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" New Teacher Induction"

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Each August, an average of 200 teachers enter the Mesa Career Ladder Program. The three-year Entry Level Program serves both teachers new to teaching (designated by the abbreviation TNT) and teachers new to Mesa (TNM).

As in Flowing Wells, teachers coming to Mesa with no classroom experience are enrolled in a four-day training session prior to the opening of school.

According to Nancy Fiandach, Career Ladder Specialist for Mesa Public Schools, "Our first year focuses almost entirely on classroom management. We place heavy emphasis on routines and procedures."

On each of the four teacher training days, classroom management seminars are staged during the morning hours. Each afternoon, first-year teachers have the opportunity to view demonstration classrooms or to work with mentors on preparing their classrooms.

Mesa Public Schools pays selected veteran teachers to come in two or three days early to arrange their classrooms as they would for the first day of school. Elementary demonstration classrooms are grouped by grade levels (kindergarten, grades 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6), music, and special education, while secondary demonstration classrooms are grouped by content area.

The district provides these demonstration classrooms even if only one or two teachers are hired on a particular grade level. "Our aim is to make sure every teacher can see what a really fine classroom looks like," Dr. Fiandach says.

Throughout the course of the induction week, these demonstration classrooms serve as a gathering place for new teachers, who are assigned the tasks of writing introductory letters to parents, drafting classroom management plans, and preparing their rooms for Parent Open House and the first days of school.

"The demonstration classrooms become the place for new teachers to develop their (classroom management) plans and get their letters ready to go home," Dr. Fiandach notes. "We encourage a lot of group editing and brainstorming."

The Mesa district leadership also makes available a staff member in each school (usually a trained mentor at each new teacher’s grade level or a master teacher at the school) who can walk inexperienced teachers through various "logistical problems" they might encounter, such as gathering classroom materials and arranging classrooms to facilitate student comfort and mobility.

"The job for the person assigned to each school is to help the new teacher - period," Dr. Fiandach explains. "They may help new teachers move their furniture around, cut bulletin board background paper, sharpen pencils, get their books. They do whatever it takes to get those new teachers ready for Open House and to get letters out to parents."

Unlike some districts, Mesa Public Schools doesn’t assign new teachers mandatory mentors. Mentors are trained and made available to first-year teachers, who may then choose whether or not to align themselves with mentors. On average, more than 95 percent of the new hires request mentors.

"Any time we can get that kind of percentage return without mandating something, we prefer to give them the choice," Dr. Fiandach says. "It seems to make the idea of mentors a little more attractive to the teachers."

Potential mentors attend 12 hours of training and 16 hours in classroom management training. Trained mentors receive a $500 stipend for the year to work with new teachers, plus an additional $10 per clock hour when they attend inservices with the first-year teachers.

Also, mentors and new teachers are provided two days of release time for a variety of professional opportunities, such as observing each other’s classrooms or classrooms in other schools. They, in turn, are assigned to write a reflective report on those experiences.

"One of the unexpected pleasures we have found is that the mentors tell us, ‘I have never been in anybody’s classroom while they’re teaching.’ That’s turned out to be a real plus for us," Dr. Fiandach adds.

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