Culture Shock, Adjustment and Acceptance at a New School


Before enrolling in UVEI’s Teacher Intern Program, Eric Braun was a higher education administrator and instructor. During his 30-year career, Eric helped hundreds of students earn their college degrees. At age 50, he enrolled in UVEI and completed the requirements for certification in elementary education in June 2016. Eric recently finished his first year of teaching at Bethel Elementary School (Vermont). Below, Eric describes the stages of first year teacher culture shock he experienced and suggests strategies to support educators during their first year of teaching.    

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It’s 8:45 on a quintessential New England fall morning, and I look around our seminar room at the faces of our fifteen newly-inducted teacher interns. Some are sipping coffee, others are tapping on their laptops, while many others are visiting and catching up with colleagues they haven’t seen in a week. It’s only September, but their faces and body language are not as sunny as the weather. I can tell that already some of the expected anxiety and uncertainty has started to bubble up. After all, our interns have been thrust into an unfamiliar school, a new classroom, and many have started teaching lessons even though they’re still figuring out just exactly what it means to be a teacher.  I’m sure I’ll be having a few empathetic conversations later today.

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I was fortunate to visit the opening days of school for two 2017 UVEI Principal Intern Program graduates last week. These schools are quite different: one a middle/high school and one a small rural elementary school. Demographics aside, I was struck by the feeling of hope coming from the administrators, teachers and students. I stood near to Laurie Greenberg, now the assistant principal at Mt. Abraham, as she and her colleagues greeted incoming seventh graders for their first day of orientation. The energy from all parties was palpable. The start of the new school year is the start of a new chapter where you can, as an educator and as a student, take what you learned last year and build on it. In a sense, you have the opportunity to become a better you just from the opportunity that a clearly delineated beginning and end of a school year offers.

In spending time with Laurie, I reflected on her ability to connect with her colleagues and students and her practices to cultivate these relationships. Her goals for the year are to focus on building trust by deliberately creating opportunities to know and understand those she will be working with. Here are a few of the ways Laurie plans to make meaningful connections this school year:

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