Gone are the days of throwing a young and mostly uneducated wannabe teacher into the classroom with a "good luck" and a wave and expecting him to manage a bunch of wild children from ages 5 to 17.
Awesome as that sounds, today's education standards for teachers are higher, and our new teachers come with their own set of expectations. In response to new teacher needs, many states have created mentorships and/or induction programs. They started out as extras, but these programs are quickly becoming standard operating procedure.
Why the shift? Uh, because people finally realized that teaching is hard.
Took 'em long enough.
So what are these programs?
First, they're often mandated and funded by the state. They tend to function as mentorships, where first-year teachers are paired with more experienced teachers. The experienced teacher is expected to help the newbie deal with (and ultimately overcome, we'd hope) common first-year challenges.
- Discipline problems? The experienced teachers can give pointers.
- Students not turning in homework? The mentor can offer options and creative solutions to encourage a greater turn-in rate.
- Feeling overwhelmed, or like you have very little time? Mentor teachers can help offer solutions or ideas for better time management.
Sometimes the experienced teacher may help craft or even share entire lesson plans with the new teacher. They may help grade simple assignments like quizzes or run tests through Scantron machines. They may wave a magic wand and make the work suddenly disappear.
Hey, you never know.
The ultimate goal of mentorships or induction programs is to contribute to new teacher retention and increase teacher effectiveness—both for the new teacher and the established mentor. And often these programs actually help both teachers build new skill sets.
Can't beat that.
Other goals for an induction program (according to this WestEd study) may include:
- Increasing satisfaction rates among teachers
- Satisfying state requirements for full completion of mentorship or induction programs (remember that funding we talked about earlier?)
- Helping new teachers understand the culture of the school system so they can fit in more smoothly
So, the students may still be wild, but induction programs just make us teachers better prepared to handle it.
Zookeeper training optional.