Help New Teachers Establish Themselves Professionally

Help New Teachers Establish Themselves Professionally

The involvement of higher education institutions in induction is less prevalent than it should be, given the promise these partnerships offer for improving teacher preparation by redefining the boundaries between college and K-12 classrooms. Sadly, the scarcity of this type of collaboration is a missed opportunity to provide new teachers a link between their pre-service and in-service teacher development and a missed opportunity for college faculty and school-based personnel to benefit from one another’s expertise, open lines of communication, collaborate on projects, share facilities, and benefit in myriad ways.


Collaboration can take many forms and can include teamwork with one or more educational partners involved in supporting beginning teachers – the union, institutions of higher education, the local school board, parents, the state educational agency, the business community, and others.

District-university partnerships can offer benefits to new and experienced teachers alike, from a continued relationship with the university for the novice teacher/alumnus, to possible compensation (in the form of university course vouchers) for veteran teachers who serve as mentors.


If your induction activities are voluntary you will need to encourage new teachers to participate. Remember that new teachers often are overwhelmed by the heavy load they carry. Offer some of the following incentives:

– Extra planning time

– Money for materials

– Limited extracurricular duties

– Reduced workload

– Release time to observe other teachers

– Priority placement in staff development workshops

– Assistance toward earning a master’s degree in the first or second year of teaching

– Continuing education credits toward district salary increments


Beginning teachers and mentors who volunteer to participate in the program are required to enroll in graduate courses tailored to their needs. Mentors and mentees visit each other’s classes at least once per semester, hold weekly meetings in the fall, and meet at least twice a month in the spring. Experienced teachers who assume mentoring responsibilities do so in addition to their teaching duties.


You already may provide one or more induction program components: orientation activities to introduce novice teachers to your district; support systems, including mentors, to assist teachers as they develop; training in the form of courses, workshops, or ongoing professional development; and/or evaluation designed to foster teacher improvement and/or to determine a teacher’s future with the district.


It is important to ensure that all aspects of your program relate to one another and address your district’s particular needs. You will need to consider such issues as district standards for teachers and students, and the extent to which students from teacher preparation institutions are prepared to face the challenges in your schools.


Although all of the program components are important, budget constraints often necessitate building a teacher induction program that emphasizes one component over another. Your team might decide to focus on a few components initially and then phase in others. However, if your ultimate goals are to nurture teacher development and retain talented professionals, you should endeavor to work toward integrating the above components into a coherent whole.


You will need to decide who will manage your program on a day-to-day basis and who will be responsible for program governance, oversight, and evaluation.


It is a good idea to have a governing panel that oversees the program. The panel should have representation from all parties involved in the induction process; usually half of the panel members are teachers and half are administrators. Following are some of the responsibilities of a governing board or panel:


– Making program and policy recommendations and implementing them

– Delineating roles, responsibilities, expectations, and inductee success measures

– Directing mentor selection, supervision, and evaluation

– Monitoring and evaluating program development

– Overseeing program budget


At monthly meetings, the panel selects, oversees the work of, and evaluates Consulting Teachers (CTs), who are responsible for supporting, training, and appraising inductees. The panel also oversees and approves CT in-service training; receives and reviews all documentation submitted by CTs and others involved in the appraisal process; accepts or rejects CT recommendations; determines program guidelines; and administers the program budget.


Induction can be housed in staff development/professional development offices, but some programs are run by personnel/human resources or curriculum and instruction departments.


In a small district, program direction may be the responsibility of an associate or assistant superintendent, a coordinator, consultant, specialist, or teacher released from classroom duties to manage day-to-day operations.


Costs vary, depending on the following:

– The scope of particular program elements. For example, an informal buddy system costs little compared to a coordinated, formal mentoring component, which requires a budget for mentor stipends, release time, etc.

– Which components (orientation, support, training, assessment) your program incorporates.

– The extent of the program’s reach, e.g., whether you serve new-but-experienced teachers and new novice teachers, operate districtwide or only in selected quadrants of a district, include both elementary and secondary teachers, or mandate inductee participation vs. making it voluntary.


For a comprehensive induction program you will need to plan for:


– Hiring of a program coordinator (preferably full-time)

– Paying for substitute teachers to release mentor teachers part-time or full-time to provide services to inductees

– Stipends for mentors, guest lecturers, consultants, etc.

