AZ School Librarian

Reflections on the events and happenings of a new librarian, veteran teacher, and soon to retire educator in Arizona. I've been a music teacher, computer lab teacher (VIC 20, Apple IIe, C-64, MacPlus, and PC), curriculum integration specialist, and am about to add Library Media Specialist to the list. My interests include photography, 4 wheeling (in a Jeep Unlimited), hiking, technology, and renovating my house.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mentor Training

I've spent the last three days in mentor training for our districts teacher induction program, starting at 8:30am and going until 4pm.

This blog is about two subjects - new teacher induction, and teacher inservice.

I think this inservice started out as a response to a problem many districts/schools face - we are losing teachers just a hair faster than we take them in. We wanted to figure out how to keep them longer than 3 years. We discovered that most were leaving because of "lack of support." Having seen how new teachers are often treated (given the worst behaved kids, fewest supplies, least information, competing with veteran teachers), and looking at how many things are expected of a new teacher (compared to what I had to learn as a new teacher so many years ago), that's a more than accurate statement.

We know a few other things too - if a student gets a new teacher, the resultant assessment scores are usually lower than those achieved by the students of "veteran" teachers. Not good in this era of high stakes scores. Further, research shows us that three years of poor instruction, and those students never recover. I can speak from personal experience with one of my 4 sons - he had 2 consecutive years of poor instruction - it took a great deal of effort on the part of his two teacher parents to keep him on track. I can only image what 3 years in a row would have done, and that ain't pretty.

So, we pull veteran teachers from the classroom (for 2 to 3 years), train them in methods of collaboration, give them ongoing training for the job, tools, and put them with the new teachers. Results - higher retention rates, higher new teacher satisfaction, comparable test scores for students.

We are also learning that our veteran teachers acquire a few things too - a much broader vision of education, an understanding that collaboration works for teachers, and a refusal to go back to "the way things were." They become leaders in the change that I expected to see technology bring to the classroom.

These type of "inservice" sessions are usually the worst combination of teaching technique and timing. The technique is usually didactic, with note taking either sneered at or accompanied by rolling eyeballs by fellow attendees. No interaction is allowed for, and you usually sit for 2 hours between breaks.

This one is a fine example of how to begin to break out of that didactic mold.

First - its happening while school is out. I'm not already in the process of being a teacher, librarian and technical wizard. I can focus in on the process, without sweating the usual issue of "how will I fit this in?" I will have time to reflect on the information before school starts. Second, while there is still someone reading from the bullets, we move quickly to some activity that supports the current topic. We are not just sitting in chairs. Finally, we review the purpose of the inservice often enough that even the most resistant participant (isn't that an oxymoron?) can't possible honestly ask "what are we doing here?"

Still room for improvement? Absolutely! We'll never have the perfect solution - but I hope that one day our inservices will have the same quality we are expected to bring to out classrooms.

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