Districts Realize Teachers Need Teachers, Too Mentoring Programs Offer Educators Support
Hartman, Kari, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
It's not easy to teach people to love their jobs.
Members of all professions seem to find things to complain about - the hours, the pay, the workload.
So it's no surprise school administrators are searching for ways to help young teachers address the challenges of their new profession while developing a long-term love affair with their work.
And everyone involved in education knows that will be especially critical during the next few years.
A recent State Board of Education report indicates tens of thousands of Illinois Baby Boomers are expected to retire from teaching in the next decade.
To replace them, administrators will need to do more than just attract new teachers - they will have to figure out how to keep them happy and thriving in the profession.
And in an economic environment where it's not unusual for teachers to switch career paths or change districts in search of higher pay or other benefits, that's becoming increasingly tricky.
Indian Prairie Unit District 204 in Naperville and Aurora is a good example. It remains the fastest-growing district in the state, but a recent count indicates 182 of its 1,600 or so teachers resigned over the summer, including 116 who were with the district for three years or less. Fifty-seven of those teachers left after just one year.
"Talking informally with other personnel, people are seeing the same thing," says Nancy Pedersen, District 204's assistant superintendent for human resources.
"Teaching is looking a little bit more like private enterprise. Now teachers are shopping around a little bit more."
Research indicates money usually isn't the motivating factor in attracting candidates to teaching, Pedersen says, "but when all things in a district are equal, why not leave for more money?"
While districts grapple with how much to pay teachers to keep them from looking elsewhere, countless other factors also come into play.
New teachers, for instance, often feel overwhelmed by their workloads and uncertain of how their teaching strategies are working.
To help pull them through their first few years in front of a classroom, more districts are offering mentoring programs. The concept is simple: Experienced teachers are paired with beginners to help them through their struggles.
That's why 62 area educators participated this month in a teacher mentoring program in Addison called Pathwise Induction Into the Teaching Profession. The program is sponsored by the Educational Testing Service in conjunction with the DuPage Regional Office of Education.
Veteran teachers met for three days of training and will attend another two-day session in November to collect tips for coaching new teachers in those make-or-break first few years in the classroom. …