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Although some states have created programs for new teacher induction, few have maintained the commitment required.


Induction can be a separate line item in a district’s budget or can be funded as part of staff development. In the majority of cases, districts are covering the costs of induction programs either on their own or with some assistance/reimbursement from the state. Some districts manage to reallocate funds to cover the costs of induction programs.


The importance of a stable funding base cannot be overestimated. Programs created in response to a district mandate and/or negotiated into the teachers’ contracts are the ones that probably stand the best chance of surviving future budget cuts and related threats to their existence.


State sponsorship of induction programs has been erratic, with enormous variation among states. Most states with induction mandates leave decisions regarding implementation to the discretion of local districts, while others prescribe exactly how implementation should occur. There are many states that have neither induction policies nor programs in place.


Your state might require your district to match monies allocated, or simply provide start-up funding to stimulate district support and implementation. Sometimes programs are mandated with little or no funding at all, requiring districts to obtain competitive grants for funding, use district resources, or seek funds through partnerships or other sources.


Sadly, induction programs come and go as legislative priorities change, or funding waxes and wanes. However, it is likely that more state education agencies will soon establish induction programs or revive programs that were allowed to languish.


The legislation created block grants to states to increase the accountability of education schools and teacher training programs; grants for partnerships between colleges and schools in low-income areas to improve teaching; grants to help poor urban and rural schools to recruit teachers; and a loan forgiveness provision for college graduates who teach in high-poverty schools.


Ideally, an orientation program held prior to or at the beginning of the school year is part of a comprehensive, ongoing induction program. Orientation activities can range from a one-shot basic presentation to a full week of introductory sessions, demonstrations, observations, seminars, and workshops. The more you can offer, the better your program will be; a good orientation will get your teachers started off on the right foot.


You may require orientation activities of all new teachers or make participation voluntary. Orientation sessions usually are offered before the start of school, but be sure to repeat them again several times during the year to accommodate late hires.


Veteran teachers, in concert with personnel from district (or regional) offices of staff development, curriculum and instruction, and human resources, can play a major role in planning and facilitating orientation. Union representatives also can be invited to participate.


The content of an orientation program will be dictated by your district’s needs, the needs of teachers, the time allotted for activities, and whether or not orientation is part of a larger induction program. Orientation to district/system policies and paperwork and to school policies and paperwork is the most common component of induction programs. Available district resources, both tangible (e.g., computers and other teaching tools) and human (e.g., staff developers), are typically introduced during orientation. This is a good time to distribute a handbook, guide, or resource manual for new teachers and explain district procedures, practices, and expectations. Be careful not to bombard inductees with too much information, since they will probably be overwhelmed by the new school, their new role, new faces, and new responsibilities.


The program aims to aid teachers in getting acquainted with stu-dents’ needs, making a smooth transition into their new jobs, and becoming familiar with the philosophy, policies, procedures, and curriculum. The more they know, the better able they will be to meet the needs of their students.


During orientation, presenters provide:


– Resources and support

– Community information

– An overview of district programs and departments

– Information on the Teacher Mentor Program

– An understanding of school system expectations

– New employee information

– Information about curriculum/instruction


Expanded workshops on discipline and classroom management, lesson planning, evaluation, and parent-teacher partnerships are introduced in an initial training session before school starts.


Suggestions for orientation activities:


– Review district policies, procedures, legal issues, and philosophy.

– Make sure teachers know the basics, like how to take attendance and keep a grade book.

– Have a panel — an assistant superintendent, principal, parent, and student — discussing “What I Expect from a New Teacher.”

– Offer nonviolent crisis-intervention training.

– Hold sessions on first-week survival tips and hold subject-area curriculum reviews.

– Present updates from district divisions, with information on instructional support services, business and finance, personnel, and special education services.

– Arrange for teacher visiting days to observe other classrooms.

– Have mentees spend an entire day in a mentor’s classroom.

– Cluster teachers by grade or subject rather than in heterogeneous groups.

– Introduce teachers to the teacher evaluation process, districtwide goals, and curriculum materials.


Also, try this:


– Present material in half days spread throughout the year.

