporting them with any little things that are coming up.

Ashleigh  12:44

The other thing is if you’ve got any events coming up, just supporting them into knowing what to expect, we’re having this big assembly, it’s really long, make sure that your students go to the toilet before or give them a little, I always like to give my kids a little snack break before they go to that really long assembly because they can get really, you know, unsettled. Just little tips like that can be so helpful.

Ashleigh  13:07

And I know as a new teacher, when I’ve been given little tidbits like that along the way, it has helped so much. So don’t leave them to their own devices, checking on them, ask them how they’re going.

Ashleigh  13:07

If they’re having any trouble with any students, because we know that sometimes students can tend to get a little bit more unsettled towards the end of the school year as well. And maybe they may be all out of there different strategies and their own toolkit, and they’re looking for some more ideas.

Ashleigh  13:38

And one thing that I know about veteran teachers is that we have got this endless, big A Mary Poppins bag full of different tips and ideas. And if something doesn’t work, we know we can try, you know, ABC all the way down to Zed. And that is something that our new teachers don’t have, they might only have two strategies a and b. And once they’ve used those two strategies, which they’ve been using all year, they are fresh out of ideas. And sometimes it’s great just to hear, Oh, I did this once or this worked for me one time with a class or this work with me for a child once, that can be really helpful.

Ashleigh  14:13

And then the final thing, I guess, is just being a listening ear, just checking in on them and seeing if there’s anything that they need to talk about anything that they’re worried about anything that they want to celebrate. Sometimes it’s not always about the worries, but about the celebrations and it can be really lonely being in a classroom as one adult to all of those children.

Ashleigh  14:35

And if you’re going home to a family that doesn’t know anything about teaching, it’s hard to celebrate those small wins. And as veteran teachers, we can really be there to listen to those small wins, and congratulate them and revel in that joy.

Heidi  14:50

Those are such good tips, especially I think, not assuming that they know what to do at this point. These new teachers, like you said that Mary Poppins bag just is not full enough yet. And they are relying on us to help add some tools to that kit. And I think it’s a veteran teachers easy to say, well, like, oh, they look like they’re doing fine. So everything must be going okay, when the reality may be like, they don’t want to feel like a burden.

Heidi  15:16

I think new teachers so often don’t want to feel like they’d like I’ve taken I’ve taken I’ve taken I’ve taken all year long, I can’t take any more from this team for my co workers. So they’re just not going to raise their concerns or their questions. And in reality, you know, they’re really drowning, even though we’re coming up to the end of the school year, this is brand new for them still.

Heidi  15:34

So I think it’s just like you said, it’s just so important. Don’t be afraid to ask what they need, don’t be afraid to, you know, open the door and say, hey, you know, what can I do to help you figure this out? You know, here’s the tips for making testing something that we can all live through, you know, like, that matters so much.

Ashleigh  15:52

It really does matter so much. Even just being honest with them saying, Look, I’m so tired to, to know what tomorrow I’m going to take a mental health day off work. And you can do that, too, if if you need to, or encouraging them to take a day off if they’re not well, that is another really important thing even saying to them, Look, I can see you’re not well take the day off, let me help you plan for the sub that’s going to come in or let me do it for you.

Ashleigh  16:19

And I know that veteran teachers are probably thinking, I’ve got a million things on my list. But that would mean the world to a new teacher, especially if they’ve never planned for a sub before. One of the questions I’ve been asked on podcast before is like, how do I plan for a sub as a new teacher? And as veteran teachers that just comes naturally, but we forget that everything is a learning curve for them.

Emily  16:44

Yeah, I remember the first time I had to get a sub. It was really early in the school year, because as a new teacher, I had to go to a new teacher training, and just being like, oh, my gosh, what am I even supposed to do? And luckily, Heidi was already teaching. And she taught the same grade as me. And so she’s just like, this is the sub plans I like to use in September, here’s what you need to add to it about your day.

Emily  17:05

I mean she helped me so much, because I just had no idea like, I don’t even know what I need to know yet. How do I know what a sub needs to know?

Emily  17:14

So how can veteran teachers balance guiding those new teachers, with allowing the new teachers to also develop their own teaching style? Do you have any advice for that?

Ashleigh  17:25

This is tricky, because I think new teachers have come up with all of the most recent research, they’re energized, they’re excited, they’re getting lots and lots of information online, you know, on Instagram, all of these different places. And as veteran teachers, sometimes we think, Well, we know what works, don’t we? This is what works.

Ashleigh  17:48

So I think that you’re right in that question, saying that there is a balance, we need to let new teachers give things a go their own way. But notice, and just be aware, when they’re a little struggles that come up, or when they ask questions. If they’re asking a question, it means they really don’t know. And then is the time to like do a bit of a deep dive and be specific about your answer.

Ashleigh  18:14

So if they’re saying things like, I don’t really know, like, how do you set up your reading groups? They don’t want you just to say, group your kids in five different groups, you have different activities, and then one group reads with you. They need more of a breakdown of that, like, give them a good hour sit down talk about exactly how you do it. How do you get those groups? What sort of activities do you do? Give them some suggestions.

Ashleigh  18:39

But if you feel like they’re going off, and they’re giving things a try, encourage that as well, I think there is a fine line. And it’s just like our students, we do the same sometimes we really explicitly teach an idea or a concept. And then sometimes we let them explore. And we let them really go with what they’re they want to learn. And it’s kind of the same sort of thing.

