Teacher Mentors
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Teacher Mentors

EXAMPLE - One District's New Teacher Orientation Program

Important Comments by Barry Sweeny - This is the text from an actual school district document for their newly established Novice Teacher Orientation Program. I would expect that this plan is driven largely by the district's sense of what novices need to know, and not much of the research on what those same novices say THEY feel they need. This is not to suggest that district priorities should be ignored. District staff know much that novice teachers have not yet learned, but soon will learn as they begin to teach. Rather, the issue is that one perception is insufficient for effective planning, since, at the very least, the district has made it's plans assuming that novices will agree with the priorities, feel engaged in the activities, and find them worthwhile.

I am confident that the planning group will be disappointed with novice teachers' evaluations of the experience. Essentially, the planned content "front loads" a lot of information, probably information that novices can not yet value, due to their lack of experience. Although many such topics should be addressed, they must be conducted as something other than "presentations", as stated here. The plans need to acknowledge the possibility that leaners will not be ready to learn these topics and that theur interest must be earned. Also, the plans need to provide engaging activities which allow novices to explore what other past novices have found were their unknown needs. Novices need activities in which they can discover why the planned topics should be viewed as crucial for teacher and student success. Case studies, second year teacher testimonials, or panel discussions should be used to prepare the novices and help them become ready to learn.

Finally, those topics which are not essential for early teacher success should be postponed until novice teacher staff development meetings at the end of each month throughout the year. Then is the time when classroom experience will have taught novices what is really needed. Also, such an approach allws mentors and their proteges to get into the classroom and prepare for the opening of school. THAT is a priority which all novices will strongly sense.

Never-the-less, this program plan is presneted here to assist YOU in reflecting on YOUR orientation program. To what extent might you be making some of these same mistakes? To what extent do you assume that your past programs have been "well received" by participants? Do you have data collected both before and after the orientation to assess what novices feel is needed and their reactions to what is provided?

If you want novice teachers to adapt instruction to the needs of individual students in their classrooms and meet individual students' needs, then YOUR program needs to SAY that and MODEL that IN the program and "instruction" YOU provide to those novice teachers. THEN you will have earned the right to expect it of them, because they will know what excellent instruction looks like.

The Someplace School District Novice Teacher Orientation Program

It is anticipated that approximately sixty (60) licensed staff members will begin their first year of teaching with the Someplace Schools on September 4th this fall. The Someplace School System is planning to have a three-day Orientation Program for its beginning teachers, with their mentors attending one full day to engage in activities with the novice teachers to which they are assigned. Participants will be drawn from the entire school district.

Goals and Objectives of Orientation
The overall goal of this orientation is to encourage novice teachers to approach problem-solving of ongoing classroom challenges in the context of their strengths and the requirements of public education.

Specifically, the novice teachers will leave this session able to:
identify their goals and objectives as they approach their first year of teaching
articulate the New ABC's of Public Education in our state
identify their own classroom organization and management strategies
plan at least one integrated lesson using authentic assessment
specify the requirements for enhancing their teaching effectiveness as it relates to National Board Certification, and identify benefits and professional resources that accrue from their employment with the Someplace Schools.

Prior to planning the activities, recent participants in the novice teacher process were surveyed in order to gain knowledge of the areas they felt needed stressing in a program of this nature. The results of this survey and opinions of administrators gathered through interviews, along with the requirements of the Model New Teacher Orientation Program, were used to plan the activities. The program in Someplace has been planned for three (3) days, July 29th through 31st. The mentors will participate on July 31st.

Someplace's plan involves the novice teachers in a wide variety of activities during these three days. The main focus of the program will be toward organizational and instructional strategies, parent conferencing, assessment and evaluation, classroom management and student motivation, National Board Certification issues, the new ABCs of Public Education, and integrating the curriculum. A plan has been specifically designed to offer a meaningful schedule of activities centered around these focus areas.

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