Teachers Training Teachers

By Van Zant, Susan; Razska, Don et al. | Leadership, January 2001 | Go to article overview
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Teachers Training Teachers

Van Zant, Susan, Razska, Don, Kutzner, Charlotte, Leadership

Experienced teachers work with new teachers in this induction and support program to offer classroom observations, curriculum support, model lessons and whatever it takes to create success.

One size does not fill all, especially when it comes to teacher evaluation. Under a trust agreement between the Federation of Teachers and the Poway Unified School District, evaluation formats are tailored to meet the developing needs of teachers -- new teachers, experienced tenured teachers and tenured teachers who are in grave need of assistance. The Poway Professional Assistance Program is a comprehensive peer support and review system focused on student learning.

New teachers

It would be unreasonable to expect a doctor fresh out of medical school to perform intricate, risky operations, but that is often what is expected of new teachers. With as little as one semester of student teaching, new teachers are placed in classrooms with little or no support other than what they can obtain for themselves. Supervision is often sporadic and most times, new teachers are evaluated with the same expectations as their veteran colleagues.

Since its inception in 1987, more than 900 new teachers in the Poway Unified School District have received assistance through the Poway Professional Assistance Program. PPAP is both an induction and supervision program. Training is completed in the best place for new teachers to learn -- their own classrooms.

What makes this induction program unique is that new teachers receive their training from the greatest single source of expertise -- experienced teachers. These training teachers, called teacher consultants, must be tenured with a minimum of five years of experience and go through an extensive selection process. All consultants must have had a variety of teaching experiences.

The consultant provides the new teacher with thorough and frequent classroom observations, reflective comments, curriculum support, model lessons, coaching, classroom arrangement and sometimes just a sympathetic ear. In other words, the teacher consultant does whatever it takes to create success for the new teachers and their students.

Just as all students learn at different rates, so do new teachers. The philosophy of the program is to tailor feedback and support to the individual teacher's needs. In a typical weekly visit to a new teacher, the teacher consultant observes and records reactions, commendations, encourages reflection by asking questions, and provides suggestions in a journal about what is happening in the classroom regarding management, lesson design, student participation, teacher presence, curriculum and student assessment.

Each consultant assumes responsibility for the first-year evaluations of the new teacher. Working with a maximum of 15 first-year teachers, the consultant completes the contract requisite of six formal, written observations. It is expected that the consultant will have more than 40 hours of contact time throughout the year.

Second-year teachers

Second-year teacher support is designed to guide teachers as they transition from their first year of teaching. Support is provided through full-time teacher consultants at the elementary and middle schools. Due to the unique needs of high school second-year teachers, on-site veteran teachers provide this support service.

The goal of the second-year program is to help teachers with the implementation of their individual induction plan. Assistance is tailored to improve the individual's level of expertise by refining teaching skills, locating new resources and incorporating a more reflective view of teaching strategies and practice.

Second-year teachers participate in a variety of activities based on their identified needs. Personal interactions are pivotal to this program, and consultants help teachers meet their professional growth goals. Routine peer coaching helps each teacher identify and implement the "next best steps" in the classroom teaching practices.

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