Addressing Preservice and First Year Teacher Needs

Addressing Preservice & First Year Teacher Needs

by Marsha Moore, Teacher Induction Program Coordinator
Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, Georgia

 


Teacher mentoring and induction is the transition from student to professional and involves adjusting to the
demands and responsibilities of working in a school environment. The time of induction also provides an opportunity to fine tune skills and implement ideas to become successful in the classroom.

The Needs of Beginning Teachers

New teachers are sometimes overwhelmed by the paperwork and stress of the decisions that they must make during this time period. As a result of this frustration, many leave the profession before their adjustment phase is complete. To complicate the situation this can also be a time when young graduates have their first job, their first home away from the support of family, and their first time to manage their
own finances. The attrition of teachers and the growing demand for teachers is a major concern within the profession since twenty percent of new teachers leave teaching after only one year of service. As many as fifty percent will leave after five years.

Induction in Georgia

In 1991, the state of Georgia formally recognized Induction as a need, identified the first three years as
the induction period for new teachers, and provided mentor teachers to support and assist them during this time. The transition year is further identified as induction for teachers new to a school, a system, or a teaching assignment.

In order to augment the school system program, the Teacher Induction Program (TIP) was started as an innovative effort in the collaborative grants initiative to support graduates as they begin their teaching career if they were from Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah State University, and Coastal Georgia Community College. The TIP program provides valuable information and feedback to university
faculty about the successes and difficulties new teachers encounter in their first teaching assignment.

The Role of the Program Coordinator

The TIP director serves as the liason between the schools in which the teachers are hired and the university. During the first three years of the Teacher Induction Program, the coordinator provided personal assistance to more than 240 teachers who had been hired locally. This assistance included individual conferences with the teachers to discuss their concerns and offer suggestions, the direction of new teachers to resources available to them within their systems, and direct observation of classroom
teaching after which feedback and reinforcement were given. On occasion, the coordinator arranged professional leave for new teachers and scheduled observations of master teachers in other schools or systems.

These observations were guided in that the coordinator accompanied the teacher in order to target skills and nuances of teaching that the novices might not otherwise have noticed. A survey, conducted after the eighth week of school provides responses to identify needs and prioritize teacher visits. The coordinator and experts from the profession also conducted workshops and development sessions on targeted topics
with positive results.

Some of the Benefits Found

One of the first successes of the Teacher Induction Program was the result of an initial problem. The fall 1994 group of first year teachers included many hired to establish the new pre-kindergarten classes that had just been approved by the district. These first year teachers entered classrooms with no supplies, equipment, or furnishings and had to work with a group of students new to the school system. In order to provide assistance the TIP Coordinator arranged for professional leave for these teachers and planned guided visits to two established pre-kindergarten classrooms with experienced teachers. This observation gave the new teachers confidence in the planning they were doing for their own classrooms and produced a video for pre-service teachers to view as well. As a result of the success of this program, the following year, the classroom of one of these new teachers was used for the next group of new teachers to visit.

Teachers participating in AASU Teacher Induction Program activities often feel the need for support during the hectic time of beginning their teaching career. As a result of their participation and their subsequent successes, many of these TIP graduates have willingly opened their classrooms for pre-service and first year teachers and made presentations about their experiences for TIP seminars and educational conferences.

Staff Development Seminars for Beginning Teachers

One subtle concern that arose during the early years of the induction program was that the new teachers were so immersed in the business of teaching that “induction” seemed to be yet another responsibility or task to be accomplished. After advisement by department heads and others, a plan was devised in which a Teacher Induction Program Institute was planned. The Institute comprised ten sessions per semester with relevant topics selected from a first year teacher survey. The sessions were available to all first year teachers and a partial requirement for pre-service teachers. Including pre-service teachers was a positive way to prepare them for the induction period which would be a part of their new profession. The sessions were deliberately planned to include a colleague discussion so that teachers of elementary, middle, and secondary classrooms could discuss common concerns and alleviate the isolation in which many new teachers find themselves.

When student teachers are given opportunities to participate with new teachers in induction activities then the transition from student to professional can be anticipated and they can be prepared for the frustrations incumbent upon them. Ideally, all experienced educators in the schools would support and encourage new professionals. However time constraints cause most to overlook and diminish the need. Conscious induction for pre-service teachers may well be the clue to a more successful entrance into the profession.

The question of the relevance of yet another requirement for student teachers was also raised. The student teachers were extremely positive during the sessions and their contributions to discussions were proof that they are entering the profession with a solid foundation. A survey was taken during the final student teacher seminar to determine attitudes and reflections of the Institute requirement. Respondents indicated that all the seminar topics were relevant and that they especially benefitted from the colleague discussions. One comment specifically mentioned the fact that this was the only time student teachers had to talk freely about topics of concern with both an experienced educator and colleagues.

Several additional topics were recommended:

  • Using the arts in curriculum planning,
  • Special education and inclusion,
  • School infrastructure such as building leadership teams and lunchroom procedures.

Student teachers not only have the enthusiasm and eagerness to contribute to the seminar setting, but this time together provided them with an opportunity to learn how to share as professional colleagues, ask questions freely, and reflect on real education scenarios. Pre-service teachers must have a broad range of knowledge and be able to demonstrate a variety of methodologies appropriate for teaching. They
must also understand the many responsibilities of the profession including the need for continued educational development. It is also important that they realize that their initial teaching position will require adjustment of both their abilities and perceptions.

When teachers are well prepared and allowed adequate time for induction activities then their transition can proceed more quickly and contribute to their future success in the profession.