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" New Teacher Induction"

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That sense of family and community is pervasive in the Flowing Wells induction program, their Institute for Teacher Renewal and Growth.

Now in its 15th year, Flowing Wells’ Institute for Teacher Renewal and Growth has been described as the "mother of all induction programs." Among the first such comprehensive programs in the United States, the Institute for Teacher Renewal and Growth has become so highly regarded that Flowing Wells has begun hosting a two-day national induction seminar which last year filled to capacity as it attracted over 40 educators from seven states.

Each year, Flowing Wells trains some 30 to 50 first-year teachers, depending on the number of new vacancies that arise in the district. The induction curriculum followed by these teachers focuses on five attributes critical to classroom success:

  • Effective instructional practices;
  • Effective classroom management procedures and routines;
  • A sensitivity to and an understanding of the Flowing Wells community;
  • Teaching as an avenue for life-long learning and professional growth; and
  • Unity and teamwork among the entire community.

The induction process is launched each August with four days of intensive training just before students return from summer break. Beginning at 8:15 on the morning of the first day, the training team immerses the class in the development of a cohesive, supportive instructional team. Ms. Heintz and the district superintendent introduce the new teachers to key personnel from around the district. Then, the induction participants are organized into support groups.

From there, and for the next four days, the focus is on training, and the pace is steady. By late morning of the opening day, the emphasis has quickly and firmly shifted to classroom instruction.

"What we are about in Flowing Wells is teaching kids," Ms. Heintz explains. "So, we move our new teachers right into studying instructional practice. We show them how to introduce a lesson, how to close a lesson. Everything we do illustrates that what we hold primary is instructing our kids."

Typical first day sessions in the induction process find teachers exploring their classroom responsibilities, teaching classroom objectives, and engaging students in active participation. Ms. Heintz and her fellow trainers assume the role of classroom teachers, and the first-year teachers become their "students."

"I was a teacher in Flowing Wells for 14 years," notes Ms. Heintz, "and I’m constantly modeling all the training, all the things we want to see in our classrooms. Those things we expect them to use in class, they will see me demonstrate. They become my students for four days."

In fact, so prevalent is the teacher-student dynamic in the Institute for Teacher Renewal and Growth that each new teacher is assigned homework on the first two days of induction.

Day Two of the induction process continues with a focus on the essential elements of instruction. New teachers are schooled in formulating instructional objectives, planning and setting up for a sample lesson, and motivating students.

Then, on the third day, the first-year teachers are given a crash course in Flowing Wells cultural literacy.

"Our new teachers need to know that we are about service to a unique community," says Ms. Heintz. "It’s important for our new teachers to know that this is a close-knit community, that this is a lower socioeconomic community, that parent communication is important here."

To clearly illustrate that message, the Flowing Wells district staff loads the new teachers onto buses for a guided tour of the community. The bus tour includes visits to local businesses, an overview of the district’s socioeconomic climate, and an introduction to long-standing Flowing Wells traditions.

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