The Beginning Teacher Network’s (BTN) intent is to provide an additional layer of support and just-in-time professional development for first-year teachers, but the most important component is an opportunity for collaboration and collegial discussion among the new teachers. The SEEC BTN strives to augment and enhance the learning they received as a pre-service teacher and other mentoring supports. The activities and conversations are timed to parallel the immediate concerns the new teachers are facing. BTN offers three, day-long sessions spread out to help when teachers need it: September, November and December. Each session is offered in both Fargo and Jamestown and is directed for both elementary and secondary teachers. Teachers choose the session and cohort group that best fits their needs.
“I feel like I have learned a lot, been given ample amounts of resources, examples, websites, handouts – all of which I keep near when planning and preparing (and have shared with other teachers in my school).” – Elementary Teacher, William S. Gussner Elementary, Jamestown
SESSION 1: Focused on creating a partnership between parents and teachers in order to maximize student success. Teachers share creative ways in which they communicate with parents. To prepare for the upcoming parent/teacher conferences, the teachers chose a student for whom they planned the conference. With a partner, they role-played that conference. We talked a bit about keeping the proverbial “paper trail” of their communications, which today probably looks more digital.
The remainder of the day teachers investigated the relationship among classroom management, active learning, student behavior, student engagement, and ultimately… student learning! Teaches shared management strategies that they have already found to be successful and brought forward their challenges. They explored indicators of and practices to increase student engagement through active learning. Many active strategies were modeled throughout the day, followed by discussions of how this might look in their own classrooms. The left the first session with the mission of incorporating a new active strategy into an upcoming lesion, implementing their plan, and reflecting on successes and areas for growth.
“Thanks for all the pointers and work this past year. It would not have been as fun without the ways you incorporated all other first-year teachers at the sessions. It was great getting to know peers at the same level I’m at.” – Randy Syrstad – Milnor PE and Math Teacher
SESSION 2: Our day focused on the 5 Keys to Quality Assessment (Stiggins and Chappuis):
Clear Targets: We worked through the process of unpacking a standard of the teachers’ choice. Knowing that many curricular areas have unpacked their standards into “I can” statements already, we talked about the mechanics of the process – identifying the knowledge, reasoning, skill and product learning targets that under-pin the standard. The intent of the exercise was to give the teachers a deeper understanding of what meeting the standard “looks like.” We categorized learning targets (knowledge, reasoning, skill, product), identified the best means of assessing the target, and discussed evidence that would indicate the standard has been met.
Sound Design: We spent some time exploring the writing of assessments to avoid bias and provide adequate sampling to get good data about students’ learning. We edited assessment questions to meet standards of quality. We talked a lot about making sure the assessment matched the intent of the learning target.
Clear Purpose: We explored the information we intended to illicit from our assessments and strategies to use. We focused on pre-assessment (what do they come to us knowing?) and formative assessment (how are they progressing in their learning?). We emphasized acting on the data from our assessments.
Effective Communication: We investigated the how, how much and when of giving feedback that moves our students forward in their learning. Teachers discussed strategies to provide feedback that linked to the learning targets, pointed out successes and gave information on students’ next steps.
Student Involvement: We explored ways to involve students in tracking their own progress. Closely tied to feedback, teachers explored tools like “You be George” to help students document their own learning.
SESSION 3: With guest presenter, Ann Duchscher, Fargo Public School’s Director of Gifted Services, teachers used the Analysis of Student Work (ASW) protocol on a set of their own class work to determine where the students were in terms of meeting the identified learning goals. Duchscher shared foundational ideas about differentiation with our group and was a tremendous resource! Teachers created tiered lessons – ramping up and ramping down, to meet the needs identified by the ASW process. The day concluded with addressing ideas for and concerns about managing the differentiated classroom. “Thank you for this experience. I love the thought process involved and how this helps me have a clear
Carol Beaton, SEEC BTN Coordinator and Facilitator, explains how she works to incorporate mentor support into these beginning teachers first year in the classroom.
“My goal is to keep the mentors apprised of the work that we do in the SEEC Beginning Teacher Network in the hopes that together, we can build on the learning and accelerate practices of these new teachers. We work collaboratively to support these new teachers as they make their way through this challenging and exciting first year!”
“A big thank you to all of our mentors. As mentors, our greatest reward is watching first-hand the growth as our newest educators gain confidence and hone their skills. You are a positive force in helping to shape the successes of these new teachers.”
Carol Beaton, 30+ year teaching veteran, I have had the pleasure of working in your role as a mentor to about 15 new teachers. My background includes training: as a mentor through the New Teacher Center; as an instructional coach; and in assessment and effective instructional strategies. This year we celebrate the start of the 6th year of the SEEC Beginning Teacher Network.
The Beginning Teacher Network is funded by a grant provided by the North Dakota Teacher Support System (ND TSS). Through the ND TSS program, sub pay is reimbursed, while the SEEC covers travel expenses. There is no cost for the sessions and graduate credit is available to the teachers.