state-mandated mentoring program help to retain
Howard, most of the faculty and the administration
like to brag about the fact that we are a family:
the faculty supports each other; we rally together,
to help when a student or teacher is in crisis.
We attend social events together, and most of us
really “know” each other. Yet, it’s funny how we
say we are all family, but so many of the new teachers
are quick to break free when they finish their first
year. As the English Department chair, I was concerned
that, excluding the Math Department, we had the
highest turnover rate of new teachers.
mentoring a new teacher in the English Department
who had come from another Delaware high school.
She was enthusiastic, knew her material, and was
an excellent addition to our department. She brought
with her a passion for teaching, which resonated
with the other members of the department who may
have seen their excitement lessen after many years
of teaching high school students. There was an overwhelmingly
positive response to the new-teacher mentoring program.
I received responses like “This school provides
me with everything I need to be successful” and
“I have every resource I need, including more than
enough people to help me.” When I reviewed my notes,
I, too, had written things like “The whole staff
is so supportive of the new teachers.”
the positive responses about the staff and resources,
one recurring theme that quickly caught my attention
continued to pop up on the new teachers’ comment
sheets: the students’ behavior. So I decided that
the focus of our new-teacher meetings should be
classroom management. I quickly realized that what
they were calling student behavior didn’t have anything
to do with classroom management.
turned out, the real issue was student apathy. The
really hard truth came when the “good” new teacher
left on April 1. She couldn’t even make it to the
end of the year. We lost a really good teacher because
of the culture that had been established among the
students at our school—a culture of apathy, disrespect,
the support of our new principal, I surveyed almost
the entire faculty and staff and discovered that
they overwhelmingly felt that they worked harder
than the students to increase student achievement
and that the students continually circumvented the
rules. We used our last professional development
day to explore the topic “How Can We Change the
Climate and the Culture at Howard High School of
a focus on and a commitment to change and through
teacher-led workshops, the faculty and staff created
a protocol for dealing with student behavior and
a thematic plan for the upcoming year. My research
will continue next year to see if our plan makes
a statewide initiative to analyze the culture
of apathy and disrespect prevalent in some schools.
strategies to reward students on meaningful levels
for improved behavior.
incentives to new teachers who reach even minor
milestones in their classrooms.
how students can effectively be reached in the
schools, regardless of their home environment.
with school leaders in creating realistic plans
for bringing about change in the culture of classrooms