Surviving Your Rookie Year of Teaching: 3 Key Ideas & High Leverage Techniques

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Course Date: 15 August 2014 to 12 September 2014 (4 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

Learn 3 high leverage ideas and techniques to thrive in your first (or fifteenth) year of teaching.

Estimated Workload: 3-4 hours/week

Course Instructors

Orin Gutlerner

Orin Gutlerner is the founding director of the Match Teacher Residency and the Charles Sposato Graduate School of Education. Prior to coming to Match, Orin directed Harvard’s Undergraduate Teacher Education Program, and he served as the director of alternative teacher recruitment and training programs for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. He also recently served on the DESE’s Task Force on Teacher Evaluation. Orin started his career in education in 1996 as a teacher in rural North Carolina through Teach For America. He has a BA in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin and a M.Ed. from Harvard.

Course Description

Frustration. Hard Knocks. Sleepless nights. Tears.

Those are just a few of the ways that rookie teachers describe their first year in the profession. And those sentiments have been validated by countless research studies that show that students, on average, learn significantly less when they’re taught by rookies. Unfortunately, many educators believe this is a necessary “rite of passage” – a sort of hazing that one must experience on their path to effective teaching.

We don’t believe that.

Over the past 6 years, the Match Teacher Residency has developed and refined an approach to specifically address the challenges that are unique to the rookie teacher experience. In this four-week course, we’ll explore the three ideas that we've found to contribute radically to success as a rookie teacher.

“It's been a fantastic learning experience. I've taken several Coursera courses and this one is definitely the most original and creative in its approach. I suppose its main advantage is the straightforwardness of teaching, clarity and impressive visual representation. Really looking forward to Part II, where rookie teachers may grow and develop their initial knowledge even further.”

“This was my first Coursera course and it was really helpful, although I am a 12th year teacher. One can never say that he/she can manage the class successfully every day, every hour. All the advise was very much appreciated. Many thanks to all: Orin, Ross, and Kat. I await your next steps!

“I am happy to report that it has come in VERY handy in my subbing jobs, in not only helping get the classroom management under control at the start of each period, but in keeping control for the rest of the period.  I even used it again yesterday, at another charter school where I sub only occasionally, and where the students are also a handful to manage.  I know the regular staff noticed and saw the effects.  So, it seems I'm racking up points towards some good references when I do apply for a permanent position!  I have this course to thank for taking me from being an ‘adequate’ sub to being an ‘outstanding’ one!”


1. Develop Classroom Management Automaticity

Certain skills that delay a novice are automatic for an expert. Dribbling a basketball. Driving a car. Addressing classroom misbehavior is similarly difficult for a novice and effortless for an expert. At one moment the novice teacher might let a particular misbehavior slide entirely; at another they might respond too harshly; and at yet another they might respond with halting uncertainty. In this part of our course, we’ll cover concrete techniques and exercises that can help a rookie teacher develop the classroom management automaticity of an expert. 

2. Practice Good Ratio 

Teachers love the spotlight. Often, a natural taste for being the center of attention might have drawn somebody to teaching in the first place. But we’ve concluded that there’s an inverse relationship between a teacher’s talking and his/her students’ learning: the more you talk, the less they learn. Doug Lemov from Uncommon Schools first coined the term “Ratio:” the amount of teacher work in a lesson compared to the amount of student work. Rookie teachers tend to have very bad Ratio because they often spend more energy thinking about their lessons in terms of what they want to say rather than what they want their students to do. In this part of our course, we’ll address when and how to use specific techniques such as “Turn and Talks” and “Stop and Jots” and “Student-to-Student Interactions” to get students to do more of the intellectual heavy-lifting in lessons. 

3. Call Parents

Many preparation programs counsel new teachers to build positive relationships with parents, but few show them exactly how to approach that work. Lacking those details, it’s no surprise that rookie teachers quickly become overwhelmed by all of the aspects of their job that seem more pressing and urgent. “Sure it would be nice to have better relationships with parents, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a priority, when I’m drowning in papers to grade, lessons to plan and a messy class to organize!” We understand that sentiment, but we believe a teacher should view his/her investment of time in building relationships with parents as a key strategy for motivating students to give more effort in class. In this part of the course, we will very precisely show teachers how much time to spend phoning parents, what to say, and how to say it. 


This course is expected to have four highly interactive 30 minute sessions that are a mix of lecture, videos of classroom practice, and conversations with experienced teachers. Each week will also included a supplementary reading to reinforce or examine in more depth that week's content. 

Students will be assessed via two mechanisms: (1) Multiple choice quizzes that address descriptions of key concepts; and (2) short-answer analysis and description of teaching techniques. Peer assessment is required for the short-answer writing exercises. The course instructional team will schedule times after each session for interacting with students via the course’s Discussion Board. 

Course Workload

3-4 hours/week

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