New Teachers are Cheap: The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your First-Years

A brief introductory tangent… a trip down memory lane…

If you’re an aspiring educational leader, one thing you need to know is first year teachers are cheap. You can get about twenty new teachers for the price of an old one like me. That’s a bargain. New teachers are young, enthusiastic… Besides, I could die at any moment. All the junk food in American society’s reducing our life expectancy by the hour–I’ve got Common Core-aligned stats to prove it.

Best to hire a handful of young teachers and get rid of all the dead weight.

I’m here to help you get the most out of your new hires. I remember what it was like to be a new teacher. I was so excited to be teaching I would’ve washed your car then come back to coach every sport, advise all the classes, and start fifty clubs. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Ahh, I remember it like it was yesterday. The transition to teaching could’ve been a financial disaster, but I had one thing most first-year teachers don’t have–a corporate job. I planned to leave Corporate America to teach but I couldn’t afford to just leave. I’d just taken out another twenty-five thousand dollar loan for the privilege of cutting my salary in half and I still needed health insurance. My friends laughed–especially the ones who’d achieved the post-college goal of paying their bills by themselves.

My boss was one of those leaders who inspires people to greatness. I look at leaders both in and out of education and wish they could all be like him. He cared deeply for his people, and he knew teaching was the right move for me. He let me work weekends so I could eat something other than cat food, which is decidedly not vegetarian. I stayed, even into teaching.

Every other week, I’d get a paycheck from each job and compare them. They were nearly the same–twenty hours of corporate work equals sixty hours teaching. There were other perks to keeping that job besides the money–the corporate copier. I’m sorry–I realize now that was company paper. It never occurred to me at the time. I just couldn’t imagine being in a workplace without supplies and working copiers, which is roughly what teaching is.

I’d put the stack of papers in the copier when I got to the office, push the button and go work. I’d come back in a week and everything I needed to teach was ready for me. I didn’t have to yell, swear, fix the machine, bring my own paper, wait two days for things to come back from the copy center or fill out requisitions for paper. It was worth the 2.5 hour commute just to use the copier, even if I was doing it for free.

Most new teachers don’t have the luxury of such a transition. They work twenty-four hours a day and feel they’re not doing enough. I’m glad I made it enough years where I have some experience, but if you’re an educational leader and you haven’t hired ten new teachers to replace the likes of me, you clearly never took a business class. If you’ve already made the commitment to hiring new and inexpensive teachers to get you through the budget crisis, this is for you.

The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Most out of New Teachers:

1. Give them the worst schedules and let everyone tell them “We’ve paid our dues and someday, you’ll get to teach this.” It’s a proven method for training new teachers fast. Trial by fire. The good one’s will make it through. Give them the classes that are the toughest to teach or manage. Everyone’s got to learn somehow. Best to get them up and running on the fly.

2. Make sure you take away all the gadgets and tech they just learned about in teaching school. Your new teacher’s probably pretty psyched to get students into the 21st century, but the real world of school doesn’t actually allow them to use such things. Technology is “broken, blocked and banned.” After all, what if students do bad things? And what district can afford to upgrade their Windows XP anyway? We’ve got standardized tests to pay for. Set the expectations early so they don’t expect to use YouTube in their classes later on.

3. Go up to them with a smile and ask them to coach, advise, and sit on every committee. That’s how I got my first class advisor position–my mouth was filled with sandwich and my boss blindsided me, “I’ve got a problem!” The problem: the freshmen needed an advisor. Phew. It wasn’t “You’re fired!” Of course I’ll be the advisor!

4. Make sure they feel paranoid. They’ll do a better job that way. If they’re constantly hearing messages like “tenure this, seniority that” they’ll work twice as hard. Make sure people say things like “You’re so lucky to even have a job.” Make sure they know their very life and the lives of their students and all future generations of children their students may have will ride on that vocab list. Indeed, the very American way of life as we know it is tied to their performance.