– Offer optional discussion groups on topics such as teaching in an urban area, helping students manage anger, and inclusion.

– Identify principals or assistant principals who are willing to be on hand throughout the orientation.

– Employ your friendliest, most vivacious food service workers to provide meals and refreshments.

– Identify the most enthusiastic and competent bus drivers to provide a bus tour of the community.

– Invite local business people to participate in activities, or contribute a luncheon or small gifts to be included in inductee packages, etc.

– Identify an efficient group of support personnel to staff the registration desk, distribute name badges, manage attendance and financial records, and greet each participant.

– Structure a midyear check-in with smaller groups of inductees (a few schools as opposed to the whole system) to see if new questions have arisen.


Support is the sine qua non of the induction experience. The majority of induction programs seek to provide assistance to novice teachers in order to reduce or eliminate problems; facilitate the development of the knowledge and skills necessary for successful teaching; and integrate inductees into the culture of their schools, districts, and communities. Support/assistance providers may be self-appointed (e.g., the teacher across the hall) or designated (e.g., a principal, department head, and/or a mentor teacher).


Public school teachers who are mentored by other teachers in a formal relationship at least once a week or two to three times a month believe the activity improved their teaching. Those who participated once a month or less were less likely to hold this belief.


Many programs use mentors to assist beginning teachers. While peers and buddy teachers often do a good job of providing support informally, designated mentor teachers (often called “consulting teachers,” “support teachers,” or “teacher mentors”) play key roles in a formal induction program. Mentors are experienced teachers who serve as guides and coaches; provide support, advice, and assistance; provide lesson demonstrations and lead workshops; conduct formative assessments to foster improvement in inductee performance; and are involved in the teacher evaluation process, affecting continuing employment, licensure, or certification decisions.


Mentoring is widely respected as a powerful and cost-effective element in induction programs. A high-quality mentoring program has the potential to affect teacher retention, improve the attitudes and instructional strategies of novice teachers, and help mentors reflect on and improve their own teaching skills.


Much of the literature on mentoring asserts that formal programs produce dramatic changes in new teachers. Retention goes up, attitudes improve, feelings of efficacy and control increase, and a wide range of instructional strategies is demonstrated, among other changes.


Keep in mind:


– Mentoring can take place individually or in groups. It is effective to offer both individual and group support.

– Mentor-mentee meetings can take place weekly, bimonthly, or as needed. It is recommended that support and assistance be offered as frequently as possible.

– Mentoring is most effective when it is organized and structured, not left to chance or informal buddying up.

– Matching mentor and mentee in the same school, grade level, or certification area works best.

– The success of mentoring is only as strong as the relationship between the mentor and mentee.

– Peer review programs assign mentors to beginning teachers as well as to experienced teachers in need of assistance.


Effective mentoring is not a process in which one person dictates to the other what he/she must do. Mentoring means providing in a supportive, nonthreatening way, advice, counsel, insight, and facts that the less experienced person can use to guide his/her development into a seasoned professional.


Mentors should be:


– Highly competent classroom teachers who can work effectively with adults

– Selected through a formalized, equitable process

– Trained as mentor coaches

– Expected to initiate contact with mentees before school opens, preferably no later than the district’s orientation

– Released at least partially from regular classroom duties for observations in each mentee’s classroom, demonstration lessons, and scheduled mentor-mentee visits

– Assigned a manageable number of mentees (depending on the amount of release time granted and whether the mentor must travel between school sites)

– Paid a stipend sufficient to cover the cost of materials, supplies, conference fees, and time contributed

– Assisted, as needed, by a mentor coordinator

– Evaluated annually


Although there are school districts that allow mentors to self-select, the most effective programs have rigorous mentor selection procedures that involve specifying mentor qualifications and requiring applications and extensive review processes. You might consider having a panel of educators who select and assign mentors.


Mentor-intern interaction is controlled largely by the relationship that develops between individuals. In general, the mentor is to provide advice, help secure materials, ease the intern’s transition into the district, share information about all aspects of professional development, and guide the intern’s induction into the teaching ranks. The mentor’s role is one of an “enabler” or facilitator, and should enrich the experience of an intern teacher.