Heidi  19:00

And I also think it’s important as a veteran teacher to be open to the ideas that a new teacher can bring, like, they haven’t had different experiences and different training and different opportunities to learn that, you know, we’ve had while we’re in our own classrooms teaching.

Heidi  19:14

I know when I was a new teacher, I started doing morning meeting, I don’t know if that’s if you’re familiar with that in Australia. And it wasn’t anything that was happening at my school at the time. And it really meant a lot to me that some other teachers at my school became interested in it and like I was given time on a professional development day to teach the faculty about morning meeting and the benefits of brought to my classroom.

Heidi  19:39

Like as a brand new first year teacher that meant a lot that they saw me as a professional like they understood that I also had a point of view. I don’t know you know how to get my kids to sit quietly in the assembly yet and I don’t know how to deal with this recess fight but I’m not coming at this completely empty either. You know, so it’s just so much give and take.

Ashleigh  19:57

And it’s giving that new teacher a time to shine as well. I worked with a new teacher a couple of years ago, and she came in, she was so excited. And we’re on a team. So I was a job share with another teacher, they had been teaching for a really long time, there was another teacher that had been teaching forever, as well. And then this new teacher.

Ashleigh  20:15

And she came in with the most exciting fresh ideas. But I remember one of the ideas, she really wanted to do this special craft for Mother’s Day, she had it in her head, she really wanted to do it. And the other teachers that shut it down, they said, you know, it’s going to take too long, it’s going to be so messy, it’s going to be hard to manage. And you know, that was right.

Ashleigh  20:33

But in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be much better if we just gave that one a go and been on her team. And then she, she probably could have learned that for herself. Or she might have said to everybody, you know what, I did it this way. And it wasn’t so messy, or it wasn’t so difficult to manage the kids.

Ashleigh  20:52

So I think sometimes that we can be quick to shut down their ideas. But it’s really good to take them on board, like the morning meeting is a perfect example. I can see veteran teachers saying oh, well, that says more time out of our day. And I like the kids to come in and silent read because it gets them all settled, then we’re going to get straight into the curriculum.

Ashleigh  21:13

But as we know, there’s so many benefits to everyone sitting down and connecting like as a classroom community. And if they hadn’t have had you as a new teacher giving that, you know, modeling to them, then maybe they would have never known about it. As a result, the kids have really benefited.

Heidi  21:29

Yeah, like we’re all still learners, even when we’re the teacher, or the teacher of the teachers. Yes, still helping each other.

Emily  21:36

And I think teachers love to help. And so it’s really, I think, easy for most veteran teachers to want to take these new teachers under their wings, and help them and love on them. It may be harder for them to be open to what are you bringing? What new ideas are you bringing to the table? And giving the new teacher opportunities to shine. I think that might take a little more focused effort for most teachers who think they already have it all figured out. Because we all think that.

Ashleigh  22:05

That is very true.

Emily  22:07

Well, we like to end our interviews by asking our guests to share a teacher approved tip with our listeners. You’ve already given us lots of tips. But if you have another small actionable tip that teachers can apply in their classrooms today, we would love to hear it.

Ashleigh  22:22

Okay, so this is a bit of a random tip. I wanted to give something completely different from what we’ve been talking about.

Ashleigh  22:29

But one thing that I think teachers have a lot of trouble with, you know, new veteran anywhere in the middle is getting their class from A to B quietly. And I don’t know if I’m a huge believer in that I’m like, you know, you get from A to B, but I do understand that it’s disruptive to other classes. And that’s what leadership wants. So let’s say in an ideal world leadership want you to be quiet walking from A to B.

Ashleigh  22:52

One thing that I love to do is turn it into a game with my students. So I have them in lines, the traditional lines, I stand in the front, and we play a game, I just made up the name called line freeze. I’m sure there’s teachers out there that have got better names for a game like this. I’m not the first teacher to ever play this game.

Ashleigh  23:08

But as we walk along, I turn around and it’s a bit like spotlight or I don’t know what you’d call it in America, and the kids all have to freeze. And then I keep walking and now turn around and the kids have to freeze. And I always said to them, you know, you need to be silent while you’re walking. And when you’re frozen, your lips need to be frozen as well as your bodies. And it just is a really fun game. And I’ve played it with kindergarten and I’ve played it with the sixth, and it’s always a winner. Those

Heidi  23:33

Those are the best kinds of tips to take something that matters like a procedure that’s important, but to find ways to invest it with a little bit of fun and whimsy, some surprise and delight to just like this isn’t a chore. We’re making this happy and enjoyable for everyone. That is such a fun tip. I’m sad I don’t have any people I’m going to be leading through always for a while. I really want to play that now.

Heidi  23:33

Who knew that you would wish to lead a whole cluster a hallway?

Emily  23:42

Ashleigh, we’re so glad that you could join us today. This was such a fun conversation. I think our listeners are going to be so excited about helping the new teachers that they’re interacting with other schools and I think this will be a great lesson for all of them.

Ashleigh  24:17

Thank you so much for having me. Honestly, it has been an honor.

Emily  24:21

We’ll talk to you again soon.

Ashleigh  24:23

Chat soon. Bye.

Emily  24:25

That is it for today’s episode. Thank you so much to Ashleigh from Rainbow Skies for New Teachers podcast for being here on the show today and sharing her great tips for new teachers and for how veteran teachers can support the new teachers in their lives.

Emily  24:42

If you are a new teacher yourself or you know one, you’ll want to check out Rainbow Skies: Surviving Your First Year’s Guide and we will put a link to that in your show notes. You’ll love this free guide to help new teachers become prepared and self assured.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.

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