Better Teachers Result of King Philip Mentoring Program
A teacher mentoring program in the King Philip School District is resulting in better teachers and great student achievements.
What started as an unfunded mandate from the state has turned into a tool to create and retain quality teachers for the King Philip School District.
12 years ago the former Massachusetts Department of Education (ED) require school districts to create a mentoring program in an effort to keep teachers from leaving after their first few years on the job.
“Teachers were literally running from the profession within five years of their career because they (ED) found that those first couple of years, especially the first year was very pivotal,” said King Philip Middle School language arts teacher Nancy Fischer, who helps run the program. “The DoE found they were leaving quite rapidly.”
Recently, the program has been updated to reflect the newest studies done for new teacher survival. After a recent summit held by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), it was apparent that these strategies were right for a Massachusetts school district.
The mentors chosen for the program are required to have their master’s degree and needed to be a good fit with the new teachers coming in. This could mean that the new teacher and mentor could match personality wise or at the least, teach in the same discipline. The mentors also had to show that they had pride in being a teacher in the district
“We wanted the teachers that we chose to be mentors to exude that intense pride of being part of the King Philip community and King Philip district because that could only rub off and do well by the new teachers,” Fischer said.
The mentors also go through 15 hours of intense training that was a bit unexpected but was necessary.
They were also trained to be able to identify a new teacher’s ability level in order to properly help them, to be able to observe a class and give advice, and their emotional state during the year.
“It is literally an emotional roller coaster depending on what time of year it is,” Fischer said. “We train the mentors to recognize that state of mind that they would be in at any given time of the year.”
The orientation itself is a two-day program for new teachers and teacher assistants designed to give the new members of the district an overview of the schools.
The program also features a bus tour of the King Philip towns, an introduction to SMART goals used by the school, and plenty of one on one time with their mentors.
The curriculum for the program used was made in four goals in mind that include to help the teachers learn how to achieve student success, how to use of a roadmap like structure for students featuring learning goals and an agenda to help them learn, and aligning the curriculum with new teacher evaluation based on the standards set by the DESE.
Monthly, the teachers and mentors will meet in a classroom-like environment to discuss a new topic every month to help improve their ability in the classroom. If there are any questions after the meeting, the new teacher may stay a little longer to talk with their mentor or any other member of the faculty.
The meetings are also used as an introduction to the KP culture such as things like the bonfire for the Thanksgiving game vs. Franklin and basic dates like when report cards are released.
With the updates to the mentoring program, teachers are now staying longer and are becoming better teachers. In addition the new rigorous screening process for potential hires at the high school and middle school, the mentoring program has been updated over the years to make the program worthy of the educators’ abilities.
Overall, the program has made the district schools a more welcoming place to work with teachers closer than they were before with the openness benefiting the students.
“We really have seen a culture change. There is an openness between the members of the faculty. People are comfortable going into each other’s classrooms and it really has helped to create a very collegial environment,” King Philip High School science teacher Ann Lambert said. “The result then is higher student achievement.”