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"New Teacher Induction"

Dear Diary,
What happened?!? I came to my classroom today—prepared to dazzle my students with my command of caterpillars, butterflies, and the miracle of metamorphosis. Instead, they ate me alive!! They were horrible. Rude, blood-thirsty beasts in Power Ranger tennis shoes. What’s wrong with me? Am I such a bad teacher . . . really?

All across America, first-year teachers are coming home from work each day, emotionally and physically drained, and writing just such words in their personal journals.

At the same moment, all across America, superintendents and staff development coordinators in local school districts are trying to devise new and effective ways to respond to these desperate cries--cries from formerly fresh-faced, eager, enthusiastic, young teachers who emerge from colleges and universities armed with theory and raw knowledge but lacking one element vital to teaching success: classroom management skills.

Many school districts have discovered that at least part of the solution to establishing teacher success seems to reside in new teacher induction programs.

Induction programs are planned staff development opportunities designed to better equip new teachers—both those just emerging from the halls of academia and those experienced souls forced to adjust themselves to new school environments—for the challenges of the classroom. Of course, while all induction programs are intended to meet the specific needs of the district and its employees, each school system’s approach to new teacher training is as unique as the population it serves.

The best of these new teacher induction programs address both classroom management skills and discipline, instructional strategies and academic performance, and careful preparation and documentation.

In preparing for new teacher training, a great many school districts with successful induction programs have looked to the West for guidance and inspiration to the unassuming oasis of the Flowing Wells School District in Tucson, Arizona.

An Oasis of Learning
Located on the northwest edge of Tucson, Flowing Wells is one of those small Southwest locations that historically have drawn their modest living from the land. For years, farming was the area’s principal industry, and only recently has it given way to a colony of small family businesses.

There are no million-dollar homes in the school district; in fact, there are more mobile homes than even middle-class family residences. The demographics are squarely lower middle-class, and depending upon which of Flowing Wells’ eight schools you visit, some 50 to 75 percent of the student population will be eligible for free or reduced lunch.

However, social disadvantage has not stopped the Flowing Wells School District from becoming a leader in the Arizona education community. Seven of its schools have earned national academic recognition, seven Arizona Teacher of the Year winners or finalists, and a runner-up to the National Teacher of the Year are counted among its staff.

Clearly, Flowing Wells Schools is a community where the education of its 6,200 school-age children is a top priority.

"That’s what people enjoy about our district. It’s a real place with real problems, and yet we’ve managed to do some great things in educating our children," says Susie Heintz, Staff Development Coordinator for Flowing Wells Schools. "We are a community that doesn’t have a lot of money, but the people here will always come forward for education. We’ve never lost a bond election, and we have the greatest administrators in the world. We are a family."

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