by Harry and Rosemary
No Job Opennings?
San Jose, California, lost one of its best and most dedicated
teachers when Susan Fortino relocated to Medford, Oregon.
Her husband was to be employed by Harry and David, home of our
favorites Moose Mix and chocolate covered cherries! She brought
with her an impeccable pedigree:
- She is on page 178 of The First Days of School and only effective teachers are featured.
- She is a product of Holly Oak Elementary School, a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.
- She is a protégé of Mercedes Boles, National Principal of the Year. In 2000, she was one of only five selected nationwide.
- She is a colleague of Cindy Wong, of "Give Me Five" fame, as featured in the video series, The Effective Teacher.
These experiences developed in her a true sense for professionalism, thus she would be a great asset as a role model and mentor to all future teachers. So, one would think that getting a job in the Medford School District would be slam-dunk. Not so. To Susan's shock, the Medford School District had no openings!
Is it possible that a school district would have no openings at a time of worldwide teacher shortages? But more importantly, why were there no openings in the Medford School District?
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that 15 million more teachers around the world must be hired over the next decade. While the shortage is most severe in south Asia and Africa, wealthy countries like the United States also face significant shortfalls in key areas.
- On October 15, 2000, the Toronto Star reported that Canada's school boards no longer can find enough qualified teachers for the country's 5 million schoolchildren and are bracing themselves for the shortage to get worse. More than two-thirds of the 272 school boards surveyed said they fear they will have trouble hiring the teachers they need next year.
- On January 31, 2002, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that at least 30,000 of the students in the Philadelphia public schools have teachers who are not fully certified. More than 900 apprentice teachers are in the city's classrooms and nearly 400 more have yet to pass all or part of the state certification exam. More than two-thirds of 26 new math teachers in the Philadelphia schools failed their certification tests last year.
Increasing Effective Teaching
Medford is a community of 13,000 students served by 14 elementary schools and 4 secondary schools. The reason why Medford may have few, if any, openings is a universal fact of life. All people want to succeed.
The companies and institutions, such as schools, that succeed are the ones who are able to keep happy and successful employees. To do so, they invest time and money into a training program, or in schools, a staff development program to ensure that both teachers and students succeed.
Early every year Fortune magazine lists its "100 Best Companies to Work For." Heading this list is the Container Store of Dallas, Texas, which sells water pails and laundry hampers for homes. They train their employees 162 hours per year! Even the last rated business on the Fortune list trains its employees over 60 hours a year.
Whereas, it is not uncommon for a school district to have one or two days devoted to what is erroneously called a staff development day, which is nothing more than a speaker who may not talk about anything that is relevant to a district's mission. It's understandable why teachers grade papers and read newspapers at these pointless, missionless meetings.
Medford has a mission. Their unmistakable mission is to ensure professional growth by maintaining and improving the
of each individual within the organization, which will result in increasing effective and efficient teaching and student learning. This may sound like a platitude, as so many mission statements do, until you consider and see their 100-page staff development handbook, listing over 75 different course offerings available each year.
- skills, and
The superintendent, Steven R. Wisely, says,
"The standards we hold for ourselves are even greater than those we hold for our students. In the educational and activity arenas, being second is just not acceptable in the Medford School District. To do that, we must believe that our only limits are those we place on ourselves. Through learning we become masters of our tasks. With that in mind, the School Board has made a strong commitment to providing a district-wide Staff Development Program."
Kathy McCollum is Medford's Director of Staff Development. At Medford, a major role of the administrators and staff developers is to immerse their new teachers in the district's culture and unite the new teachers with everyone in the district in order to form a cohesive, supportive instructional team. New teachers are quickly made a part of the district "family." When you feel like you are part of a family, you don't leave a job.
You, also, don't wait until after school begins and the beginning teachers are in trouble to start a professional development program; you create a culture of professional development before beginning teachers even see their first class. The new teachers who will advance in the profession will be the ones who continue to invest in their lives by continuously learning and growing.
The best way to cultivate an attitude of lifelong learning in beginning teachers is through a new teacher induction program. The Medford schools had a three-year new teacher induction program. Each year had a specific focus.
- Year 1: Classroom management
- Year 2: Instructional strategies (Instruction can't begin until the class is managed.)
- Year 3: Peer group coaching (By the third year, the new teachers are able to help the brand new teachers.)
