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by Harry and Rosemary Wong

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This article was printed from Teachers.Net Gazette,
located at

April 2007

Training Gen Y Teachers for Maximum Effectiveness

Districts are gearing up to recruit more teachers to fill the
same positions vacated by teachers recruited the previous year.
Here’s why.

OMG.  Here they come.  Generation Y.

Born from 1977 to 1986, Generation Y, or the Millennials, is a potential force of as many as 40 million.  The first wave of Gen Ys is just now embarking on their careers as classroom teachers.

They are products of a global economy, a connected, collaborative environment in which technology has allowed them to network.  They are knowledge workers with ubiquitous access to powerful laptops and the know how to utilize 21st century technology and digital resources.

They are socially adept at working in groups or teams and are avid users of online social networking, such as MySpace and FaceBook.  A learning community is their forte, thus to work collaboratively in a group is second nature to them.

The report of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, “Induction into Learning Communities,” states that the development of effective teachers requires an approach that is different in scope and design from much of what currently passes for induction in this country:  one-to-one mentoring of a novice teacher.  Unless we move beyond the traditional one-to-one mentoring model, we will continue to reinforce the industrial-era practice of stand-alone teaching in isolated classrooms.

The new crop of teachers are tech-savvy and poised to be lifelong learners.  If inquiry means deep thinking, then the Gen Ys can already run circles around us veteran educators when it comes to collecting data, finding resources, thinking deeply, problem-solving, reflecting, and inquiring.

They are the most socially conscious generation since the Boomers.  Gen Ys are out in force working for social causes ranging from volunteering in international areas of poverty to teaching in urban schools through such organizations as Teach for America.

They exude confidence and informality; they have high expectations and are accomplishment oriented.

The Generation Y can be described in four positive ways:
1. A generation that is confident, self-sufficient, and achievement-oriented
2. A generation that is the most education-minded in history
3. A generation paving the way to a more open, tolerant society
4. A socially conscious generation leading a new wave of volunteerism

Gen Ys Learn Best by Collaboration

The Gen Ys are output oriented, success-oriented, achievement-oriented, and thus student achievement oriented.  Gen Ys live in a global society where everyone is on the same, level playing field sharing information and solutions to produce outcomes.  They are devoted to helping their students learn more because they are oriented to producing outcomes.  We can nurture that skill by allowing them to produce results in groups.

Typically schools expect teachers to be creative and do a good job behind closed doors.  Collaboration is rare.  Worse yet, new teachers seldom see another classroom.  Loneliness and lack of support further exacerbate the problems of beginning teachers.

Susan Moore Johnson of the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education says, “Our work suggests that schools would do better to rely less on one-on-one mentoring and, instead, develop school-wide structures that promote the frequent exchange of information and ideas among novice and veteran teachers.”

Surround Gen Y teachers with a community of creative thinkers and the solutions will abound everywhere.  They are great team players.

Professionals do not work alone; they work in teams.   When teachers meet in teams to focus on a problem, they become part of a team that will work with students who need their help.

“Teachers should be in teams, working collaboratively around problems identified in their schools that are related to students,” says Kathleen Fulton, director of Reinventing Schools for the 21st Century for the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.

Collaboration is the most effective way for teachers to learn.  Professional development is most effective and teachers learn more in sustained teacher networks and study groups than with individual mentors.

Everyone knows that businesses train workers in teams with specific outcomes in mind.  Schools will see improved student learning if they harness the collective intelligence, creativity, and genius of their teachers in consistent teams.  It will become easier to do because this is the way of life for the Y Generation of teachers.

Gen Ys Are Our Future Leaders

By channeling their talent for working together we will see improved student learning.  Education is a collaborative endeavor.  No one individual has all the answers.  We depend on each other for the creative solutions to our problems and the collective inspiration to design lessons that will improve student learning.

Millennials like structure and will want schools to give them clear rules and procedures to follow.  They need to clearly see the value of their work.  They want their work to be relevant, have impact, and offer them a diversity of experiences.

This next generation of teachers is the most intelligent, talented, competitive (and compulsive) group this country has seen.  It’s a Renaissance generation with much potential if we put the future in their care.  They are more interesting, more confident, less hidebound and uptight, better educated, more creative, and even unafraid.  The grandeur of the future is in their capable hands.

Do You Recognize Yourself?

If you see yourself in the previous paragraphs, you should be energized with the potential for yourself and your students.  However, you need to be in an environment where you can put your talents and strengths to use.  If you are a Generation Y teacher and you are looking for a job, here is a question to ask at the interview:

“Does this district or school have an induction or training program
where I can work with other teachers in a learning community?”

If not, consider moving on.

There are ten other questions you should ask during the interview.  To see these ten questions, please go to our April 2001 column, “How to Recognize Where You Want to Be.”

The Need for Teachers Is Real

Consider these two statements found in the literature:

  • “We will need 2 million new teachers in the next decade.”
  • “Fifty percent of beginning teachers will leave teaching after five years.”

These two sentences have appeared regularly over the past 30 years, yet writers make these statements as if they are brand new.  The tragedy is the solution for the past 30 years has always been the same: give the beginning teachers a mentor.

Knowing how Gen Y teachers work and learn best:

  • Will you be ushered into our profession by giving you a classroom to teach in isolation?
  • Will you be given a one-to-one mentor to be seen on occasions and then ushered into an isolated classroom after a year of mentoring?

If so, we know that the potential is great that we will lose you.  And we will just recruit more teachers for the same positions over and over again.

If we continue to give you a mentor only, the same two sentences will be used for the next thirty years.  It will be the students who will suffer from the lack of teacher improvement, because mentoring may improve teacher retention, but there is no substantial research which shows that mentoring improves teacher competency.

