Thursday, August 23, 2012

Teacher Training

In my short 12-year career so far, I have worked in two different school districts. Although these are neighboring districts they were extremely different in their teacher mentoring. The first district I worked for had a graduating class of 850, the current district 150.

The first district, the larger district, PMSD had a new teacher mentoring program all laid out. They had to; the turn-over rate of teachers was (is) astronomical. They created this program to make new teachers feel a sense of belonging as well as provide additional support and professional development. One day, every two weeks, all the new teachers (1st and 2nd year) would gather together during our prep periods and be taken through PD with an administrator or senior teacher. My dirty little secret: I loved it. But I love learning and I love being challenged. I didn't speak up there, I let my actions do the speaking for me, but my colleagues spent more energy complaining than doing what was asked of them. I quote, "I'm ready to quit since they keep taking my prep period away from me." Really? We get an hour and a half prep every day and you can't sacrifice 45 minutes once every two weeks?

After two years, I added to their turn-over rate and took a job with a smaller school, JTSH. I love it at Jim Thorpe. We are a growing school district with some growing pains. About 15 years ago the graduating class was 50, now it's about 150. We are stuck between doing what we've always done - like a very small district, and growing into a larger district. Luckily, we are still a small district where all the teachers know each other and we know almost all of the students. When a teacher is hired, he is assigned a mentor. Basically, that's it formally. In our department, you are basically given 5 mentors - the rest of the department. There is no formal mentoring program and no prep periods taken away.

But here's my wish. New teachers need support. We need good teachers in our profession. I think we should ease teachers into the profession, as I feel we throw teachers into a classroom and say, "Here you go! You have 45 minutes to prepare for 270 minutes of class time."

The newest teachers are paid the least (thanks unions!!). We don't pay teachers based on the job they do, only on how long they've been in the profession. Let's take advantage of this. Give the newest teachers the least amount of classes and the most time to create lessons and participate in professional development. Let the new teachers get a good grip on teaching one course, then once they've got that, give them two courses. Keep this going until they are up to par with the rest of the faculty and salary. I don't know any statistics on this, but aren't there too many new teachers who quit within their first few years because it's too stressful? Anyone know anything about this?

Isn't this how restaurant servers are trained? They start with one table, then when they can handle it, two table, etc. They aren't given 8 tables their first day of work. Why? Because they will most likely fail and the restaurant will lose customers.


  1. Hi Nora! I'm at a small K-8 district too, and unfortunately one of our positions in the junior high is "temporary" so it's not a very attractive feature to entice solid teachers to stay on. I think the worst disservice to new teachers (esp in high school) is they get the tougher preps, meaning they seem to get dumped with more remedial classes where motivation is low and behavior problems flare every 2 minutes.

    It's my pleasure to feature you on my blog this week at

    Yeah, I'm all caught up with my GReader too, so it's nice to add new blogs! Happy blogging, Nora! Fawn

  2. They created this program to make new teachers feel a sense of belonging as well as provide additional support and professional development.

  3. I posted this on my Facebook. Thought my colleagues would appreciate your thinking.

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