by Harry and Rosemary
Your First Job
When You Are Hired, whether you are a novice or veteran teacher,
one of three things can happen to you.
1. You Are Assigned
You are simply given an assignment and told to go and teach. There is no person or plan to help you if you need help. Only the naïve think that they know it all and that you do not need help and support. Research overwhelmingly says that over 50 percent of you reading this column right now will not be teaching after 3 to 5 years. Seventeen percent of you, if you are a novice teacher, will not even last one year. Your talent and energy are much too valuable to see one to five years of your life wasted, the education you pursued become inconsequential, and the hope of your dreams and aspirations be snuffed out.
2. You Are Given a Mentor
You are simply given a mentor to contact if you need help. With luck, this person perhaps is trained, compensated, accessible, knowledgeable, and willing to help. Just giving a teacher a mentor is not sufficient. The beginning teacher is at the mercy of the mentor's philosophy, schedule, competence, and training, if any. There is no uniform mission with individual mentors. Twenty new teachers plus 20 different mentors equals 20 people teaching in 20 different ways.
3. You Are Part of a District's Induction Program
You are part of a systematic, integrated plan formulated by the district's core of administrators, teachers, and perhaps the union, designed to welcome you and make you feel a part of the school or the district. The purpose of this multi-year process is to help you become an effective and professional educator who will stay with the school or district.
The Major Question to Ask
When you go for an interview, the major question to ask is, "Does the school district have a new teacher induction program?" An induction program is designed to train, support, and retain you. An induction program is a way the district sends a message to you that they value you and want you to succeed and stay.
Some districts with induction programs have reduced their attrition rate to five percent with their new teachers. Districts without an induction program typically have attrition rates of 50 percent. Districts with induction programs care that you succeed. Let them help you to succeed. Then after a few years you can join the district's induction team and you can help other new teachers succeed, too.
A First Year Teacher Succeeds
Melissa Pantoja, who we discussed in our June column, succeeded in her first year as a teacher. Not perfect, but happy with her success and looking forward to her second year as a teacher.
There is a reason why she succeeded, just as so many other first year teachers have succeeded. Melissa Pantoja of Oklahoma was the product of the El Reno Public School's New Teacher Induction Program. Simply put, an induction program is used to help teachers new to the profession and/or the district succeed. Good school districts are the result of having trained effective teachers.
Although induction programs differ from district to district, they all have certain components in common. They all have a series of preschool sessions, bi-weekly or monthly meetings, demonstration classrooms, mentors, and administrative help.
Mentoring Is Not Induction
Do not confuse the term "induction" with "mentoring." A mentor is simply an experienced teacher who is provided to help you. That person perhaps is trained and usually receives compensation or released time. You could be at the mercy of the mentor's qualifications and availability. Whereas, an induction program is an organized, structured process designed by the district or school to provide immediate and sustained help for you. Good mentors are very important, but they must be part of the entire induction process.
For instance, in El Reno newly hired teachers, whether novice or veteran teachers, get a full week of orientation to the school district and training in classroom management and instructional strategies. Both administrators and teachers provide the week's training, with some of the sessions conducted by the district's mentor teachers who continue to provide year-long support for the inductees.
The El Reno Public School District believes that a "team" approach is more likely to ensure the success of new teachers than a single one-on-one type of support system. Therefore, their new teacher induction program enlists the ongoing support of staff development members, principals, coordinators, mentor teachers, school board members, and supervisory staff members in order to ensure that their new teachers are highly trained and adequately supported, increasing the likelihood that these new teachers will remain in the profession.
There are excellent New Teacher Induction Programs in many districts and schools. We will talk about them in subsequent columns. In the June teachers.net Gazette, Jan Fisher has an excellent article on the California induction process. These programs believe, as we do, that the teaching profession is the noblest profession in the world.
Getting back to Melissa Pantoja, at the end of her first year she wrote, "I'm so excited about what I've learned in my first year of teaching. I have used so many procedures and techniques that have made this year a success. Next year will be a great opportunity for me to make adjustments in my classroom management and use procedures that I have found to be successful. I have so many ideas and I am eager to use them." Even as a teacher, she is still learning.
You Are Hired to Make a Difference
We are most grateful for the questions we received from our last column. Some asked for first day scripts for their classrooms, claiming that their classroom was not like Melissa Pantoja's. However, we prefer not to give you such pat answers. We believe that every teacher has dignity, intelligence, and creativity and that you can develop your own style. Read what Melissa Pantoja did and use that as a model to prepare your own first days of school.
Instead of asking, "What am I supposed to do?" and expect someone to hand you a script that you can parrot your way through, learn to ask yourself, "What is it that I need to know so that my classroom will do the things that I need it to do?"
Mark Pollock, in Sacramento, California is a good example of this kind of professionalism exhibited by a teacher. He can be accessed at www.amazon.com. Go to the listing for our book The First Days of School and note that there are over 50 comments. Mark Pollack says, "This book is about refining your own style, how to steal ideas from other teachers, and how to be the best possible teacher ever! No book can tell you what to do, and this one does not. It instead gives the reasons for you to teach well, and how to go about doing that. You must act on your own to create your materials and make your classroom function."
We remember so distinctly this novice teacher at an induction meeting who was taught the procedure of collecting papers in a classroom. It was explained that passing papers forward is not a good technique because students may hit another student on the back to get their attention as the papers come forward up the aisle, thus creating problems. A technique was explained and practiced on how to have students pass papers across the aisles, which is described in The First Days of School. On the evaluation of the induction program, this teacher said that the technique did not work and implied that the induction program was not of any value.
The teacher never reflected on what happened in the classroom and made no attempt to try another variation to the procedure. Instead, the technique or the program was at fault.
There is a saying that good habits are easy to obtain, whereas bad habits are impossible to break. Begin your career as a professional educator by acquiring the best of all the good habits-being a continual learner. The worst habit you can acquire is to blame-whether it's the students, administration, schools of education, in-service meetings, parents, or whatever.
You Make a Statement of Dignity
If you do not take responsibility for yourself, no one else will. It's that simple. You make a statement of dignity to yourself and to the teaching profession when you acknowledge and accept that you make a difference.
YOU are the promise of your students' world. You
are their hope and dream for a brighter future. Prepare yourself
to be an effective teacher so that you can light their candles.
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- A Grateful Goodbye After 15 Years (Jun 2015)
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