Mattoon Community Unit School District in Coles County, IL has developed a systematic induction program for their new teachers. The Office of the Beginning Teacher Program at Eastern Illinois University in nearby Charleston, IL has served as a consultant for the development of this program and continues to provide inservice training to both the
new teachers and their mentor teachers in the district. One part of Mattoon's teacher induction is the mentoring program. Working with the local education association, the district recruits experienced teachers who volunteer to be paired with a new teacher. The experienced teacher serves as a mentor to the new person, answering questions, giving suggestions, and being "someone to turn to."
Before beginning their roles as mentors, these teachers receive one day and a half of inservice training with the coordinator of the EIU Beginning Teacher Program. The mentor training takes place in the spring, allowing the mentors to be paired with the new teachers a week before school starts in the fall.
The mentor training begins with the experienced teachers telling about their first year of teaching and how they survived! These actual stories are then used to develop a list of the needs of the first year teachers and a list of roles for the mentors. Other topics in mentor training include collegial supervision, effective teaching strategies, stress management, and where the mentors can turn for help and resources.
Activities During The Mentoring Year
The assistant superintendent of the Mattoon district coordinates the mentors and sets the dates for back-to-school workshops, which are held in August. At these workshops, the mentors and new teachers attend meetings together and work in their classrooms. Since these workshop days are before the school year, mentors receive extra pay for attending and working with the new teachers. The most successful mentor/new teacher pairings generally occur when both teachers are near each other (same building, same hallway) and are working in the same grade or subject area. Also during the back-to-school workshops, the new teachers have a half-day seminar with the EIU Beginning Teacher Program coordinator on the topic of "Getting the School Year Started."
Throughout the school year five other half-days of inservice are provided for the new teachers to attend seminars with the EIU Beginning Teacher Program coordinator. The topics for these seminars include classroom management, communicating with parents, grading, individual differences in students, strategies for teaching, and dealing with stress. The new teachers may elect to earn one hour of graduate credit by attending all seminars and completing the appropriate written work.
Evaluation of the Program:
Evaluations of Mattoon's programs have been very positive. The new teachers indicated that they felt fortunate to be included in this type of induction program. The mentors were also enthused and the majority indicated that they would volunteer to be mentors again. The administration is pleased because this program helps building principals with staff development and it helps to attract and keep new teachers in the district.
Why is it Working Well?
What makes the Mattoon program work and how can it be replicated in other districts?
Mattoon's program is an excellent one because it addresses the needs of beginning and veteran teachers and provides a collegial support system for them. It is one model for teacher induction that is working and working well!