5. Give them a classroom and an old text book in September and then stop by in June. They’ve got the book. That’s all they need. After all, they graduated from teacher training. They’re professionals. What can you do for them? You’re busy. You have initiatives to meet. They’ll appreciate the latitude you give them by never showing up again.

6. Evaluate them with rubrics and checkboxes. Stop by and check off the boxes, nodding your head vaguely. When they ask “Did I do a good job?” tell them not to worry about it. Three weeks later, throw a paper copy in their boxes with little to no feedback and a couple really low scores–everyone needs improvement, after all. Leaving them to wonder how they got those scores will ensure they’ll work extra hard to improve in every category.


Do any of these situations feel vaguely familiar to you? I’m not an educational leader–I’m “just a teacher” but when I see a new teacher, I want the light to stay in his or her eyes. I don’t want them to feel hazed and beaten down–the job’s tough enough as it is. More teachers burn out than emergency response professionals. Many schools in need of improvement  chew them up and spit them out, creating a cycle where teachers both teachers and students suffer. This tarnishes the field of education in both in the eyes of the media and the hearts of the community.

Thankfully, many schools have mentor programs, but even for those that don’t, support networks–professional learning networks– or PLNs–lie outside of school as close as Twitter chats like New Teacher Chat at 8PM ET on Wednesdays (#ntchat) or EdCamps held throughout the country. New teachers can leave that sense of isolation behind and understand the nation is there to support them so they can master their craft.

New teachers need to feel they are not alone. They need that sense of teamwork, camaraderie, and esprit de corps. They bring fresh ideas to the table, getting paid much less for doing, in many cases, even more work. Their happiness and development must be a priority for schools and educational leaders.

It’s easy to see new teachers smiling and walk on by. As educational leaders, make sure you don’t. Get to know them well. These are the people, who, when you make the right hires, will change your organization. Make sure they feel you’re committed to them for the long term. It will pay students back many times over.

[Shameless plug: I wrote a book called “Don’t Sniff the Glue: A Teacher’s Misadventures in Education Reform.” Presales will be starting soon. I’d be honored if you’d visit my blog at and sign up for the mailing list so I can let you know when you can get a copy. Thanks for reading ConversationEd, too.

Dawn Casey-Rowe is an educator in Rhode Island who is heavily involved with tech startups focused on educational resources.  She is a regular contributor to ConversationED, Edudemic and TeachThought.  Her blog is

2 Responses

  1. donna

    My 4 kids struggle with multiple disabilities.I opted my kids out of testing.I have to fight every year because the staff and teachers are not considerate for my kids feelings.

  2. Jim Oase

    “You can get about twenty new teachers for the price of an old one like me. That’s a bargain.” ~ Dawn Casey Rowe

    What creates value? Effective labor creates value. We cannot print or digitize labor, therefore value can only be created with labor.

    Education involves using highly specialized labor who’s task it is to develop and train the innate skills unique to each of their students. Humans, unlike any other species, are guided by an invisible hand towards individual specialization such that the synergy results in mutually improving man’s standard of living while providing a living for the individual.

    Day in day out each of us endeavors to purchase the best quality product for the best price. Today we are talking about “experienced” teachers being replaced by “inexperienced” teachers. How do experienced teachers show their capabilities? Like all business people with their products. Quality products at a good price created their own demand. School systems for decades have been producing the graduates that are the leaders of their communities, these communities are going bankrupt or are going extinct. Graduating at the top of a failing education system is not the solution for improving the level of public education.

    There is a significant difference between 15 years on the job and 15 years of bringing out innate talents and skills of individuals. Communities prosper in proportion to the useful education of their individuals.

    Teachers and communities are the victim of compulsory education. Teachers cannot use their training for the benefit of the community because teachers are controlled, as to what they can develop in each individual student, by “experts” from outside the community. Students cannot shop around for an education suite for their talents and desires.

    “This division of labour, from which so many advantages are derived, is not originally the effect of any human wisdom, which foresees and intends that general opulence to which it gives occasion. It is the necessary, though very slow and gradual, consequence of a certain propensity in human nature, which has in view no such extensive utility ; the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.” ~ Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776


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