The scenario is common. A recent graduate enters the teaching field with a passion for children, delves into year one of teaching and has an unexpected reality check.
“Teaching is really hard,” said Joslyn Fields, the coordinator of school improvement and professional learning for the Richmond County school system. “I think the colleges are doing a good job in preparing (teachers) for the profession, but until you have those children assigned in your class and you’re on your own, it’s a whole other situation. ... Sometimes it’s not what they thought they signed up for.”
To prevent new teachers from becoming discouraged in those first few years on the job, the school system is assigning mentors to those new to the profession.
The Strategic Mentoring and Retaining Teachers induction program will pair veteran teachers with those working their first five years in the profession, Fields said.
The deadline to apply to be a mentor is Wednesday, and Fields said she hopes to recruit at least 60 so she can assign one to each school.
The goal since the program began in 2009 has been to retain teachers and create stability for students.
“The whole idea is we have to retain the teachers that we get; otherwise, we’re just starting back at level one every single year,” Fields said.
Richmond County has been identified as one of 62 counties in Georgia that has problems keeping teachers in their first five years.
“It’s not just Richmond County; it’s with the profession,” Fields said. “We lose 20 percent of beginning teachers in the profession in the first five years. That’s why induction is so important.”
As part of the program, beginning teachers have monthly and group meetings with mentors and have the chance to observe their mentors’ techniques in a classroom.Mentors also critique the beginning teachers’ strategies and help them improve.
Richmond County had 128 new teachers being mentored last year, according to Fields. The system will have 143 new teachers on the roster this coming school year.
The mentors are paid through a professional learning grant, she said.
The perfect candidate is a teacher with more than five years of experience, deep content knowledge and talent for working with others, Fields said.
“It’s all about achievement,” Fields said. “We’re looking for that kind of indication to really help make sure our children have the best education possible.”