Now Medford has a two-year new teacher induction program. They may claim that cost prevented the program from going three years, but we maintain that a culture and a family had been developed so that peer coaching was no longer needed. Newer teachers could go anywhere, ask, and receive help. This is the culture that has been established in the district as a result of all of the new teachers going through the induction program. Remember how in our January 2002 column http://teachers.net/wong/JAN02 we talked about Goldfarb Elementary School in Las Vegas and how ALL the teachers helped to "mentor" the new teachers.
New teachers stay where there is a learning community and a family culture of helping new teachers to succeed.
Skills of Independence
Kathy McCollum says that teacher induction programs go a long way toward filling the gaps needed by new teachers to succeed. She noticed that the new teachers were teaching these beautiful lessons, but in many cases, the students were not on task. The behavior, the interaction wasn't there. So, the administrative team decided to pursue the area of classroom management. "Once classroom management was tightened up," Kathy McCollum said, "then we could transfer over and begin concentrating on instructional strategies."
Medford teaches classroom management based on procedures: how to sharpen your pencil without poking people, how to line up productively, how to hand in your papers, how to come into class and get ready to learn. Kathy McCollum explains, "All these things are procedures, or 'skills of independence.'"
A skill of independence is a skill that students need to develop in order to be independent as well as interdependent learners.
The technique of procedures learned by the new teachers helps to prevent approximately 90 percent of the problems teachers encounter in the classroom. Intervention techniques are also taught to teachers to use after a problem has occurred in the classroom. Kathy McCollum says, "The principals are telling us they are so impressed. They think the classroom management is better than it's ever been. They feel the prevention is there and teachers aren't just intervening all the time."
Kathy McCollum says, "The most important thing is that, when a district is considering making a change, that it makes the change systematically. It must become an integral part of the culture of the organization. We really expect teachers to use effective classroom management and instructional skills. We train them, and we have the expectation that they will use the training in the classroom."
Classroom Management Procedures
Each year Kathy McCollum shares with us the procedures developed by the new teachers during their workshops held before the first day of school. This year we received a collection of 33 of what they call "Procedure Lesson Plans."
The workshop where the following procedures are generated are taught by Kathy McCollum and Dr. Carolyn Ruck, Education Professor at Southern Oregon University. Like all good new teacher induction programs, the Medford program is a structured, organized program. They don't just give a new teacher a mentor with a directive to go and reflect on what you are doing.
Included in this collection were such procedures as
- Lining Up and Walking in Line
- Active Participation/Listening
- Being Called Upon
- How to Enter the Classroom When Tardy
- Transition From One Group to Another
- Proper Audience Etiquette
- Turning Monitors Off to Start Class
- I'm Done, Now What?
You will be impressed with what you are about to read. Remember, these are beginning teachers or teachers new to the district, who have had the benefit of a structured, induction program. These procedures do not necessarily work perfectly as they were developed before the first day of school. But it's a start and the effective teacher constantly makes changes and adjustments to any procedure or lesson that is not working.
Each teacher must develop procedures for his or her own classroom. To illustrate, we share two different versions of the same procedure from two different teachers. To learn more about how to develop and teach procedures, read our past columns and Unit C in The First Days of School.
Lining Up and Walking in Line
Oak Grove Elementary School
- How would you feel if you were late to recess because the class didn't line up quietly?
- Today we are going to learn the correct way to get in a class line and walk in that line.
- We can get to where we need to be on time if we line up and walk in our line in an appropriate manner.
Walk quietly to place in line
Hands to self
Feet to self
Stand quietly facing forward
Small space between students
Walk quietly at slow, even place
Chairs being pushed in
- Teacher models and verbally explains.
- The teacher calls my table and I walk quietly to my place in line.
- I'm going to keep my hands and feet to myself and not talk.
- If someone talks to me, I will ignore it or give him or her the "shhh" signal.
- I will stand quietly until the teacher starts the line moving. I will stay in my place and continue walking quietly to our destination.
- Teacher will call one table at a time and students will line up correctly.
- Have the rest of the class tell what they did correctly.
"Make Way for Ducklings"
- We will use this procedure every time we need to leave the classroom together as a class, or when we leave another common area and return to class.
- After each table has lined up correctly, walk class out to recess.
Wilson Elementary School
Students in a line
- Have you ever seen a mother duck leading her ducklings? How did they look? Why is it important for the ducklings to follow their mother?
- You need to learn how to line up quickly and quietly. Students line up for recess, lunch, field trips, fire drills, going home.