The millions of dollars spent on mentoring programs would be better spent on team-based induction allowing a new teacher to smoothly acculturate into existing teams of teachers.

Just think of the impact on student achievement if you, as a beginning teacher, had access to a coach, school-based staff developer, instructional specialist, program facilitator, curriculum developer, and most importantly, an administrator, all as part of your collegial team?

Training Programs that Work Together

Gen Y teachers want to be involved in a collaborative way.  Induction programs provide that connection, because they are structured around a learning community where new and veteran teachers treat each other with respect and all contributions are valued.  To ask a Gen Y teacher to go solo in a networked world is writing that teacher’s epitaph.

Knowing this, the Islip Public Schools on Long Island, New York, has a comprehensive induction program that features collaborative study group activities and networking.  This is not a mentoring program.  The three-year induction program is under the leadership of assistant superintendent, Linda Lippmann.

At Islip, study teams focus on skill-building strategies such as conducting parent conferences, managing classrooms, crafting lesson plans, and implementing cooperative discipline.  The groups constantly work on team building and problem solving techniques.  They use model lessons and hold sharing sessions in which teachers learn from each other and build respect for one another.  Teacher turnover is negligible and new teachers are immediately ushered into a team-like culture.

In the ten year existence of the Islip induction program, evidence of the success of their collaborative work can be seen in the data.  The year the induction program began, 34 percent of their students earned a New York State Regent’s diploma. At the end of the 2005-2006 school year, the figure had risen to 97 percent.  That’s correct—97 percent!

To read more about the comprehensive induction program of the Islip Public Schools and the reaction of Mike Mitchell, Spanish teacher, to new teacher induction, go to

Know what a good induction program looks like so you will recognize the characteristics as you discuss your future employment with school districts and principals.

Two More Models to Review

Here are two outstanding comprehensive induction programs that warrant your attention and modeling.

Flowing Wells School District.  This mother-of-all induction programs has been in existence for over 20 years.  Located in Tucson, Arizona, this school district has produced more state teachers-of-the-year than any other Arizona school district.  This fact can be attributed to how well they train their teachers to become expert teachers.

To see their eight-year staff development program that takes a novice teacher to become an expert teacher, click here.

To read about the Flowing Wells comprehensive induction program, click here.

Lafourche Parish Schools.  This school district’s induction program is so successful that the state of Louisiana adopted it for its state model.  The director of this program, Annette Breaux, co-authored New Teacher Induction:  How to Train, Support, and Retain new Teachers.  Click here to see this book.

To read about the Lafourche new teacher induction program, click here.

To read the about Louisiana FIRST, the state professional development program for new teachers, click here.

Mentoring Is Not Enough

Everyone in the world outside of schools trains their workers and has them working in teams.  Fast food restaurants, convenience stores, giant mega stores, legal firms, hospitals, and even non-profit organizations train their workers to a set of skills and standards.  Yet, Ted Britton at WestEd reports that in many schools one-on-one mentoring is the dominant or sole strategy for supporting new teachers, often lacking real structure.

Much of mentoring involves responding to a new teacher’s day-to-day crises and provide survival teaching tips.  Mentoring, in and of itself, has no purpose, goal, or agenda for student achievement.  Thus, there is no evidence of the connection between mentoring and student learning.  To see current research on mentoring and induction, click here.

To maximize student performance, all beginning teachers must learn to

  • teach to established standards,
  • evaluate the effects of their instruction on student performance,
  • use student achievement data for planning and curriculum,
  • tailor instruction to address specific learning needs, and
  • learn how to thrive in the culture of the school.

This kind of learning can only happen in an
induction process that is comprehensive.

Mike Schmoker reports that “research has not been found that supports the systematic formation of effective teachers solely through the use of mentors, especially mentors who show up after school begins and may not have been trained, compensated, or given direction or goals to attain.”

Whereas, induction is a comprehensive, multi-year process designed to train and acculturate new teachers in the academic standards and vision of the district.

New teachers want to see other teachers teach in their classrooms and they want other teachers to come to their classrooms to see and advise them on their teaching.  They want to be part of the learning community of the school.

People crave connection.  Mentoring, which is a one-on-one relationship, continues the practice of teachers operating in isolation.

What keeps good teachers are structured, sustained, intensive professional development programs that allow new teachers to observe others, to be observed by others, and to be part of networks, learning communities, or grade level/subject matter teams where all teachers share together, grow together, and learn to respect each other's work.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is obvious.  Trained teachers become effective teachers and effective teachers are the difference.  Districts that provide structured, sustained induction training for their teachers achieve what every school district seeks to achieve—improved student learning.

Be the Difference Y Gens!

To the Y Generation of teachers in or just entering the profession—We’re stoked that you are here!  You have the 411 to be the force to change the way teachers are ushered into this calling.  Your success in the classroom will determine the success for an entire generation of students.

Start your own group of colleagues sharing and growing together if the school or district doesn’t present you with the opportunity.  You know how to naturally connect 24/7.  Wire yourself to like learners who have the same passion and enthusiasm for children as you do.

Your mission and challenge is to get students to be successful.  That comes with increasing your skill and effectiveness.  It’s a very simple equation, but one so hard to implement.

Teacher Effectiveness = Student Achievement

You will not realize this in isolation.  Share with us the unique ways that you are using your peer-to-peer network to improve the quality of your teaching.  You can help others find a means to release themselves from the seclusion of the classroom and link with each other to grow and flourish and belong.

You can use your innate characteristics to become the greatest generation of teachers ever to enter the profession.  We are excited by your potential and eagerly await the results of your future.

Harry & Rosemary Wong products:

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