Important Editor Comments –
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 learners will not be ready to learn these topics and that their 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 allows 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 presented 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.
An Example of a District New 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 August 4, 2011. These novice teachers and their mentors will participate in the August New Teacher Orientation Project.
The Someplace School System is planning to have a three-day 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 goals of this orientation are:
to ensure new employees have learned the key people, resources, and expectations of the District
to orient new employees to the District’s organization, the community, and their school site
to encourage novice teachers to approach problem-solving of ongoing classroom challenges in the context of their strengths and the requirements of public education.
Objectives are for the novice teachers to able t:
(1) identify their goals and objectives as they approach their first year of teaching,
(2) articulate the New ABC’s of Public Education in our state,
(3) identify their own classroom organization and management strategies,
(4) plan at least one integrated lesson using authentic assessment,
(5) specify the requirements for enhancing their teaching effectiveness as it relates to National Board Certification, and
(6) 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 has been planned for three (3) days, with the mentors participating on the last day.
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. A detailed schedule of the planned activities is listed below:
Someplace Schools – Model New Teacher Orientation Program
|Tuesday, July 29||novice teachers only|
|9:00- 9:15 AM||Welcome||Superintendent|
|9:15-9:30 AM||Introductions and Overview of Activities||Director of Personnel|
|9:30 -10:00 AM||Refreshments and Social Time|
|10:00-10:45 AM||Community Orientation||Director of Community Schools|
|10:45 – 11:45 AM||Education Initiatives in Our State||Director of School Improvement|
|11:45 AM -1:00PM||Lunch|
|1:00-2:00 PM||Behavior Management and Student Motivation||Director of Human Resources Development|
|2:00-2:10PM||Managing Two Important Things: Your Time and Your Stress Level||Director of Human Resources Development|
|2:10 -3:10 PM||Break|
|3:10-3:30 PM||Daily Wrap-Up||Director of Personnel|
|Wednesday July 30||novice teachers and mentors|
||The Someplace Schools Curriculum and Instruction Department & Asst. Supt for C & I|
|10:30-12:00 Noon||Continuation of the Curriculum and Instruction Issues Session||Someplace Schools C&I Department|
|1:00-3:30 PM||Novice teachers and mentors report to their individual schools for site orientations||Coordinator, Principal and Mentor|
|Thursday, July 31||novice teachers only|
|8:00-8:30 AM||Review of Central Office Services||Director of Personnel|
|8:30-9:15 AM||New Teachers and the Law||Assistant Superintendent|
|9:15-10:15 AM||Parental Involvement and Effective Parent Conferencing||Assistant Superintendent|
|10:30-11:00 AM||Staff Development Issues||Director of Human Resources|
|11:00-12:00 Noon||Someplace School’s Observation and Evaluation Process||Director of Personnel|
|1:00-1:30 PM||Licensure Issues
||Director of Personnel|
|1:30-2:00 PM||Review of Employee Benefits||Director of Personnel|
|2:00-2:20 PM||Finance Issues – What You Should See On Your Check!||Director of Finance|
|2:20-3:00 PM||Bloodborne Pathogens and Hazardous Communications||Director of Health Services|
|3:00-3:30 PM||Question and Answer Session|
|3:30 PM||Ice Cream Social and Wrap-Up|
The schedule should help meet the needs of the novice teachers involved because it was planned around ideas given by recent first-year teachers in Someplace. It is also a reflection of the areas of needed staff development that are typically identified by those involved with beginning teachers across the state. Although Someplace Schools has, in the past, planned specific activities for novice teachers, this opportunity will provide a concentrated effort specifically designed to assist the first-year teachers in assessing their initial readiness for their first year in the classroom and to introduce them to new ideas and strategies as they begin to plan for their first students. It will definitely be a positive step for the system, providing a more effective way to guide our young teachers. It will be
a greater effort toward a more positive induction to the profession, with the results hopefully being enhanced performance.
The Someplace School System plans to use this orientation as a springboard to initiate two specific programs. First, the system plans to seek funds on an annual basis to continue the same type of program each summer. We concur with the philosophy of the Model New Teacher Program and plan to make every effort to conduct a similar program for first-year teachers at the beginning of each school year.
Secondly, plans are in place to continue to conduct quarterly meetings throughout the year with novice teachers and their mentors, and to use these meetings to focus on similar topics covered in the activities planned for this proposal. In Someplace, separate quarterly meetings are held for three groups; novice teachers, mentors, and novice teacher Coordinators. Continual and constructive guidance throughout the year will only serve to make the beginning teachers’ experience more positive and successful. As a result, those students who are taught by these teachers will hopefully have a greater opportunity for improvement.
During the wrap-up session on Thursday, July 31st, the novice teachers involved will
have the opportunity to evaluate the activities in two ways. First, a discussion about the positives and negatives of the three-day event will be conducted. Openness will be encouraged, with the novice teachers and the presenters actively engaging in the discussion. Secondly, the novice teachers will have the opportunity to evaluate the program in writing, using a written evaluation form, where they will be encouraged to openly list strengths and weaknesses of the activities as they perceive them, and to make suggestions for future sessions. They will also be encouraged to remain involved in the evaluative process of the program by sending suggestions or ideas at any time.
A post meeting of program presenters will also be conducted the week after the program is completed. At this meeting, those involved will discuss the activities, evaluate the components, and begin to make plans for future orientations and the quarterly sessions.
It would be very interesting to hear and see novice teachers’ evaluations of their experience under this program plan. I wonder to what extent they will feel that their needs have been met. I sincerely applaud the efforts of the people to plan a quality orientation, but also see items on the agenda which are probably not going to be received positively.
This is much trickier than many may imagine.
Novice employee programs must be designed to meet ther assessed needs of participants. Such a prior assessment tells planners whether topics the planners feel are important will be deilvered to participants who are ready to learn the information. The intent is NOT that the only topics should be those particiapants want, for certainly
- Novice often do not know what they need.
- Organizational needs must be balanced with participants’ needs
However, does the district want to present a model of “instruction” which is not based on prior assessment of learner needs?
Does the district believe that learners who are ready to learn a topic will be better learners and use the information more than the learners who are not ready for learning the topic?
In the case of requirement like “Bloodborne Pathogens” it makes sense that everyone must know this topic – yet should participants be forced to experience it again if they have already learned it, such as in their education program?
In the case of “Review of Employee Benefits” it makes sense that all will want to know this topic, and also that most or all will not have learned about it prior to arriving. Therefore, it’s reasonable for everyone to do this session.
The typical approach to orientation places too much information “up front” well before participants need it, and so much of that effort is wasted.In this sense, despite the title of the example program, the example is NOT a “Model” to be emulated.
Two other recommendations to improve a program such as this are:
- Design and provide a couple or three choices to allow participants to choose the topics of greatest perceived need to them.
- Do not make all the time on only presentations as this models poor instruction and does not address new teachers’ needs to get into their schools and classrooms and begin preparing. Instead of three days of presentations, the desire information can be presented in mornings all week and afternoons can be spent with the mentor in gathering resources, preparing the room and a week of lessons, and other practical activities which are of greatest concern to novices.