Recently I spoke with an educator who asked for support in creating a Professional Learning Community (PLC) for first year teachers in her building. What a great idea! I remember not even feeling the slightest bit like I knew what I was doing in the classroom until my third year teaching. The idea of creating a community for first year teachers to grow and receive support is key to retaining teachers and empowering their success. A community of young, eager teachers allows teachers and aspiring teachers a safe place to tinker with new ideas and the opportunity to learn and share with others.

Not only do teachers have the stress of being a first year teacher, there’s also the pressures of preparing students for the 21st century. Teachers must learn to effectively use a variety of tools, resources and instructional strategies. Managing a 21st century classroom is different than managing a traditional one. Now there are cell phones, laptops, iPads and other digital devices that can be distractions without the proper guidance and support. Unfortunately many teachers enter the field without depth of pedagogical practice around 21C practices.

As I spoke with the educator, we discussed how to approach creating a learning community. We talked about how to gain insight from veteran teachers on what they needed during their first year of teaching. We also considered asking first year teachers what they are most worried about as they start their careers and personalizing the path from there. A PLC is not easy to organize and should be supported by a structure that allows for access to resources and discussion. This particular educator is using LINCSPRING as a platform for learning together and sharing which makes the organization of the PLC work easier to track.

When creating dedicated time for the 21C teacher in a PLC, it’s essential to personalize the experience with teacher agency, differentiated paths, and choice. It’s important to model our learning communities around what we expect to see each day in the classroom. In the infographic below, check out six topics PLCs for first year teachers may include:

As you remember your first year teaching, think about how valuable a learning community could have been to share experiences and new ideas. Supporting new educators is not only vital for their growth, but also for student growth. Use the topics listed above to help start your educators off on the right foot. Provide the support and time needed so they don’t think back to their first three years of teaching and wish they could do it all over again. A solid foundation for professional growth will help strengthen the field of education and also provide our students with quality teaching from every level of teaching experience.