The following scenario is an example of a typical application of TIP. It illustrates how a mentor —let’s call her Annette— helped Gerry, a new middle school history teacher, through TIP’s eight steps.
Gerry is a little more than one month into his second year as a teacher. Last year, fresh out of college, Gerry received positive evaluations from his principal, and overall, he experienced a successful first year—except for his ancient world history class. He is teaching that class again this year and is having similar concerns about its effectiveness. Annette, his mentor, feels that Gerry is ready to take responsibility for determining what he needs to know and be able to do in order to make the class more successful. Gerry and Annette agree to use TIP for this purpose. Following is an account of the eight TIP steps undertaken by Gerry with facilitation by his mentor.
Annette: What is the most enjoyable aspect of your teaching, Gerry?
Gerry: Seeing my students get involved in class projects because they are really getting into the work. I love seeing them find a way to hook into what we’re studying. It’s very gratifying to know they are learning and that they enjoy doing so.
Annette: If you had to describe in one sentence how you know whether your students are learning, what would you say?
Gerry: I know my students are learning when they can show me they mastered the objectives of the lesson by applying the concepts in a project and getting correct answers on tests.
Annette: You expressed concern about your ancient world history class. According to criteria you just expressed, are the students in your ancient world history class learning to your satisfaction?
Annette: Tell me more. Other than passing tests, what do you want them to get out of class that they are not getting now?
Gerry: Well, I want my students to be critical, engaged, active citizens prepared to participate in a democratic society. I also want them to know salient aspects of ancient cultures and ways in which contemporary life has evolved from those cultures. But they just don’t seem to get the connection. They just go through the motions and their test scores are horrible. I really would like them to understand that ancient world history is relevant to their lives, but I don’t seem to be able to get them to do so. Instead, I get comments like “Why do we have to learn this?”
Annette: I know that you have used several strategies designed to make connections between ancient and contemporary life. For example, I recall that you had students identify on a map which modern countries used to be under the control of the Roman empire and explain how these countries have been influenced by ancient Rome.
Gerry: Yes, that one worked out OK. Another thing I’ve tried is assigning an end-of-unit paper explaining how three aspects of the civilization we studied have affected our lives. They didn’t do well on that assignment, but they did have fun with another one where they dressed up in togas for an activity where they role played that they were teenagers in ancient Rome. I pulled a pop quiz at the end of the activity.
Gerry: I guess they were motivated to have fun, but not to learn the material. I really believe they would be motivated to learn if I could get them to connect ancient world history to their own lives.
Annette: We can talk more about that toga activity another time, but for now, it seems you feel that you need to find better ways to teach the curriculum in ways that motivate students to understand the material in terms of their own lives.
Annette: Would you say that there is a difference between the way things are in that class and the way you would like them to be, and that difference bothers youprofessionally?”
Gerry: Absolutely. It bothers me quite a bit.
Annette: Imagine that your students are motivated and are fully engaged in the class. Using present tense, Gerry, can you describe to me what is happening in such an ideal classroom? What are students saying and doing? What are you saying and doing?
Gerry My students are enthusiastically raising their hands (smiling) and offering examples of how ancient Rome relates to their lives. They are explaining how ancient Rome matters because our government is based on those principles, and they accurately express this in tests. I am encouraging them to talk about issues in ancient Rome much the way people their age today would speak out about their opinions. They are really getting into it, and their test scores show it.
Gerry writes: How can I make ancient world history relevant to my students? What does relevant mean? How can I measure relevancy? How can I help my students connect ancient world history to their lives? How can I help them to see that history matters in our world today? How can I get students to make connections between ancient civilizations and our world today, especially in terms of their own lives?
Hal Portner is a former K-12 teacher and administrator. He was assistant director of the Summer Math Program for High School Women and Their Teachers at Mount Holyoke College, and for 24 years he was a teacher and then administrator in two Connecticut public school districts. From 1985 to 1995, he was a member of the Connecticut State Department of Education’s Bureau of Certification and Professional Development, where, among other responsibilities, he served as coordinator of the Connecticut Institute for Teaching and Learning and worked closely with school districts to develop and carry out professional development and teacher evaluation plans and programs.
Portner writes, develops materials, trains mentors, facilitates the development of new teacher and peer-mentoring programs, and consults for school districts and other educational organizations and institutions. In addition to Mentoring New Teachers, he is the author of Training Mentors Is Not Enough: Everything Else Schools and Districts Need to Do (2001), Being Mentored: A Guide for Protégés (2002), Workshops that Really Work: The ABCs of Designing and Delivering Sensational Presentations (2005), and editor of Teacher Mentoring and Induction: The State of the Art and Beyond (2005) – all published by Corwin Press. He holds an MEd from the University of Michigan and a 6th-year Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) in education admin¬istration from the University of Connecticut. For three years, he was with the University of Massachusetts EdD Educational Leadership Program.