Source: Hayidion, Summer, 2019
The most important determinant of a teacher’s success in her profession, not just in her first year but throughout her career, is the strength of a school’s plan of support for new teachers. Here are composite portraits of four typical first-year experiences, based on research I’ve done with graduates of the Legacy Heritage Jewish Educators Program at Stern College over the past 10 years. The program is an undergraduate major at Stern, in which students major in Judaic studies with a concentration in Jewish education. They take classes in psychology and pedagogy, and participate in a robust program of fieldwork and student teaching.
These four stories represent a spectrum of options that currently exist in day schools for new teachers. Since the beginning of the program, I have seen an increase in the schools that have mentor programs. While this indicates that schools are making progress, there are two caveats: not all mentoring programs are created equal, and mentoring alone is not enough. Research shows that mentoring is but one part of a well-rounded induction system that can increase the retention and effectiveness of teachers.
What Does a Well-Rounded Induction Program Look Like?
In “The Impact of Induction and Mentoring Programs for Beginning Teachers,” Carol Ingersoll outlines various elements that can comprise teacher induction, including classes, workshops, orientations, seminars and mentoring. Induction should begin in the summer with an orientation to the school culture and by providing relevant course materials to the new teacher. During the year, induction continues with ongoing mentoring and seminars that provide support for the new teacher within the school, and connections to extended networks of new teachers teaching the same material in other schools.
Ingersoll found that new teachers listed the following as the most beneficial to them during their crucial first year: a mentor in the same subject area, common preparation time with same subject teachers and participation in extended networks. In another article (“Beginning Teacher Induction, What the Data Tells Us”), Ingersoll concludes that new teachers who received at least two items from the induction list were much better at:
Keeping students on task
Developing workable lesson plans
Using effective student questioning practices
Adjusting classroom activities to meet student interests
Maintaining positive classroom atmosphere
- Demonstrating successful classroom management
What Can Schools Do?
Perhaps the most important thing a school can do is to realize that new teachers are in fact new and need to be nurtured and encouraged, the same way students do. Support can be in putting together an induction package that includes but is not limited to mentoring. Support can be in the academic realm, letting them know in advance what subjects they will be teaching and what the overall goals for the subject are. Support can be for the culture of the school from the mundane (how you get supplies) to the complex (what is expected in the way of parent/teacher communications). Support can be for learning about the students and their needs before the first day of school.
This may sound obvious but is not the norm in every school. Schools should implement a robust plan for onboarding new teachers. Beginning teachers as well should include the school’s induction plan and teacher support among the most important factors they look for as they apply for their first position.
Read the entire article in Hayidion.