There is perhaps nothing more important for first-year AP® teachers than support from their administration. Knowing they aren’t alone, feeling supported, being properly equipped — these intangibles can mean the difference between success and failure for novice AP teachers.
Let’s face it, our first time doing most things in life is challenging. “I’ve never done this before” usually comes with a bundle of nerves. Whether it is a first job interview, a first home purchase, or your first newborn, a lack of experience can leave even the most confident people with an I-hope-I-don’t-mess-this-up mindset.
In the same way, even the brightest, gifted, most ambitious teachers can feel the nerves and pressure the first year they step into that AP classroom. It’s the job of trusted, experienced administrators to do more than calm those nerves, but to provide the support new AP teachers need in order to get their footing and begin finding immediate, measurable levels of success.
Here are three practical ways administrators can support first-time AP teachers . . .
1. Send first-time AP teachers to a College Board® AP Summer Institute.
One of the most impactful things administrators can do to prepare first-time Advanced Placement® teachers for the rigors of AP is to send them to an Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI).
AP Summer Institutes are four-day training workshops meant to empower AP teachers in preparation for their AP courses. Throughout the four days, teachers receive invaluable training, explore the content of the coursework, begin planning for the course they will be teaching, and build important connections with other AP teachers.
While attending an APSI is not a state, national, or College Board requirement, it is a highly recommended training experience that is a great benefit for first-time AP teachers.
Attending a College Board APSI is not free; however, College Board awards scholarships for qualifying teachers to attend. They also provide an online professional learning event calendar where administrators can find upcoming scheduled AP Summer Institutes and AP workshops.
2. Find mentors for your first-time AP teachers.
Mentorship is a vital component for success. When new AP teachers have trusted educators who have been through the rigors of teaching AP providing them with advice, they are much more likely to feel confident and display immediate competency in the classroom.
Though AP mentorship involves practical advice, at its core, it’s more than that. An effective mentor listens as much (or more) as he or she speaks. Mentorship allows a first-time AP teacher to ask questions, vent frustrations, explore ideas, and even learn by making mistakes.
An AP mentor, whether on campus or through an off-campus program, is an extension of your administration, offering the support and guidance first-time AP teachers need. When new AP teachers have mentors to consult, they feel equipped and supported, alleviating apprehension and contributing to bold ideas and ambitious classroom goals.
Administrators can develop internal mentorship programs or take advantage of College Board’s AP mentoring opportunities to give first-time AP teachers this much-needed level of support.
3. Be a resource provider for your first-time AP teachers.
Training and mentorship are crucial to the success of beginning AP teachers, but something more tangible is also needed — resources. The provision of resources is a quantifiable support measure that your first-time AP teachers need.
The resources and equipment needed for an AP classroom are often quite different from those needed in an on-level classroom. When you show attentiveness to your new AP teachers’ requests and demonstrate willingness to provide petitioned materials, your teachers will feel heard and supported.
The good news for budget-conscious administrators is that “resources” speaks to more than money. Time is a crucial resource first-time AP teachers desperately need. Administrators would be wise to consider adding an additional planning period for new AP teachers. Another suggestion is to relieve first-time AP teachers of additional responsibilities such as club sponsorships or extracurricular duties.
Each new school year brings unique challenges and opportunities for school administrators on every level. The challenges we endure; the opportunities we embrace. Empowering our promising new AP teachers with training, mentorship, and resources is one of those exciting yearly opportunities that, if done correctly, benefits everyone involved — students, parents, teachers, and administration.
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