Seems like the edublogosphere’s favorite topic of conversation nowadays is the edublogosphere and, specifically, what’s the point of it anyway. Most of the explanation and hand-wringing so far has put the cart several hundred yards in front of the horse
Meanwhile I have a good idea that needs to get a lot better. There is ample research I haven’t even begun to dig through but here are the basics.
The attrition rate for new teachers hits 50% within five years. The same studies report the largest mitigating factor in that mass exodus is mentorship. Therefore, in California, some 14,000 new teachers participate in a (mostly compulsory) two-year induction program, which, depending on its execution, can be as bad as no mentorship at all.
At worst, it becomes a thing of rubrics: rank yourself along sixteen metrics from one to five where one is [inscrutable pejorative eduspeak] and five is [inscrutable superlative eduspeak], submitting either a rote lesson plan or a rote handout for evidence. Then re-rank yourself along the same metrics several months later, presumably finding progress.
A group of three or four of us met at Starbucks once a week. A veteran teacher from my district presided over these introspections. Our spitballing sessions over classroom challenges were by far the most productive aspect of induction but that too could be spotty. In my two years, I was paired with a) a history teacher and b) a science teacher, one of whom had more heart for the $5,000 stipend than for us new teachers, neither of whom could offer this math teacher much advice past general class management.
I’m not about to suggest that online mentorship is a superior alternative to face-to-face mentorship simply because it’s online and shiny, just that:
- we need stronger pairings between mentors and mentees, matching them along criteria like geography, age, and especially content area, etc.
It’s still bizarre to me that they couldn’t find a math teacher mentor in the seventh largest district in California.
- the rubrics need to expand to include multimedia evidence of growth. One of the worst things anyone ever did for me as a new teacher was convince me that my lesson plans would ultimately take the form of paper (handout) or lecture (voice). If an inductee submitted, eg., this single photo and explained how it turned into twenty minutes of math, that should satisfy a standard.
There is need here. I’m getting more e-mail, more contact from new teachers. This weekend it was Renjie in Alabama and Glenn in Nevada, both first-year teachers
Can a group of interested and qualified edubloggers form an online consortium, crossing Match.com with course management software? You log in and see the five inductees on your caseload, their most recent journal entries, their progress towards each teaching standard the consortium has established.
I’m not suggesting any pro bono nonsense. We would need to get in on some of that stipend cash. Or non-profit status. This would be a charter induction program. Something like KIPP for new teacher training. There is need.