- Learning to line up is important because you don't want to be late and miss the fun.
Hands at sides
Quiet movement -- walking feet
Chairs being pushed in
- Teacher sits in seat. Think aloud.
- Stand up, push chair in and move by going the shortage distance to the door.
- Stand facing front, hands at sides, not speaking.
- Use small groups/table, one at a time. Other groups critique.
- Each group has a chance to critique and practice.
- Then use the whole class and practice lining up 3 times.
- Use timer to see how long it takes.
- When will we be lining up?
- We will have many opportunities to use this skill every day.
What to Do When You Finish Your Work
North Medford High School
- I don't teach a class the last block of the day on Red Days. What do you think I do during that time? Students answer.
- Teacher responds, "I'm reviewing the classes I taught and preparing for future classes. No employer would allow me to just goof off because I had finished teaching for the day."
- I have the same expectations for you and it will help you develop habits that contribute towards your current and future success.
When finished with work:
Reading is not free time. It is part of the school's plan to improve your language arts skills.
- Review your work.
- Work on incomplete past assignments
- Silently read from a book of your choice.
- If you didn't bring a book, find an interesting topic in the text.
- The teacher must approve any other activity.
- Teacher conducts a think aloud, mini-skit modeling of the procedure.
- Have each student follow the above steps in relation to the seatwork they have just finished.
- Have various students share which step they are doing.
- Ask questions to check for understanding.
- We will be using this procedure each time you have completed your work and there is still time in the classroom.
- Teacher gives students 10 minutes of time during which they are to pretend that they are finished with classwork. They demonstrate that they are able to find something productive to do in this 10 minutes
Heading Your Paper
Jefferson Elementary School
- Teacher tells personal story about the best paper he/she wrote that was thrown away because it didn't have a name on it.
- Today we are going to learn how to properly head our paper so that you will be able to earn the grade you deserve.
- Ask, "What should we do first after we have our paper?"
- Make a list of their responses.
- Name (first and last) in upper right hand corner
- Student number
- Date in numbers (3/15/02)
- Title centered on top line
- Teacher puts on overhead a wide-ruled, lined piece of paper.
- Teacher names each step of the procedure as she performs it.
- Teacher checks for understanding by:
- Putting up another overhead of lined paper.
- Teacher purposefully places steps incorrectly.
- Teacher asks students for a thumbs up or down for correctness.
- Teacher gives each student a piece of wide-ruled, lined paper and asks them to head their paper for the certain title at hand.
- Teacher may remind them as she watches them perform the task.
- Teacher checks for understanding by choosing a volunteer's paper and asking yes or no questions as to whether the steps of the procedure were done correctly.
- Teacher tells students that they will be doing this on their assigned papers the rest of the year.
- Ask them "why" again.
She's Hired and Successful
Yes, Susan Fortino got a job at the last minute in the Medford School District and is very happy and successful. She says,
My success has largely been made possible by the tremendous guidance, knowledge, and support I have received from my principal and colleagues at Jefferson Elementary School and the several outstanding Staff Development Workshops the district has offered this year.
Medford School District takes great measures to ensure the success of its employees. Through their incredible support I am able to truly focus on the joy of teaching and ultimately the success of my students. Success as a teacher is when the most challenging student in your class, both academically and behaviorally, tells you that you are the best teacher they ever had! That is the joy of teaching.
For most school districts, March is the usual time for the renewal of teacher contracts and declarations of intent. If you are not succeeding because your district does not have an induction program to help you become an effective teacher, consider moving on to another school district as we said in our March 2001 column http://teachers.net/wong/MAR01.
We sincerely hope that you are succeeding and your contract is renewed because the district recognizes your value. And that your intent is to stay with the district because they are helping you become the teacher you were meant to be.
As the district goes through its ritual rite of Spring, take some time for your own personal renewal and declaration of purpose.
- Take a long walk or hike and reflect on the past year. What are the triumphs and the battles still to conquer? Let the freshness of the season fill your mind with new ways of doing things.
- Look at a budding blossom and visualize the beauty that is yearning to spring forth. Find the faces of your students in every bursting bloom.
- Commit to finding the right nutrients to make every child flourish and be the best they can be. Even the weakest of seedlings has the potential to develop into a form of lasting wonder and beauty.
Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Everyone needs poking and prodding and staking until the roots are firmly in place. Stand back and marvel at the creation. Then and only then will you experience the true joy of teaching -- when you make a difference.
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