Supporting Ms. Daisy
On two occasions recently, I've heard lawyers talk about starting out in their profession and their first days on the job. Both said that, for about the first two years, veteran lawyers worked with them very closely, constantly evaluating their work and helping them improve. There was no way the law firms they worked for would allow a first-year associate to perform duties for their clients without the supervision and help of more experienced and successful colleagues.
In many situations, new teachers have an experience that is nearly the exact opposite. They are welcomed to the school, handed keys to a classroom and wished good luck. End of story. Is it any wonder so many teachers who get this kind of start leave the profession? Sure, they went through student teaching under the tutelage of an experienced teacher, but that simply isn't the same as handling your own classroom. In an August 2012 post, Driving Ms. Daisy - Away, I shared the following:
A recent study by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) found that America's teacher dropout problem is spiraling out of control, with attrition growing 50 percent over the past 15 years. So now let's take our futuristic fantasy further by imagining some no-cost ways to actually retain top talent.
We must find ways to support teachers as they enter the profession and get them off to a good start. Not only will this support help stop the attrition; it will significantly improve teaching and learning. The Prichard Committee Team on Effective Teaching, with the support of the Committee on Economic Development (CED) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has recently been studying this issue and released an issue brief that is worth reading: Supporting New Teachers: The Importance of the First Year in Ensuring Success and Retention .
After you read this report I would urge you to work with your local school districts and states to ensure that strong support systems, including strong mentorships, are put in place for beginning teachers. We must continue to work hard to keep our best and brightest in our classrooms.