What should beginning teacher induction programs look like?
Most of them look like this one from Ontario’s Ministry of Education website and include:
- orientation for all new teachers to the school and school board
- mentoring for new teachers by experienced teachers
- professional development and training in areas such as:
- Literacy and Numeracy strategies, Student Success, Safe Schools, etc.
- Classroom management, effective parent communication skills, and instructional strategies that address the learning and culture of students with special needs and other diverse learners.
…and you can see a similar program in action by watching the following video which features the teacher induction program at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School’s, a district in Alberta.
Both of these are excellent examples of how beginning teachers should be supported to ensure a successful transition into the profession. This is important because, as I reported in an earlier post, “In Alberta…40% of all teachers entering the profession leave within the first 5 years.” Quality induction programs are widely regarded as a high yield strategy to reduce those numbers.
In my opinion, the key to a successful mentorship program lies not in the structure, but in the quality of each individual mentor. After looking at a number of programs, I’ve come up with this list of competencies seen as desirable in effective mentors:
- Willing to serve as a mentor and to be approachable
- Foresighted, anticipating problems and preparing solutions in advance
- An excellent role model
- Sensitive to the needs, feelings, and skills of others.
- Candid, but also positive, patient, encouraging, and helpful
- Committed to the success of their protegé
- Discrete and confidential about what is said and not said
- Nurturing, caring, and accepting
- Reflective teacher
- Adept at balancing maintenance of relationships and accomplishment of tasks
- Knowledgeable about the organization and it’s culture, mission, and values
- An effective listener and communicator
- Respected by others
This is a wonderful list of qualities and any new teacher would be lucky to receive the support and guidance of individuals who posses them. But for me, this is not enough. I’m just worried about TTWWADI. (This blog post by Jason Berg explains the concept of TTWWADI really well.) These qualities can be found in great teachers, both those who are moving forward with their practice and those who remain in a very traditional model of pedagogical thinking.
As the individual tasked with designing a quality induction program for 22 new teachers in my district, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of finding the right mentors for today’s protégés and not mentors for yesterday’s protégés. I’m not even sure if years of experience is on the top of my list as the most import thing to consider. When our school-based administrators start tapping prospective mentors on the shoulder this week, I ask that they consider some of these questions first:
Are they engaging students with new and innovative approaches?
Are they a life long learner, open to the views and feedback of others?
Are they a risk taker, willing to move out of their comfort zone?
Are they tech savvy and able to build the protégés capacity to integrate technology?
Are they skilled at differentiating instruction?
Have they flattened the walls of their classroom?
Do they use ongoing formative assessment?
Do their students have choice in how they learn and how they demonstrate their learning?
Is their classroom environment flexible and student centred?
If we’re going to build the critical mass necessary for Educations great shift to take place, we need to be intentional about many things we do, including the pairing of mentors and protégés. Otherwise, TTWWADI will rule the day.