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‘Skills of Independence’
Sitting in her office just a few miles north of the California-Oregon border, Kathy McCollum agrees that teacher induction programs go a long way toward filling the gaps left by university education programs.

"We felt we had to give our first-year teachers some kind of groundwork because we felt they weren’t getting exactly what we wanted them to have in the colleges and universities," says Ms. McCollum, who coordinates staff development programs for the Medford School District in Oregon.

"We determined that teachers were teaching these beautiful lessons, but in many cases, the students were not on task. The behavior, the interaction wasn’t there. So, we got together and decided we really needed to pursue the area of classroom management. Once classroom management was tightened up, then we could transfer over and begin concentrating on instructional strategies."

Thus, the Medford induction program is a three year program:

  • Year 1: Classroom management
  • Year 2: Instructional strategies (You can’t instruct until you have management)
  • Year 3: Peer group coaching (The new teachers can now help others—all within three years)


Year 1 of the new teacher induction in Medford—a community of 11,000 students served by 14 elementary schools and four secondary schools—stresses "Skills of Independence."

"It is based on procedures: how to sharpen your pencil without poking people, how to line up productively, how to hand in your papers, how to come into class and get ready to learn," Ms. McCollum explains. "All these things are procedures, or in our district, skills of independence."

The techniques shared with new teachers cover approximately 90 percent prevention of classroom problems and about 10 percent intervention.

Each Fall, the Medford Staff Development Program publishes a manual listing a variety of staff development offerings on such topics as developing self-reliance and self-control in students, conflict resolution, and dealing with difficult people.

Ms. McCollum arranges for a team of approximately 20 peer coaches to work with new teachers throughout the course of their first year, capped by a "de-briefing session" at the end of the year to discuss specific techniques (both good and bad) seen in the classroom throughout the year.

"It’s more or less a dialogue about classroom management," she says. "And the principals are telling us they are so impressed. They think the classroom management is better than it’s ever been. They feel the prevention is there and teachers aren’t just intervening all the time."

Second-year teachers take their training in instructional strategies, while third-year teachers are trained in peer coaching and pair with other third-year teachers to receive feedback on both classroom management and instructional strategies.

Further, teacher training is supplemented by school-wide discipline plans developed at each school.

For teachers with classroom experience who are new to Medford, Ms. McCollum takes a different approach.

"The hardest audience we have are teachers new to our district who have taught in other districts," she says. "But we still require all new teachers—all teachers new to Medford—to go through this program. Even though they have some of the same concepts, we’re sure that it has not been emphasized as clearly as it is in Medford."

She has tackled veterans’ reluctance making them peer coaches as soon as they complete the induction program.

Also as an incentive, new teachers are paid almost $29 per hour to participate in induction; veteran teachers are given comp time.

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