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TNLI: Action Research: Professional Development: All in the Family? A Look at New Teachers, Veteran Teachers, and the Environment at Howard High School of Technology

Does the state-mandated mentoring program help to retain new teachers?

Research Summary

At 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.

I was 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.”

Despite 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.

As it 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, and manipulation.

With 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 Technology?”

With 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 difference.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Develop a statewide initiative to analyze the culture of apathy and disrespect prevalent in some schools.
  • Implement strategies to reward students on meaningful levels for improved behavior.
  • Offer incentives to new teachers who reach even minor milestones in their classrooms.
  • Research how students can effectively be reached in the schools, regardless of their home environment.
  • Work with school leaders in creating realistic plans for bringing about change in the culture of classrooms and schools.

Full Study
Coming Soon!

Cary Brandenberger


9th and 10th Grade
English
Howard High School of Technology
Wilmington

TNLI Affiliate:
Delaware

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute--Delaware, please e-mail Michael Rasmussen.

 

 

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