Conclusions: First-Year Teachers Need More Support
The passion that the 53 first-year teachers featured in this book bring to their jobs is inspiring. Their success in one of the most demanding professions imaginable shows us what can happen when a dedicated, talented teacher takes the helm of a classroom.
And yet, time and again, the teachers we interviewed talked about the difficulties they faced working in isolation, when deprived of the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues, learn from principals, and form partnerships with parents.
The perseverance of these teachers despite such obstacles speaks volumes about their commitment, and it also confirms what we know to be true about the teaching profession--new teachers need policies that provide more support, and they need people behind them.
At stake is the quality of our nation's teaching force. America is losing some of its most promising young teaching professionals and failing to cultivate an experienced, expert teacher workforce--shortchanging students and schools and costing taxpayers money.
It's time to listen to the words of the teachers who excel on the job despite difficult circumstances. When they tell us they want a principal who provides professional development opportunities, when they say they want the chance to watch veteran teachers in their classrooms, when they call for teacher preparation programs to provide follow up, we need to hear them.
And when they describe the efforts they make to build connections with veteran teachers, professors, and especially parents, tomorrow's new teachers can draw inspiration from their example.
We hope this publication raises awareness of the difficult experiences that a first-year teacher confronts and the role that educators, citizens, and the teachers themselves can play to alleviate their burden. Successful first-year teachers have a lot to say about improving their situation; now it's time to act.
More About First-Year Teaching
The U.S. Department of Education offers research and information on first-year teaching. The best way to gain access to it is through the Department's World Wide Web Site (www.ed.gov). If you want access to a selection of materials available at this site, type "first-year teachers" into the search engine (called "quick search").
Also on this web site is a publication called Promising Practices: New Ways to Improve Teacher Quality. If you want to read chapter five of Promising Practices, "The Induction of New Teachers," you can go directly to www.ed.gov/pubs/PromPractice/chapter5.html. This chapter profiles school districts' efforts to provide support for first-year teachers and lists the characteristics of a successful new teacher induction program.