At Maine School Administrative District No. 1, one of my greatest concerns for the future of our district is the ability to recruit and retain quality teachers. Located in rural, northeastern Maine, our district has found that most candidates for teaching positions live within our region. With the dual goal of providing a strong professional development program and retaining new hires, a smart investment for the district has been our recently initiated teacher induction program.
At Presque Isle (Maine) High School more than 40 percent of the current faculty has 25 years or more of experience. With many anticipated retirements in the near future and, therefore, many new staff members to come, Anne Blanchard, the school's assistant principal, was charged with the task of developing a teacher induction program for new hires.
Blanchard and two teachers collected data and explored strategies about how to attract and support new teachers. After presenting their findings to district administration, the project was approved. In 2003, Blanchard put it motion.
The Induction Process
Two weeks prior to the official start day for faculty and staff, Blanchard sends an agenda for the New Teacher Orientation. At this meeting, where Blanchard plays a lead role, teachers review the teacher and student handbooks, review a photo directory of personnel in the building, and study a list of educational acronyms to refer to when needed, such as Pupil Evaluation Team. Veteran teachers are invited to share tips on how to get the school year off to a good start including classroom management strategies, establishing rapport with students, and communication with parents.
New staff members are each given a copy of First-Year Teacher's Survival Kit by Julia G. Thompson, which gives practical advice on how to handle issues that arise during a teacher's first year on the job. Topics include: creating a user-friendly classroom, working with colleagues, connecting with students, designing and delivering effective instruction, evaluating student progress, and classroom management tips.
New teachers are also each assigned a mentor who will work with them for two to three years. The mentor is to assist new teachers in assessing their professional growth needs relative to standards established by law. The mentor must also assist in developing a Teacher Action Plan and meet with the new employee to discuss progress. The new teacher and mentor must report monthly to the district's Certification Committee on progress toward the TAP. As the administrative representative of the Certification Committee, I have witnessed the tremendous growth that takes place with strong professional development and good mentoring.
Cohort Meets Monthly
About two weeks after the beginning of school, Blanchard meets again with the rookies for them to ask questions and comment on their initial experiences.
The cohort meets monthly with Blanchard for the first two years of a teacher's career at PIHS. Themes covered include technology (how to use and implement the district's software for grading, attendance, etc.); classroom management (veteran teachers and Blanchard give tips on how to establish and sustain classroom norms for optimum teaching and learning); teaching standards for certification; parent-teacher conferences; planning and preparation; teacher observations and evaluation; and assessment. The theme is current with what is happening at school. For example, prior to the month of the Maine Educational Assessment teachers discuss how schools will function and the role of each new teacher while the exam is being administered. I have spoken with several new hires and they all agree that these monthly meetings provide direction and help to alleviate stress.
Recruitment and Retainment
The administration has been so pleased with the results of the teacher induction program at the high school that plans are in the works to formalize the program in all district schools. With the expected number of retirements over the next five years, the district's continued stability will depend heavily on the recruitment and retainment of highly qualified teachers. The teacher induction program is one piece of maintaining that stability.
Jeffrey Bearden is Assistant Superintendent for Business for MSAD#1 in Presque Isle, Maine.