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Learning While Teaching the First Year


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New Teacher Academy, a seminar program based at Teachers College at New York's Columbia University, offers new teachers advice, information, and support throughout their first challenging school year. The program aims to ease the teachers' adjustment and keep them teaching. Included: A description of the New Teacher Academy program.



Teachers in New Teacher Academy work on online content. (Credit: Photo courtesy of TC Innovations, New Teacher Academy)

Just when new teacher Lisa Krakowsky thought her student days were over, she found herself on the other side of the classroom again!

Two years ago, when Krakowsky was a first-year 4th grade teacher at P.S. 106 in District 32 in Brooklyn, New York, she participated in New Teacher Academy, a seminar program for beginning teachers, held at Columbia Universitys Teachers College. Teachers meet at the academy 15 times during the school year, attending sessions on topics from designing lesson plans to using classroom management techniques effectively.

What I liked most about the program was that it brought new teachers together and gave us a chance to vent and share ideas, Krakowsky told Education World. It also helped me relax and keep my aim strong throughout the year.

We saw an acute need for something like this, both to increase teacher retention and to address other issues, Michael Cole, chief operating officer of TC Innovations, the outreach unit of Teachers College, told Education World. New Teacher Academy is a TC Innovations program. We want to become part of the teacher development program in all school districts.  
Teachers review videos in class. (Credit: Photo courtesy of TC Innovations, New Teacher Academy)

About 250 teachers have attended the program in the past four years; 90 percent of those who attended in the past three years are still teaching, according to Cole. (Studies conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics indicate that, in general, about 26 percent of new teachers leave within the first three years.) School districts cover the cost of the program, and some recommend it to all their new teachers. Our goal is to reach 10,000 teachers by the end of the decade, Cole said.

TCI also has expanded the program to other states, including Texas and Mississippi; facilitators for those programs also are trained at Columbia, Cole said.


TEACHING THE TEACHERS

New Teacher Academy sessions are taught by Columbia Teachers College graduate students and by teachers from the beginning teachers' home districts who have been trained by TCI staff. According to spokeswoman Lisa Nielson, Weve found its important to have people from within the district who know the district and culture.

The program starts with such basics as setting up a classroom, state teaching standards, and education policies. Other topics include classroom management, working with children of different cultural backgrounds, and communicating with parents. Teachers also practice using technology and preparing enriching lesson plans. In addition, some teachers also attend an all-day workshop on how to use conflict resolution techniques with students.

The program helped us understand how children think and work and why they behave the way they do, said Krakowsky, who started as an art teacher and then was transferred to fourth grade. Most of the problems I had to deal with involved classroom management. I realized I couldnt teach if I couldnt get the class under control.

The program also helped Krakowsky prepare a portfolio of work from her first year as a teacher, and participants in her section of the program submitted applications for mini-grants and used the grant money for class projects.

Class discussions also were extremely valuable. It helped me a lot with lesson-planning, said Priscilla Chan, a science teacher at Tompkins Square Middle School. Also, I participated with people from my district and that helped me get to know people.


MORE SELF-PACED LEARNING

This year, teachers also will be able to opt for a course version with more online work, which allows them to network and hone their technology skills. Weve heightened the content on our Web site, according to Cole. But we cannot replace the human factor."

Chan participated this past spring in the pilot of the more computer-based version. It was self-paced and very advanced, Chan told Education World. There was a session on building Web pages, and I want to do one for my class.

Krakowsky said the course was worth the effort involved. I would recommend it to others, she said. It was a lot of work, but very helpful. You realize you are not alone; other people are going through the same thing.


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