Friday, October 23, 2009

A Sense of Belonging...

As a beginning teacher...
  • I was hired in the building in which I student taught - a wonderful K-3 community
  • My cooperating teacher (now long time friend), Judy Gilkey, taught next door during my first year in the classroom
  • My principal, Laura Penn Harmon, had a "go for it" attitude and encouraged all teachers to learn, grow, take risks, think outside the box, etc.
  • The teachers in my building were all learners and collaboration was encouraged
  • We had great professional development (the PEBC was in its beginning stages - Laura Benson and Ellin Keene worked closely with our staff)
  • I had a team of veteran teachers always willing to share ideas, talk about students, explore new thinking
  • The parent community was supportive and involved  

     Many were the blessings during the first three years of my teaching!  It was an exciting time in education - literature based reading instruction was developing, reader's workshop was the becoming the norm, writing process was strong and growing; names like Graves, Smith, Harwayne, Peterson, Murray, Burns were on the tip of everyone's tongues; we held high standards for learners without standardizing learning.  I worked in a district that was growing quickly, but the superintendent knew every teacher by name and he was proud of our district's success.  It was a grand time to enter such an honorable profession.  I was one of the lucky ones.
     Enter 2009.  Things have changed a bit for new teachers.  Mandates abound around every corner... support often comes in the form of a program or "teacher proof" materials.   
     BUT, thankfully, people like Jennifer Allen understand the pressures of being a new teacher today.  In her book A Sense of Belonging (Stenhouse), she offers wonderful suggestions in a thoughtful, meaningful, and supportive way for supporting the teachers entering our profession.  Many joined this profession for the same reason we did... because there is not better job and the joy of teaching is endless.  She understands that it's our job as veteran teachers and mentors to support young people joining the teaching ranks.  And, she understands that our role is helping shape and strengthen their skills is of utmost import. 
     She begins one of her chapters with the following quote... "There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge... observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation.  Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the results of that combination." (Diderot).  And, she goes on to explain how we must help make this quote come alive in the hearts and minds of teachers.

     Jennifer Allen (no relation by the way), encourages us to help new teachers with the following:
  • "Membership in a professional learning community
  • The opportunity to learn alongside veteran colleagues
  • A built-in support system
  • A sense of collegiality
  • Self-direct learning
  • Sustained professional development"
     I am enjoying this book and Jennifer Allen's practical suggestions.  I've recommended to our building resource teacher.  I've recommended it to our principal.  I've recommended it to fellow staff developers.  Now, I'm recommending it to you... so we can help  our newest teachers feel welcome and successful and remain in the grand teaching profession.

No comments:

Post a Comment