Many state educational agencies involved in mentoring programs allow local districts to determine criteria for mentor eligibility. Some states either prescribe or at least offer recommendations regarding mentor selection criteria (e.g., length of teaching experience and certification requirements), and mentor training.


It is often assumed that highly experienced teachers who are effective with students will automatically be good mentors. On the contrary, mentoring is a complex function that requires training in such areas as adult development, communication, time management, leadership, and other important skills, which not all classroom teachers possess. An extensive body of literature on mentor teacher roles and responsibilities also argues for mentor professional development and training.


The professional development of mentor teachers, released part-time or full-time from classroom duties to support and assist their mentees, is as important as the professional development of inductees. Sadly, despite a widespread belief in the efficacy of training mentors, districts are invariably hard-pressed to provide mentor training and support in the absence of state funding ear-marked for this purpose.


What it takes to mentor:


– An understanding of how adults learn

– Self-assurance, patience, and confidence

– A proven record as a skillful teacher

– Knowledge of curriculum and curriculum guides

– Knowledge about how to observe, diagnose, coach, and give constructive feedback to a peer

– Ability to prioritize what needs to be communicated and when, so that information is effectively absorbed and used

– Knowledge about how to work cooperatively with the mentee’s school site principal or supervisor and other members of a support team

– Ability to clarify and fulfill the mentor’s role, e.g., as a buddy, support provider, and/or evaluator

– Knowledge of mentor and mentee professional rights and responsibilities

– Understanding of time management principles


The training guides new mentors into their roles and responsibilities and helps build a foundation for the mentor-mentee relationship. The first day of training introduces program objectives, beginning teacher needs, strategies for mentor assistance, effective interpersonal communication, and adult learning theory. On the second day of training, mentors focus on the mentoring process by practicing observation and feedback skills, assisting with the Professional Development Plan, and learning direct assistance and informal contact techniques. Additional professional development activities and resources for mentors include update sessions on special topics and an online professional library, which lists special publications, books, and audiovisual materials.


A mentor task force also reviews policies and plans (such as the mentor selection process or the marketing plan); updates members on current beginning teacher or mentor needs and professional development opportunities; designs mentor training and New Teacher Orientation activities; and plans receptions and award ceremonies for beginning teachers and mentors.


Mentors begin with a few days of orientation and training, covering such topics as: making the initial visit, role play dealing with teacher absences, multicultural awareness and teacher rights/contracts. Training is ongoing for both new and experienced mentors. In addition to teaching mentors the skills they need to mentor effectively, training sessions — usually led by a combination of staff development specialists and experienced mentors — are important because they bring together individuals with no mentoring experience and those who know the ropes.


The different stipulations for frequency of mentor-mentee meetings — weekly, bimonthly, or as needed — only hint at the actual amount of time that mentoring can take. Many mentors report frantic calls from mentees late in the evening; extra observations, coaching, and feedback; and a sea of paperwork.


It is important that mentors be given sufficient release time from their own duties to assist and advise their mentees and help prepare them for evaluation of their teaching skills (performance assessment). A reduced workload for mentors and reduced classroom duties will allow more time for mentoring, and fewer mentees assigned per mentor will allow more time for coaching, supporting, and/or assessing each mentee. A reduced workload also can give mentors more time to complete required reports and other paperwork and to participate in professional growth opportunities.


Compensation for veteran teachers (when available) can take various forms:


– Course vouchers in exchange for mentoring (in a district/higher education partnership)

– Release time to observe or meet with novice teachers and time to meet university or cohort groups informally or in a scheduled class or workshop

– Cash for the extra time required

– Recognition by the larger community as a “master” teacher


Making the most of mentoring:


– Maximize mentor accessibility by limiting the number of buildings each mentor must serve.

– Identify mentors and mentees as early as possible so they can meet and begin planning prior to the first week of school.

– Identify a place for intern-mentor meetings at each school.

– Make mentoring available to all newly employed teachers — those with less than a full year’s experience and experienced teachers teaching in the state or district for the first time.

– Vary the amount and type of assistance provided to interns based on their assessed needs.

– Aim to move mentees beyond competence to excellence in teaching, over the course of a full year.

– Articulate criteria for evaluating mentor performance.


Jeff C. Palmer is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.



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