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" New Teacher Induction"

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"It was a big surprise," recalls Dr. Mary Jane Owen, Director of Staff Development for the Henry County Public Schools, which serves some 18,000 students in 23 schools. "Some of the training team members’ careers have been changed as a result of this. They’ve been asked to do something that they believe in and have become completely committed to it."

Three of the team members for the Teacher Induction Program (TIP) were veteran classroom teachers when identified as TIP team planners; they are now assistant principals. "I think they have learned and have become more able professionally, as result of the TIP experiences," Dr. Owen contends.

One high school principal involved in TIP has even branched out from his role as a "good solid principal" to become a staff development program presenter.

Now entering its fourth year, the Henry County induction program is a hybrid of ideas gathered during visits to Flowing Wells and Gaston County and research from Dr. Owen’s years of staff development experience.

"I have been working with beginning teachers since 1981 in a variety of capacities," Dr. Owen recalls. "So, I have some intuitive knowledge of things that work and don’t work for first-year teachers."

In researching her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Owen conducted a study of zero-experience teachers and found information that, she argues, "clearly led me to strongly believe that if you provide opportunities for people to develop a sense of community, and provide assistance to them so they have someone there with them during the first year, they become better teachers."

Taking its cue from the Flowing Wells program, Henry County provides its first-year teachers with a five-day training institute, complete with a history of the region and a bus tour of the schools and community. Demonstration classrooms also are arranged, and new teachers are introduced to various district staff members.

"Once they get into their buildings, our new teachers know who the key people in the system are. They have a real good notion of policies and our expectations, and they have a strong sense that this is a school system still small enough to build community," Dr. Owen says. "All of this is important to us."

Opportunities for socialization, group meals, and down-home entertainment are sprinkled throughout the program.

The TIP program also stresses classroom management skills, using Harry Wong’s The First Days of School as the text for TIP Week. "We use those pro-active tactics that are outlined in Dr. Wong’s books," she says, "but we support that with the basic principles that have been learned about the brain. Dr. Wong tells you what to do; brain research, we think, answers WHY you do it."

Henry County requires all new teachers—both zero-experience and veterans coming from other districts—to attend TIP programs.

"In a system like ours, we attract teachers with 10 or 12 years’ experience," Dr. Owen says. "We want to take full advantage of what they already know, and we try to build in opportunities for them to share. But we also want them to respect that we have found some things that we know to be successful. We don’t want them to be unfamiliar with these things when they get into our schools."

In turn, the local Board of Education provides a $250 stipend for all teachers who undergo the week-long training.

The training for zero-experience teachers continues beyond the five-day institute throughout the course of the first year. A team of Teacher Support Specialists (TSS), who have received 100 hours of specialized training approved by the State of Georgia, provide mentoring to new teachers.

In addition, periodic follow-up sessions are scheduled from September through May to address the expressed needs of new teachers.

"Everybody involved—including folks in the community who are involved in some facet of what we do—are enthusiastic about it," Dr. Owen says. "We even have retired teachers who have seen something in the paper about the TIP program and call to say, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it have been nice to have something like that when I was coming up.’

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