The objective of this study is to interview a teacher and have them review their experiences in a graduate program and discuss components of the program that have been of particular value to them and why these program components have been of value. This study will have the teacher discuss their practicum or field work, observation lessons, including strengths and limitations of the lessons, what areas were discussed during post-observation conference with the observing professor, including recommendations for strengthening teaching skills and building positive relationships with students on the high school level. This study will additionally review five articles that address the problems facing new teachers (in both general and special education) and the kinds of documented supports that have been found to help new teachers effectively respond to such problems.
The work of Stansbury and Zimmerman (2000) reports that one-third of all new teachers quit the teaching profession within the first three years and that this highlights the importance of creating supports to assist new teachers so that they persevere in what is a very difficult although rewarding profession. In addition, the teaching profession is one that "needs to rise dramatically in the coming decade." (Stansbury and Zimmerman, 2000, p.1) The reason for this is not just the loss of new teachers but the high rate of retirement among teachers who have been in the profession for many years. Added to this is the expanding population of new students in the school system. According to one estimate schools in the United States will "need to hire anywhere from 1.7 to 2.7 million new teachers within the next decade." (Stansbury and Zimmerman, 2000, p.2)
II. Teacher Interview
The teacher interviewed in this study is known simply by the name Carrie who shares her experienced in the graduate program and the information shared by her professor after observing Carrie teach. Carrie states that the lessons in the graduate program were insightful but lacked in the knowledge of what it would be really like when applied. The lessons in the graduate program fell short of informing her practicum. For example, in one classroom where she was sent to teach in an inner-urban school, there were snakes in the classroom found among the children's toys and in the coat locker. When parents were contacted about the problem absolutely none of the parents were surprised leaving Carrie to understand that the homes in this inner-urban setting were dealing with the same thing so it was not considered a big deal to them. Disruptions in the classroom such as these were not included in the lessons in the graduate program and this resulted in Carrie handling the situation the best she knew how. In this case, Carrie ensured that the snakes were removed at her own cost but this cut down on the time that she had left to actually provide instructions to the students. The professor upon observing Carrie provide instruction to students advised Carrie that she had an excellent method of instruction, that she paid attention to the student's questions and that she was very good at noting which students were not following the instruction and was able to draw their attention toward the lesson. The professor noted that Carrie would develop her strengths in the area of the specific planning for individualized instruction with experience.
III. Support Strategies
Among the support strategies identified for new teachers are those which are labeled: (1) low-intensity support strategies; and (2) high-intensity support strategies. (Stansbury and Zimmerman, 2000, p. 3-4) Low-intensity support strategies are reported to include such as orientation of new teachers, matching of veteran and beginning teachers, adjustment of working conditions, and promotion of collegial collaboration. (Stansbury and Zimmerman, 2000, paraphrased) High intensity support strategies are reported to include such as the selection and training of effective support providers, provision of release time, mini-courses addressing common challenges, and assistance in examining the evidence. (Stansbury and Zimmerman, 2000, paraphrased)
The work of Ruef, Higgins, and Glaeser (nd) reports on the positive behavioral support strategies for teachers and states the fact that teachers "report that student behavior is their number one difficulty." (p.2) In addition it is reported that the teachers who are more experienced "do endorse proactive strategies and are comfortable with the premise of positive behavioral support." (Ruef, Higgins, and Glaeser, nd, p. 2) Positive behavioral support is touted to be "different -- even revolutionary -- because it is based on determining not only what, where, when and how challenging behaviors occur, but also why." (Ruef, Higgins, and Glaeser, nd, p.2) It is reported that PBS operates "under the premise that behavior is not random but that any persistent challenging behavior 'works' for the student." (Ruef, Higgins, and Glaeser, nd, p. 3) Challenging behaviors such as head-banging are held within this theory to involve some action that functionally is effective for the student in some way. PBS is reported to "broaden intervention from one approach -- reducing challenging behavior -- to multiple approaches: changing systems, altering environments, teaching skills, and appreciating positive behavior" with the goal not be elimination of the behavior but instead "to understand the behavior's purpose so that the student can replace it with new, prosocial behaviors that achieve the same purpose." (Ruef, Higgins, and Glaeser, nd, p. 3)
The NASBE Discussion Guide published in March 2012 entitled "Teacher Induction: Improving State Systems for Supporting New Teachers" relates that assigning mentors to new teachers is of critical importance. The selection process for mentors that is rigorous in nature and that is used by induction programs of high-quality include: (1) effective instructional practice of at least three years; (2) the mentor has used self-reflection and integrated it into their own teaching practice; (3) the mentor will possess knowledge of content and "subject-based pedagogy." ; (4) the mentor is committed to professional growth that is ongoing for both mentors and new teachers; and (5) the mentor is empathetic and understanding toward the new teacher's needs. (NASBE Discussion Guide, 2012, p. 7)
The work of Romano and Gibson (2006) identifies the struggles and problems that new teachers face and report that these include the following: (1) external policy factors that the teacher has no control over; (2) issues relating to special needs students who were full participants in the regular classroom due to inclusion policies; (3) management of the classroom and specific issues relating to student behavior and techniques for gaining student participation in the activities and instruction in the classroom; (4) personal issues and specifically the concerns and accomplishments of teachers that were separate issues from teaching in the classroom; (5) issues in regards to having a full command of some area of content and its use with a student group; (6) issues relating to parents of some students; and (7) issues relating to evaluation of the teacher whether it be mandated or spontaneous in nature. (Romano and Gibson, 2006, paraphrased)
According to the work of Walker (2003) problems and issues faced by new teachers include "too little respect, money, and time." (p.1) Walker repots that Associate Professor of Education at a Wake Forest University wanted to understand teacher attrition better and conducted a study that "drew on the personal accounts of 105 middle and high school teachers in their first three years of teaching to identify factors that might lead them to leave the profession." (Walker, 2003, p.1) It is reported that the focus of the study was on the six problem areas of: (1) societal attitude towards teachers; (2) financial issues; (3) time scarcity; (4) workload; (5) working conditions; and (6) relationships with students and parents. (Walker, 2003, p. 1) It is reported "The participants in the study believed that the attitude of society toward the teaching profession was unfair…