By COURTNEY BROWN
As I get older and work as a coach and mentor for teachers, I am increasingly thankful to the educators who supported me throughout my journey as an educator.
In the beginning, teaching was a challenge for me, as it is for many teachers during their first years. I lasted a year in my first official teaching job, before, humbled, I decided that I just wasn’t equipped enough, and went back to school to get a Masters in Teaching English. After finishing my degree, I eventually returned to teach at a large high school in New York City. There were over twenty teachers in my department, many of whom were veteran teachers. These remarkable educators became my mentors and coaches, generously offering me advice, lesson plans, teaching moves, and moral support.
Beverly Epstein, Sue Blattner, Demaris Fernandez, Annette Tomasetti, and others shared their enthusiasm and folders full of lesson plans, notes, and short texts and invited me to visit their classes. I quickly learned from their range of approaches that there was a variety of pathways to teaching each lesson or topic. These true professionals were also warm and positive and made me feel that I could master teaching.
From Beverly Epstein, I learned how to make classic texts, like The Odyssey and Hamlet, engaging to students by linking them to current events and helping students make relevant personal connections through authentic discussion. Annette Tomasetti shared with me her passion and a myriad ways to make group work and collaboration happen. Sue Blattner could make any poem come to life in the classroom, and Demaris knew systems and structures. Each of my mentor’s talents and skills had a distinct impact on my approaches and thinking.
Now, as I work to mentor and coach early-career teachers, I realize that these remarkable educators also modeled for me how to mentor and support others; to recognize novice teachers’ potential and promote their passions.
I owe them so much.
Every educator plays a role in creating a positive school culture, regardless of their level of experience. Each person has something to offer, and something to learn.
Teaching is a career of apprenticeship, and the best way for us to learn is from each other. Take time to recognize the crucial role you play in your school, and explore how you might support others in your teaching community.
By COURTNEY BROWN
The numbers are daunting: approximately 50% of teachers leave within their first five years of teaching. This rapid turnover negatively impacts districts, schools, and students. All over the country, schools and principals are left scrambling to find teachers at the last minute, and school culture, curriculum, and instruction suffer from a lack of continuity. Statistically, this high turnover disproportionately affects schools primarily serving students from low-income families and students of color.
What can we do to address the issue of teacher attrition? How do we help teachers not simply stay in their jobs, but become committed, successful, practitioners? Certainly, a strong supportive school culture helps, and we recognize that ongoing mentoring, strong preparation, and a repertoire of instructional moves go a long way in helping new teachers experience success.
Research shows that teachers who are well-prepared and well-mentored are much more likely to make a long-term commitment to the profession, and increase their effectiveness while doing so. At CPET, we specialize in offering new teachers ongoing, individualized mentorship as well as ready-to-use resources they need to be successful in the classroom.
Engaging with a community of peers
The New Teacher Network at Teachers College (NTN@TC) is a community of practice for individuals in their first three year of teaching. NTN@TC provides a custom blend of in-person and online collaboration, personalized support through customized professional development workshops, on-site coaching, and a dedicated online community. Since its establishment in 2014, nearly 250 Teachers College graduates have connected to the network. Though some network benefits are limited to Teachers College alumni, all new teachers can benefit from our in-person workshops and conferences, many of which are tailored specifically for the experiences of first- to third-year teachers:
By COURTNEY BROWN
A student’s command of a range of vocabulary can predict not only their academic success, but even their future job opportunities. This may seem like a bold statement, but in fact, research supports it!
As Marzano and Pickering attest, “One of the key indicators of students' success in school, on standardized tests, and indeed, in life, is their vocabulary. The reason for this is simply that the knowledge anyone has about a topic is based on the vocabulary of that information.” (Marzano & Pickering, 2005).
The correlation between a student’s mastery of academic vocabulary and their success becomes even stronger as they move into high school, where they encounter a broadening variety of discipline-specific vocabulary, in which each word may actually represent a new complex concept. Consider a solution in math vs. a solution in science; a ray in math vs. a ray of sunlight in a poem; function as a noun in math vs. function as a more general verb. As students reach higher grade levels, they face increased demands to gain more specialized knowledge and to differentiate between meanings in each context. It can be a little overwhelming!
To make teaching and planning for vocabulary development more manageable, I find it helpful to begin by taking action in two ways.
Supporting students to manage unfamiliar language as they read
This includes offering students tools to identify words using context clues, replacing words, identifying words by their roots or similarities to other words, or for ELLS, using cognates. Many of these tools help students read fluidly and fearlessly, taking on the challenge of unfamiliar words as hurdles to jump or work around, not roadblocks that stop them.
CPET’s Dr. Roberta Lenger Kang created a simple, adaptable Monitoring for Meaning resource that students can use to figure out, track, and archive words independently as they read. Students can keep the chart right it in their notebooks and regularly build it as they encounter new words.
Identifying specific vocabulary and concepts to teach in each unit
When you plan to teach the key terms for each unit and then strategically reinforce and review the words throughout, students have a much better chance of learning and recalling key words and concepts. Sorting and categorizing, using and seeing the words in a variety of contexts, and learning through games or puzzles helps new concepts take root in the minds of your students. Consider the impact of games such as Pictionary, Taboo or Jeopardy, all of which make learning vocabulary more engaging, and in turn can make vocabulary more memorable.