by Caroline Freudig
As I enter into my 6th year working at the District Office on Kaua‘i as the Teacher Induction Program Coordinator, I am thrilled some of our schools across our complex area and the state have embraced school-level, sustainable systems of support for our first and second year teachers. These systems need to be in place especially as our future Title II* funding is very uncertain and it’s not clear what supports the federal government will provide in the coming school years.
Having worked closely with our newly hired teachers these past 6 years, I have seen and heard first-hand what impact our induction program supports have had on our beginning teachers and even on our instructional mentors. First and second-year teachers have said things such as “I really appreciate their (mentor) support and patience to teach each and every new teacher the skills they need to become a successful teacher” and “The teacher induction program has really given me a sense of place. It has allowed me to really understand where my students come from and what the island has to offer to someone new”.
The school-level instructional mentors have also found the trainings provided and the time spent mentoring valuable as I’ve heard things such as “Supporting our new teachers benefits everyone, the students, schools and families” and “They (trainings) really help with suggestions/opportunities for approaching the beginning teacher as well as providing proven strategies to support student learning”. This feedback from our beginning teachers and instructional mentors drives what we do and how we do it here on Kaua‘i.
In order to provide the support, we are supported by the state of Hawai‘i Teacher Induction Center (HTIC). The State Department of Education has been on a journey since 2003 when our Department of Education-Office of Human Relations and the University of Hawai‘i Special Education Department partnered with New Teacher Center, a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving student learning by guiding a new generation of educators. Ever since then, the DOE has worked diligently to provide dedicated support to our beginning teachers and instructional mentors. To this date, Induction & Mentoring is included in the DOE State Strategic Plan.
What does this mean? Well, there is an ongoing focus on supporting our beginning teachers and instructional mentors. And, honestly, why wouldn’t there be? Our state continues to actively recruit teachers from other states, some of which come with many years of experience and others which are brand new to the profession. Each year we have many openings across our schools throughout the state, with Special Education being an area of need.
So, when teachers do apply for and accept a position at a school, it’s vital the school has a process and program in place for how they will provide support for those teachers and that system needs to be differentiated for all types of newly hired teachers- those with teaching experience, those new to the profession, those have lived here all their lives and those from other states or countries. The teacher’s school becomes their home and it all begins there. They need to be embraced and become part of school community and culture, especially for those teachers that move here without any family or friends.
This doesn’t mean there won’t or shouldn’t be any supports provided for the new hires by the district. The district supports, such as a summer orientation, or training for new mentors should continue in collaboration with the schools and their Induction Programs. However, a school needs to take ownership and responsibility for the teachers setting foot on their campus for the first time which needs to include dedicated mentors working with first and second year teachers to assist them in reflecting upon their teaching practice and reaching the diverse needs of their learners in an equitable way.
This type of school driven support for inducting newly hired teachers is necessary and can easily be adapted into a school’s culture given all the supports provided by not only the district but by the state as well. There needs to be an expectation that all schools will have a system in place to support their newly hired teachers and the system or structures provided are rooted in the many years of research on best practices of teacher induction. Many of our schools across the state have embraced this philosophy and they provide an example of how this support can be sustained within the school’s norms. By shining the light upon these school’s structures & systems, other schools can rethink their school design to include ongoing and sustained supports for their new hires.
*Title II funding is U.S. Department of Education funds dedicated to “Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High Quality Teachers and Principals”.