The #NAFSA16 sustainable practices for IEPs poster fair was a great success! While my poster presentation focused on integrating graduate teaching assistants into a CEA accredited IEP, discussion with colleagues quickly revealed that the model is transferable to new teacher on-boarding and ongoing support – regardless of whether the individual is a MATESL TA or other.
The handout, poster, and materials are located here.
The key points are:
1. Examine the individual’s skills to identify knowledge gaps
2. Deliver an orientation covering key topics
3. Integrate strategic opportunities to foster reflective practice
4. Provide scaffolded support for an extended period (6-12 months)
Let’s explore these in more detail.
For the first step, we developed a rubric outlining the key areas the program (or accreditor) identified as essential prior to the teacher stepping into the classroom. We then took that rubric and applied it to the incoming candidate. Whether the individual is a green teaching assistant or an experienced teacher, the rubric should reflect the program’s distinctive needs.
Moving on, employee orientations function as a way to jump-start the on-boarding process, introducing the individual to the school’s corporate culture as well as covering key areas identified in the rubric developed in the previous step. For our program, this includes a week-long training and orientation schedule with workshop-esque activities covering everything from job descriptions, to cross-cultural awareness, to classroom observations, to an office tour. One important takeaway is that key topics should be just that, key topics. We struggled with the desire to front-load information which our teachers needed to have, but which was not crucial to that first orientation week.
Which brings us to the next two points…
Teacher growth occurs when individuals have the opportunity to reflect. Bailey (2006) describes three phases of teacher development: new teachers focus on the ‘what’, more experienced teachers examine ‘how’, and senior teachers explore ‘why’. In our program, we asked that teachers participate in a collaborative reflective blog. Prompts mirrored key events during the semester and allowed the individuals to interact and comment on what was happening in their classes. Regardless of experience level, this activity exposed our teachers to a method of reflection.
Finally, we developed mechanisms for scaffolded support for our teachers over an extended period of time. Whether in the form of weekly or bi-monthly meetings with a senior practitioner or targeted workshops (e.g., technology in the classroom), our successful on-boarding process required deliberate and strategic planning over the course of several months.
Interested in learning more? Feel free to contact me to discuss further.