Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Mentors for Teachers from outside the U.S.: Experienced Teachers Often Serve as Mentors to Novices. Mr. Hutchison and Mr. Jazzar Explore a New Variety of Mentorship That Is Evolving as Growing Numbers of International Teachers Are Hired to Work in U.S. Schools. While These Teachers Are Experienced Professionals Themselves, They Do Need Guidance in the Unfamiliar Ways of American Culture and Education

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Mentors for Teachers from outside the U.S.: Experienced Teachers Often Serve as Mentors to Novices. Mr. Hutchison and Mr. Jazzar Explore a New Variety of Mentorship That Is Evolving as Growing Numbers of International Teachers Are Hired to Work in U.S. Schools. While These Teachers Are Experienced Professionals Themselves, They Do Need Guidance in the Unfamiliar Ways of American Culture and Education

Article excerpt

EVERYONE READING this journal has either heard of or had direct experience with the growing shortage of qualified teachers for U.S. classrooms. While some of the most critical shortages stem from problems with the distribution of teachers to schools where they are most needed, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that the nation will need more than two million teachers by the end of this decade. (1)

The causes of the shortages in teacher supply are myriad, ranging from increasing student enrollments to the retirement of the baby boomers. (2) In addition, the requirement imposed by No Child Left Behind that every classroom be staffed by a "highly qualified teacher" has exacerbated the problem. But whatever the causes, what we need now are solutions. We can't afford to leave any classroom behind--or teacherless.

In the last several years, states have adopted a wide range of initiatives in an effort to recruit new candidates into teaching. Programs such as Troops-to-Teachers and Teach for America have sought to tap new pools of talent. A variety of incentives, such as signing bonuses, student loan forgiveness, housing assistance, and tuition reimbursement, have also been offered in the hope of attracting talented people to the profession. Yet, despite these efforts, the need for additional teachers, especially in large urban school districts, has continued to grow.

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Because such initiatives have fallen short of meeting their needs, several states have been hiring experienced teachers from other countries to fill positions in areas of critical shortages. As early as 2000, Stephanie Cook wrote an article in the Christian Science Monitor that was headlined "Foreign Teachers Find a Place in U.S. Schools." (3) Barely two months later (2 October 2000), Newsweek devoted its cover to the same issue, posing the question: "Who Will Teach Our Kids?" Even the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has given its blessing to increasing the numbers of foreign teachers. And a report commissioned by the National Education Association indicates that as many as 10,000 international teachers are working in public school systems on nonimmigrant or cultural exchange visas. (4)

If all new teachers are likely to face induction-related issues, imagine how much more daunting the problems must be for teachers--even experienced ones--from foreign countries and cultures. These educators are encountering not just a new school but a new nation and often a new culture. It behooves districts that hire international teachers to help ease their transition into the classroom, and recent studies have suggested that teachers facing several cross-cultural issues would benefit from tailor-made mentoring. (5)

In this article, we base our recommendations on a combination of the findings of these studies and the personal and professional experiences of both authors. Charles Hutchison was born and raised in Ghana and was an international teacher himself for nine years at the middle and high school levels in the southeastern U.S. In the course of writing his 2005 book, Teaching in America, he interviewed many international teachers and their employers. Michael Jazzar grew up as first-generation American and was employed by the ARAMCO Schools in Saudi Arabia. Together, the authors have worked, consulted, and traveled in 26 countries.

SELECTION ISSUES

International teachers face several special challenges, including cultural and logistical issues, unfamiliar structural and organizational arrangements, differing understandings of assessment, communication gaps, and problems with teacher/student relations. Moreover, to become successful in their new teaching environments, international teachers need to become active learners themselves.

The challenges posed by cross-cultural teaching are clearly evident, and the participants in Hutchison's 2005 study described them in detail. …

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