"I feel more comfortable and have more insight into exactly what to expect. I feel as if I have friends I can reach out to as a support group. I don't feel as if I am doing this alone." Those are the words of Eric Chancey, one of the participants in a unique summer program for new teachers in Baltimore, Maryland. The program provides new teachers with important lessons on how to handle the first-year highs and lows -- and thrive! Included: Comments from Marsha Taylor, coordinator of the program, and from teachers who have participated in the program during the last two years.
When first-year teacher Jason Beall steps into his classroom for the first time, he will have a head start on managing life at school.
Beall is one of 400 new teachers participating in the New Teacher Training Institute, a voluntary four-week summer program for newly hired teachers in Baltimore, Maryland. Now in its second year, the institute provides hands-on lessons and much-needed support for new teachers.
Beall, who will teach high school math, switched careers after working for two years at an accounting firm. "For someone like me, I couldn't make it in the classroom without this program, said Beall.
Marsha Taylor, program coordinator, says the New Teacher Training Institute is the first of its kind in the state of Maryland. The intensive program provides practical strategies in a host of areas, including lesson planning, preparation, and instruction; the creation of student portfolios; classroom management and discipline; and communication with parents. "Our job is to give them the bag of tools they need," said Taylor.
The participants are grouped by the grade level and/or content area they will teach. Each class has no more than 35 participants. Participants earn a stipend of $125 a day. Taylor notes that enrollment in this year's program doubled last year's.
Curriculum specialists or classroom teachers teach all sessions. Lendora Cleveland, a language arts instructional support teacher, is a presenter for the second year. A 12-year system veteran, Cleveland enjoys the enthusiasm of the new recruits. "They are very eager," said Cleveland. "They listen to everything we say."
In addition to receiving classroom instruction, the participants visit summer school programs to observe Baltimore city students at work. Participants also learn to incorporate cultural resources and presentations into the classroom curriculum by visiting educational and cultural institutions, such as the Maryland Historical Society, and attending performances by local arts groups.
In August, all Baltimore teachers participate in a mandatory, five-day orientation. During that week, the new teachers review what they learned in the voluntary program. "This is the time to extend and refine," explained Taylor.
At the end of the mandatory week, all teachers go to their assigned schools. The principals plan site orientations in their buildings for the new teachers. Taylor encourages the new teachers to use this time to talk to their principals and ask questions.
In addition to the lessons they learned over the summer, the new teachers receive follow-up support throughout their first year in the classroom. Each school provides assistance for new teachers. The form of the assistance varies from support committees to buddy systems to mini-workshops. New teachers also participate in mandatory after-school workshops each month.
Support brought teachers such as Sherri Knight and Mark Conrad to Baltimore -- and keeps them in system.
Sherri Knight, a seventh- and eighth-grade special education teacher at Chinquapin Middle School, will soon begin her second year in the system. Knight, who was a trainer in this year's summer institute, taught at a residential center for six years before going to Baltimore. Although she entered the system as an experienced teacher, Knight feels her first year would have been difficult without the program. "Because of the demands put on a new teacher, without having staff available, a new teacher would be lost in the system and would not know where to go for assistance," said Knight. "I felt there was stability and a lot of support systems in Baltimore for new teachers."
Mark Conrad is second-year language arts teacher at Francis Scott Key Technology Magnet School. Conrad, who had been living and teaching in Colorado, moved to Baltimore when his wife began studying at Johns Hopkins University. Conrad saw the move as an opportunity to teach in an urban setting.
"I had never taught in an urban environment, and the program informed me about a large system," said Conrad. "The program lets teachers know what the responsibilities of the job are and what types of monitoring and testing are done." Conrad also said that the program helps first-year teachers learn how to "teach through moments of disillusionment" and succeed.
Conrad, who was also a presenter in this summer's institute, especially enjoyed the support system that he says was enriched by the presence of veteran teachers and the "collegiate bond" created by new teachers. Conrad said some of the new teachers formed a book group to read and discuss education texts and leisure books.
If the results from last year's New Teacher Training Institute are any indication, the program seems to be working. Marsha Taylor says that of the 170 participants who attended all four weeks of the institute last year, only nine -- about 5 percent -- have left the school system. Evaluations of the program by last year's participants were also extremely positive. "Many said there was no way they could have made it through the first year without the program," said Taylor. "I think we are doing a good job if we can help keep a teacher in the classroom. If we can help a teacher succeed, then our children will succeed as well."
Presenter Lendora Cleveland notices a difference between the teachers who participate in the institute and those who do not. "The program participants don't seem as overwhelmed as their peers who have not been through the program," said Cleveland. "They are much more prepared."
New teacher Eric Chancey says his participation in the program makes him feel less anxious about his first year in the classroom. Chancey, who will teach special education students at Calverton Middle School, earned a degree in child psychology from Morgan State University.
"I feel more comfortable and have more insight into exactly what to expect," said Chancey. "I feel as if I have friends I can reach out to as a support group. I don't feel as if I am doing this alone."
As the new school year approaches, the presenters wish the novice teachers well -- and offer some words of advice.
"Enter the school with a positive attitude, have a desire to want to teach, use the resources that are available so that students can be successful," said Sherri Knight. She also advises the new recruits to seek help when they need it. "It's OK to feel frustrated, confused, and stressed," said Knight. "The positive result is that one overcomes that in time."
No doubt Eric Chancey will take that advice. He's eager to get started and anticipating one thing in particular on the first day of school. "I'm looking forward to my students' calling me Mr. Chancey. It will be nice to hear that."
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Article by Lois Lewis
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