Dr. Naphtali Hoff will be co-hosting a Back to School Boot Camp to help new (and veteran) teachers and those who support them hit the ground running in the fall and enjoy a successful school year. To learn more about the Boot Camp and to register, visit https://www.impactfulcoaching.com/btsbc.

Recently, I sat down (on Zoom, of course!) with a group of school principals, public and independent, to find out what their top-of-mind concerns were for new teachers trying to succeed in these most unusual times.

They shared the following areas as most critical for new (and even veteran) teachers if they are to hit the ground running during the first days of the new school year and long beyond:

  1. Mastering the delivery of both in-person and remote instruction.
  2. Creating engaging, differentiated lessons to reach all learning styles.
  3. Developing a systematic approach to assessment and to ensure student accountability.
  4. Supporting your students’ social-emotional needs and development, while growing your mindset and confidence to succeed.
  5. Crafting a solid plan for the 1st 90 days, including relationship-building and a clear, consistent approach to classroom management.

In this article, I will unpack the first three points in greater detail.

If the recent school reopening guidance issued by NYC is any indication, teachers nationwide will need to be prepared to deliver both in-person and remote instruction in the fall. To master each form of delivery, teachers should be thinking about students’ UX, as in user-experience. What is it like to be on the receiving end of quality as well as poor in-person and virtual instruction?

With virtual learning, study up on how it differs from in-person education and set norms and expectations for your students to follow when remote. Once you determine what needs to be done, practice, practice, and practice some more, and then ask for feedback.

In today’s unsettled learning environment, it is more imperative than ever that teachers craft engaging, differentiated lessons for their classes. Student engagement means student interest, and it is a critical component for true comprehension and higher-order-thinking. 

Remote learning turned many lessons back to the frontal teaching model, a model that is not as conducive to learning. Teachers who were most effective figured out how to engage students at every turn. From the regular thumbs-up/thumbs down to dressing up, from vocabulary scavenger hunts to riddle solving, their students were immersed in active learning. Some classes even put on plays and other multifaceted, complex productions.

Remember that nothing encourages misbehavior more than a class that fails to excite kids’ minds. Students are intrinsically curious; they constantly search for meaning and stimulation. Classes that are too one-dimensional, that fail to involve students sufficiently, are too challenging (we would all rather be viewed as bad than as academically weak), or are very much information heavy, leaving little room for discussion and consideration, will not satisfy students’ curiosities or needs for authentic intellectual stimulation. 

When we differentiate, we consider all of the learners in our classrooms. This can be done by planning for different learning styles (beyond the typical visual-spatial- and auditory-oriented presentations) as well as giving students increased control over what they learn, how they learn it, and how they demonstrate mastery of the content.

Good educators know that assessment is a central component of their craft. It is necessary to determine the answer to a most fundamental question: “Did they learn what I taught?”

There is, unfortunately, a gap (sometimes quite sizable) between teaching and learning. We cannot simply transport information from our mouths and minds into our students’ brains. Instead, we are required to figure out how best to organize and deliver content in a way that allows for the most complete transference, with deep processing and strong retention.

As we do this, we have to consider such factors as student readiness, interest, and learning style. We also need to think about certain variables that we cannot control, like our students’ home life and social relationships. These factors sit on top of the primary task of content delivery and our need to assess what they have or have not learned.

Assessment is one of the most important components of education, but not just in the summative or even intermediate sense of the term. Teachers ought to be assessing on a regular basis – what is commonly called formative assessment – in order to ensure that the students are grasping the content and are able to demonstrate their mastery in some fashion.

Whether they use quick, simple checks for understanding, such as choral response or head nodding, or something a bit more elaborate (like having students complete a one minute paper or a graphic organizer), teachers need to be collecting regular evidence of student learning before simply moving forward. And if the feedback demonstrates confusion, then a re-teaching (partial or full, to some or all students) is in order.

Let’s be honest. For most teachers, assessment is the least enjoyable part of the job (faculty meetings and report cards notwithstanding). We would all rather be teaching, engaging, and facilitating learning rather than go through the assessment process, particularly the grading component.

But we need to remember that if we don’t assess frequently then we cannot really know if we are achieving our goals and making the desired impact. This may very well mean moving forward despite not having all (perhaps even most) of your students on board.

The good news is that formative assessment doesn’t need to be labor intensive. Often it can be completed in seconds without any work on the teacher’s part. (“All right, class. If what I just said is correct, indicate that by making a “c” with your hand. If it was incorrect, show that with an “i.”)

The key is being committed to soliciting ongoing feedback and then being willing to analyze it and use it correctly, even if that means adjusting your lesson and unit plans as a result.


In my next article, I will discuss the other two critical learning areas for new teachers: 

  1. Supporting your students’ social-emotional needs and development, while growing your mindset and confidence to succeed, and 
  2. Crafting a solid plan for the 1st 90 days, including relationship-building and a clear, consistent approach to classroom management.


Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach who helps busy leaders be more productive so that they can scale profits with less stress and get home at a decent hour. For a free, no obligation consultation, please call 212.470.6139 or email nh@impactfulcoaching.com. Buy his leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss”, on Amazon. Download his free productivity blueprint at ImpactfulCoaching.com/ Productivity-Blueprint.


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