The Right Teacher Induction Process

By Scott Sterling

We’re all aware of the statistics that point out teacher attrition and how the issue is one of the most important that harms education today. It’s become simply too hard to hire teachers and help them stay in the classroom longer than a few years.

Or is it?

Although it’s not possible for schools and districts to address some of the reasons teachers decide to leave, they can make sure the induction process starts new teachers on the right foot. And if they start well, those positive ideas about the profession may carry on for decades.

First, induction should be approached in a strategic way that aligns with the goals of the school at that moment. Too often, induction practices are cursory, covering things like pay deductions and how to work the copier. The copier isn’t what makes teachers leave. And this comprehensive induction process should last the entire first year of a teacher’s career.

Induction often starts with the assigning of a mentor. This is a proven practice that goes back throughout the history of education. The first step in an effective induction process, therefore, is to assign the right mentor and making sure that person has the tools to guide the rookie teacher to success.

The mentor should know what the goals of the school are for that coming year and what data points to stress. But don’t bring those kinds of things up too early! You risk drowning the new teacher in bureaucracy they barely understand.

Just like in a lesson, information about overarching school issues should be released gradually and only in the natural flow of the mentor/mentee relationship (unless the information is urgent, of course). In the beginning, the mentor’s job is to guide the rookie to basic processes. Often, the first thing that concerns new teachers is classroom management. That’s a good place to start.

Intentional practice is critical in the teaching profession. If the mentor and mentee have decided to focus on a particular aspect of classroom management (for example), they need to approach the issue formally, with an initial observation performed by the mentor. Here, it helps if the mentor can objectively point toward evidence when regrouping with the rookie teacher. For instance, our LSI Tracker helps record and report data points during observations. The mentor may also want to consider taking a video.

Now is the time for the partners to regroup and study the data together in relation to the goal skill. Being a mentor, the teacher should have some insight into why the teacher is falling short and steps to correct the issue(s). Then there is another observation. The cycle repeats as often as it needs to until the new teacher has mastered the skill.

But this whole process needs to be objectively tracked. The partners shouldn’t have to rely on vague notes from weeks ago. Again, a tool like the LSI Tracker can help compare the new teacher to previous performances and even other teachers in the school (anonymously, of course), making it faster to offer the rookie teacher the support that so many first-year teachers say is critical to their success.

There are other aspects to a successful teacher induction process, at both the individual, school, and district levels, but the relationship between mentor and mentee is by far the most indicative of the new teacher’s future success. Those odds increase if the practice is intentional and there is objective data powering the process.