What Induction Coaches Do To Help New Teachers


by Dawn Casey-Rowe, Social Studies Teacher and Learnist Evangelist

New teachers face many challenges.

They are entering the field at one of the most demanding times ever, and turnover is high. Even the best teacher prep program can’t simulate a real classroom. As a result, many good people find themselves ill equipped to handle the demands of the classroom and they leave.

Last year, I spoke with one such teacher as he left the profession. “I don’t think I’m cut out for this,” he said. He went into an education-related field, leaving teaching far, far behind. “You’re not not cut out for this.” I said, “This is a tough year. There are a lot of changes all at once this year; evaluation, testing, measuring, curricula…It’s tough for everyone—even those of us who have been around. It’s not you.”

Still, teachers leave.

Many states have tried to combat teacher turnover by providing programs and supports to new teachers. In Rhode Island, each new teacher receives a trained induction coach to assist in his or her development. The coaches observe and offer suggestions, help teachers design and achieve goals, and give new teachers a sounding board when sticky situations arise. Often new teachers feel insecure asking questions of evaluators, fearing they may not be doing well enough, and that their job could be at risk.

The induction coach takes away that fear—their entire job is focused on the success and improvement of the new teacher. Even educational leaders or peers with the best of intentions often get bogged down with work, which leaves new teachers to sink or swim. This is why induction coaches and mentors are so critical.  

This week’s Learnist feature is about teacher and induction coach Alicia Sullivan. As an induction coach, Alicia worked with new teachers throughout Rhode Island, taking a temporary sabbatical from classroom teaching to serve in this capacity. Getting the best teachers to become trained to support other teachers is part of the reason induction and mentoring work.

Alicia notes students’ learning is negatively impacted by having new teachers, because teachers need time to learn the job. She states the research shows the effects of having a new teacher can resonate for three years. Having a specifically trained induction coach to support new teachers reverses those numbers–it takes those three years, and compacts it into one.

In her role as induction coach, she was available to her teachers, observing them, helping them collect the right data to measure their effectiveness, and assisting in identifying appropriate areas for goal setting. New teachers want to be excellent. At times, they are pretty hard on themselves. As an induction coach, Alicia helped to set realistic expectations for new teachers in the area of classroom management, pacing of lessons, curriculum, and technology, and she was always ready to listen and offer assistance whenever necessary.

Alicia’s service to Rhode Island hasn’t stopped there—she’s also organized two mini EdCamp style unconferences to keep the technology conversation going over the summer. She is a wealth of information to the community, and although she’s returning to her classroom this fall, she continues to be a force, sharing her work on Learnist as well.

5 Support Resources For Teacher Longevity

Classroom Management

Classroom management is one of the most difficult parts of teaching. Alicia provides resources for positive ways to build relationships with students as well as suggestions for when you are presented with a challenge. Sometimes our jobs aren’t only academic–they are social, too. This board will help.

Beginning Teachers

This board has tips for beginning teachers. Alicia is a specialist in the needs of beginning teachers, but if you have additional resources or are a beginning teacher, it would be wonderful to see you use the “+add to this board” feature.  The bigger the collaborative library on this subject, the better.

Educator Evaluation

This board is Rhode Island specific, but if you are from another state, don’t skip over this information. Look at this board as a guide to boards you might make to support new teachers and their understanding of your own evaluation process, standards, and curriculum design. This Rhode Island board condenses a lot of information, which is important to do when you are mentoring new people. It’s an excellent resource. It would be great to see resources like this from all fifty states.

Teaching Supports & Strategies in General

Alicia says that some of these learnings are on more than one of her boards, by topic, but that the strategies are so good that she couldn’t bear for you to miss them.

Setting up an Unconference EdCamp-Style Event

This board is dedicated to setting up an EdCamp style unconference event. At an unconference, people decide what the agenda will be–participants post to the master board when they arrive, and people decide what they will be attending. Alicia has planned two local summer unconferences, keeping professional development alive for new and experienced teachers alike. Getting teachers together voluntarily to learn–just because they want to–is the essence of what being a life-long learner is all about. It’s what we teach our students, and what Alicia, herself, models.

Follow Alicia on Learnist. She tweets at @WriteS_olutions. As always, please follow @LearnistTweets for the latest and greatest on Learnist, and remember to like Learnist on Facebook; image attribution flickr user thinkpublic