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Teachers Network in the News

Article courtesy of Citigroup Foundation 2005 Annual Report

An interview with Dr. Marcia Lyles,
Superintendent, Region 8, Brooklyn, NY

Who needs more support: a new teacher or his or her students? Sometimes it’s the teacher. Teachers Network is an organization that is seeking to reverse a startling national trend in U.S. public schools—one-third of teachers leave the field within their first three years of teaching. Teachers Network created the “New Teacher Resource Program” (NTRP), which draws on the experience of outstanding teachers to provide resources to 2,910 new teachers in 12 U.S. school districts. The program provides new teachers with comprehensive support materials on topics such as classroom management, lesson planning, and involving families as partners. The Citigroup Foundation has funded the NTRP for four years and talked to Dr. Marcia Lyles about how teachers in her region have benefited from the program.

 

You’ve been involved with education for many years. What changes have you witnessed in teacher preparation and training?

I knew I wanted to be a teachers by the time I reached the second grade. I had traditional teacher training—several education classes and hours of student-teaching before taking over a classroom. Today, many teachers come into the system through alternative certification programs that move candidates into their own classrooms after just a brief period of training. Although this can be a great way to recruit great talent in to the school system, for many teachers, it is their first time back in a classroom since they were students. They haven’t learned to swim, and we throw them into the deep end.

What challenges arise when teachers lack training and experience?

Teachers can lose a lot of time reinventing the wheel or using ineffective techniques. They can feel overwhelmed, lost, and alone. Students need teachers who have confidence—who not only know their subject matter, but also have strong classroom management techniques.

What strategies have you employed to improve teacher retention rates?

Mentoring relationships are crucial and Teachers Network has been enormously helpful in supporting these relationships. There is an excellent overlap between new teachers’ needs and the resources the NTRP provides.

Could you describe how the NTRP helps teachers?

It’s a life preserver. This program, created by experienced teachers, is a great resource for generating ideas for the classroom. The handbook, video, and online courses show successful techniques teachers can model, from classroom management to engaging families.

How can the NTRP help alleviate the stress that new teachers often feel?

One time I was talking with a new teacher in an urban school. He thought he had all the answers to how he would manage his class… in theory. Then, one day, a fight broke out among some of his students. After the students were gone and he was alone, he broke down in tears. He was frustrated that he did not prevent the fight and upset by the students’ anger. His theories were insufficient—what he needed was the benefit of experience.

Classroom management is one of the biggest challenges for new teachers. This teacher, because of his lack of experience, was less confident and unprepared to deal with the situation. I routinely hear from teachers how helpful the NTRP materials are in giving practical advice on dealing with these issues.

Is the NTRP program working?

It’s off to a strong start. The most important factor in students’ education is the teacher in front of them, so investing in teachers is investing in children. For every teacher the NTRP supports, hundreds of students benefit over time.

 

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