Thursday, February 19, 2009

Must keep new teachers well fed

Of the many workshops I do, my favorite group to work with are new teachers. Each year I do 3 to 4 sessions on Differentiated Instruction for districts and my organization. For the record, I like working with veterans too. But there's something critical about supporting new teachers. It's a desire to help them maintain their passion, optimism, and idealism about what's best for kids. Veterans have established support networks and know where to get support, or have figured out how to manage. New teachers deal with so much in the first several years. One article cites a report that says 30% of teachers leave the profession after 3 years, and 50% after 5 years.

During my first 3 years of teaching, I had 2 informal mentors, a department head and another colleague. They took me under their wings, and got me involved in professional development such as an Essential Schools conference, the Great Books course, and the National Endowment for Humanities program. I learned so much from these experiences. The core concepts that I took to heart is that I don't know what I don't know, therefore there is always something I can learn to sharpen the saw (Stephen Covey) of my practice, and there are endless ways to connect learning for students. In subsequent years, each new school I worked at a veteran teacher stepped up to guide and continue my education for effective instruction. The life lesson I gained was that my turn would come to support others. That time is now.

President Obama called on the American people to volunteerism. In schools across the country, veteran teachers and other educators need to reach out to those new to the profession. Even in schools where a mentor program exists, new teachers can always use extra perspectives.

The experience is mutually beneficial. The impact for students...