by Harry and Rosemary
How to Recognize
Where You Want to Be
"Your new teacher induction program not only saved my wife as a classroom teacher, but it also saved my marriage. My wife was miserable both at home and at school. Whatever you did at that induction program made her so much more successful as a classroom teacher and a happier person in general."
Received by Annette Breaux, Director of the Induction Program
Are you teaching in a school system that will support YOU and help you realize your full potential in affecting the lives of young people? You will recall in our March article we suggested that you move on if the elements for your support and ultimate success in the classroom were not in place in your school or district.
Lafourche Parish Schools, Thibodaux, Louisiana
In fact recently our cousin, a first year teacher, lamented that there was no support or guidance after her dismal review. She asked our advice. We said, "Move on to a supportive environment."
The advice to move on is easy to say, but how do you know what to look for? Schools and districts may call their programs induction when in actuality they are mere social gatherings filled with the minutia details of where, how, when, and who runs the system.
Recognizing a Good Induction Program
The term induction is often mistakenly used synonymously with the terms mentoring and orientation. Mentoring is only one component of an induction program. Orientation is another. Many school districts simply provide their new teachers with mentors or provide a day of orientation and call it induction. These teachers have not been inducted. They have simply received mentors and orientation.
Mentoring and orientation in and of themselves will do little to aid in the retention of highly qualified new teachers. However, as integral components of a structured induction program, they are valuable. Understand that induction is ongoing and systematic.
and much more.
Teacher induction programs provide beginning teachers the support needed during the often difficult transition from preservice education to actual classroom teaching - from students of teaching to teachers of students.
What Works With New Teachers
Angie Guidry, one of the first-year teachers to complete the Lafourche Parish induction program says, "The new teacher induction . . . has allayed many of my concerns as a teacher . . . I am very grateful for the confidence I've acquired. Every new teacher should be required to attend a new teacher induction."
What new teachers want is an induction program. Only in education do we talk about "mentoring alone." Doctors, factories workers, secretaries, chefs, electricians, and dental hygienists do not receive a mentor. They are trained and guided. Can you imagine an airline that does not train its pilots, but provides each pilot with a mentor and tells them that if they are in trouble at 35,000 feet to call their mentor for reflection?
"We have had tremendous support from the entire district," Ms. Breaux says. "One of our principals told me, 'I don't know if you realize what a difference induction makes. Teachers who have gone through induction are so much more ready to teach.'"
For years the attrition rate of new teachers in the Lafourche Parish Schools in Thibodaux, Louisiana, was around 50 percent.
When the induction program was implemented in 1996, the attrition rate dropped to 12 percent. Today, that number hovers around 4 percent. Of the several hundred new teachers who have been hired since 1996, 99 percent are still teaching and 88 percent are still in the Lafourche Parish Schools.
Perry Rodrigue, Assistant Superintendent, says,
"Of those we asked, all of our new teachers returned the following year. This has never happened until we installed an induction program."
Mentoring Alone Will Not Help New Teachers
Novice teachers want teachers, teachers they can watch teach in their rooms, teachers who will give them activities and lesson plans, teachers who will tell them what to do with those kids who challenge even the best of teachers.
New teachers do not want just a mentor or buddy, who may show up two weeks after the school year begins and may not be trained, compensated, or provided release time to help, much less be in the same building and teach at the same grade level or subject area.
"My brother-in-law is a first year teacher and was having a horrible time. The district provided no induction program and when he asked for help he was told to contact his mentor. He didn't even know her had a mentor. So he called this teacher and informed her that she was his mentor. She said, 'I am?' He said, 'Thanks, but no thanks' and hung up."
What's really scary about all this talk about "mentoring only" is that it has become institutionalized. The press and some professional journals are prescribing it as the standard cure-all for new teachers. If all it takes for a new teacher to succeed is to be simply given a mentor, that is another teacher or buddy, then there is no need for staff developers and administrators or their organizations.
Please understand, we take issue with the word "only" and not the word "mentor." We fully believe in the efficacy of mentors, but what a new teacher needs and deserves is tutor, a master teacher, or, ultimately, a group of teachers, staff developers, and administrators who will teach the new teacher and get him or her up to speed quickly. New teachers want and need a tutor who will teach them how to teach and show them what to do.
Hopewell Loses Only One Teacher
Not all school systems do induction in the same way or with the same kinds of people.
In the school year 1998-1999, the Hopewell, Virginia, school district hired 47 teachers and lost only one of their newly hired teachers. Why? They have an induction program with beaucoup support provided by three or more people. Each new teacher has on site access to a:
Mentor: This is an assigned teacher to whom the novice teacher can run to for immediate, yet simple help, such as school procedural questions or for quick advice.
Coach: This is a teacher with expertise in classroom management and instructional skills. There are presently four in each school which may increase to five if the number of new teachers increases proportionally.
Lead teacher: This is a teacher who can help with subject matter questions. There are five on each campus specializing in five respective areas - English, math, science, social studies, and technology.
The roles of the three people are strictly supportive and non-evaluative. All of the mentors, coaches and lead teachers have received training, are regular teachers in the same building, and receive released time to observe and assist. Lead teachers are financially supported to attend conferences and then conduct workshops on what they have learned.
In addition, the new teachers receive assistance from staff developers and administrators both from the central office and the building site. Principals are the instructional leaders and evaluators. The central office staff provides coordinators and the assistant superintendent, Linda Hyslop, provides the structure and coordination of the new teacher induction process.
Top Ten Questions to Ask
If you should go on an interview, when it is your turn to ask questions, ask the following to help you identify a school or district that is interested in training, supporting, and retaining their new teachers.
10. Is there an induction program for newly hired teachers?
9. How many days does the program run?
8. Who runs the program?
7. What is the course outline?
6. How many years has it been offered?
5. Has the principal of the school been through the induction program?
4. Am I evaluated by any of the people running the induction program?
3. Will my colleagues nurture me as I become a more effective teacher?
2. What is the attrition rate of the new teachers over the past 2 years?
1. What will the school district do to help me if I am not being successful in the classroom?
As Joan Hearne of Wichita, Kansas, says,
"As a central office staff developer, I truly believe in the induction process. If you do not transmit a district's culture, mission, and beliefs as employees join the family, then when do you?"
The children of the world need you. Find a school that needs
you, values you, and wants to support you in your mission of enhancing
young people's lives.
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