Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Sense of Belonging

From the Apple

I have just finished reading Jennifer Allen's A Sense of Belonging. In this new book Jennifer chronicles the activities that have been successful in helping sustain and retain new teachers in her school in Maine. There are so many opportunities for teachers that it makes me think I should pack Courtney up and send her to Maine for her first 5 years of teaching! Jennifer starts with the terrifying statistics that we have all heard so many times before: "17% of educators leave after the first year, 30% after two years, 40% after three years, and almost half after five years." However, we know that with comprehensive, coherent and sustained support that beginning teachers begin to fill their buckets with the confidence and pride that translates into effectiveness. Jennifer's program includes a range of support including monthly new-teacher group meetings, support administering and analyzing district assessments, in-class support for Readers' and Writers' Workshop, peer observation including observing the coach, using student work to guide instruction, curriculum planning, study groups and the use of mentors! This type of frequent, intensive, individualized support would provide any newbie with the scaffolding that is needed to work through the survival of the first year and achieve that sense of belonging.

As I reflect on what I will be offering Denise who I am mentoring this year, I feel sad for her that she will not be receiving the intensive support that Jennifer's beginning teachers are getting. How can I make up for the lack of an intentional support system available to Allen's teachers in Maine? It will be a challenge but reading about Jennifer's well-planned program I feel like I have many additional ideas for support. This week Denise will be observing me early in this kindergarten year so that she can see how we deal with behavior issues from the beginning of the year. Jennifer reminds us that early in a teacher's first year she has to get behavior management under her belt before she can move on.

That leads me to Courtney and behavior issues that she may be dealing with in her first year. So Court, what is your biggest behavior challenge?


  1. O.K.- I simply must say that the entire population of educators in the state of Maine could mentor Denise and that would not compare to the toughtful guidance that she will recieve under dayle's care. One reason dayle is the ultimate mentor is that she will seek out professional development like Jennifer's book to help her help others. I am positive that as Denise and Courtney encounter the many bumps in the road that come with your first year of teaching, dayle will have a solution to help these ladies or she will find someone who will.Happy Learning!

  2. I agree with Debby, you are a great mentor because you seek out people who need help and guide them with resources, other teachers, and helpful advice. I think we need more teachers who will truly lend their skills and help to new teachers because we all have been there...and if someone didn't receive much support their first year then they should definitely know where those teachers are coming from and lend a helping hand.