This is an attempt to identify the common components that make up an effective training program for new teachers and tutors. Each area includes a description of the component followed by examples of where existing programs implement it. The examples are drawn from Teach For America (TFA), the MATCH School in Boston, the City Year volunteer corps in Boston, and the Resident Resource (R2) training program at Olin College of Engineering.
Please contribute evidence to defend these components if you know how other programs put them to use. If you disagree with one of the concept or content areas below, or if you would like to add a new one, please start a new discussion on the talk page.
- 1 Develops trust and camaraderie amongst the teachers
- 2 Addresses the larger context of what is going on in education and how the teachers are part of that system
- 3 Creates an understanding and sense of empathy towards the students they will work with
- 4 Indoctrinates the teachers with the culture of the school – its history, the policies, and their purpose
- 5 Introduces teachers to specific techniques used by excellent teachers and practices those techniques
- 6 Provides practice for probable scenarios
- 7 Teaches appropriate planning and why it matters
- 8 Teaches appropriate classroom management, standard behavior policies, and why upholding these policies is important
- 9 Sends off teachers with an ability to measure their progress and seek help from mentors and one another
Develops trust and camaraderie amongst the teachers
Unlike schools of education that send graduates off to many different places to teach, many of the students in RTT programs will teach together in the same organization. Given the limited nature of these training programs, it is especially important for the newly trained teachers to support and advise each other during the school year/length of the program. Many of the programs under study went out of their way to facilitate bonding and a growth of trust.
- City Year spends a couple days of its short mid-year training for new recruits on trust and team building exercises before going into the content of teaching.
- MATCH uses small group discussions and role plays to start initial dialog in training. All of the volunteer tutors also live together in a dorm-like environment for a full year as they tutor, helping to build these relationships.
Addresses the larger context of what is going on in education and how the teachers are part of that system
Programs designed to create major change in rough neighborhoods have founders and leaders that are very passionate about the problem they are addressing. Often, the program trainees are poorly informed about the significance of the problem they will be addressing as teachers and what kind of impact they are capable of making in their role. To address this, the programs that are very impact-driven spend time explicitly looking at the big picture of education.
- MATCH spends a significant portion of the first week in their 2.5 week training program discussing the big picture of education, including national and state policy.
Creates an understanding and sense of empathy towards the students they will work with
In many programs that teach under-served youth, there is a financial and cultural gap between the trainees and the students they will work with. These programs seek to educate their trainees on the unique issues their students face on a day to day basis. This is not for trainees to feel sorry for students, but to better understand their context and be better prepared to help them.
- MATCH takes its tutors to visit the neighborhoods where their students live, have tutors take the train for the long ride students take, and discuss the unique needs of their student population before students arrive. They also take quizzes on the names of every student in the school before the year begins so everyone knows one another by name.
Indoctrinates the teachers with the culture of the school – its history, the policies, and their purpose
Schools and programs are founded with a mission, and over time, they develop a culture. Successful programs want their new trainees focused on this mission and operating in this culture. This process begins with the application and acceptance process, where applicants are checked for compatibility with the mission and culture. In training, it involves day-to-day procedures, memorized quotes or phrases, expectations for how people should interact, behavior policies and philosophy, and the story that explains why all of this developed over the years to most effectively accomplish the mission.
- MATCH begins indoctrinating tutors in their culture during the application process. If someone does not agree with the founding concepts and culture behind MATCH, they are viewed as a bad fit for the program. For those that do align with the mission and approach, the training program goes to great lengths to explain why MATCH believes what they do and what the tutors need to do to uphold this fragile culture. Each tutor leaves training with the ability to explain what the school does articulate why it does it. They also believe it and use it as motivation to work hard to uphold the school culture.
- TFA sends teachers to a variety of failing schools, so instead of matching the failing culture, they preach their own culture of what a successful urban school looks like. Every part of the training program is built around learning and practicing these core concepts: set big goals, invest in students and their families, plan purposefully, execute effectively, continuously increase effectiveness, and work relentlessly. Because they believe in their process and believe their teachers will be successful, they build camaraderie around this shared culture.
Introduces teachers to specific techniques used by excellent teachers and practices those techniques
This gets into the mechanics of being a successful teacher. Very specific skills, such as using the correct tone of voice when reprimanding a student, has large implications on how subsequent interactions will go. Some of these skills are critical to have at the start of the program, and they are best learned by practicing the specific skill.
- MATCH asks students to read “Teach Like A Champion” before arriving to training. During the second week of training, a large portion of the time is spent discussing and practicing the 8 techniques that the coordinators believe are most helpful to tutors at their school.
Provides practice for probable scenarios
This is similar to skills practice, except scenarios are often open-ended on the technique and specific about the problem being addressed. They serve as good ways to practice a collection of skills and get a sense for which approaches they feel most comfortable using for a given scenario. This type of practice feels closest to the actual teaching or tutoring they will be doing.
- Olin’s R2 training, a one week councilor training program, uses roles plays to help the aspiring councilors practice their response to common situations. One student is the R2 (student councilor), one student is having a problem, a third student is observing, and sometimes a training staff member is also observing. Role plays may go start to finish without interruption, or the observers may pause the scene and make comments part-way through.
- TFA teachers spend the summer before they begin teaching in a summer school classroom with a mentor teacher and a peer observing and providing feedback every day.
- MATCH also uses role plays, especially in the second week of training, when they practice specific teaching skills.
Teaches appropriate planning and why it matters
Planning and organization mean different things to different programs, but it is clear that a teacher without a plan leads to disaster. Planning does not just ensure that the right content gets across efficiently, but it also leads to an orderly classroom with few behavior disruptions. Effective lesson planning is often the heart of this topic.
- TFA has six major concepts they emphasize to their corps members, but none seems to be as emphasized as “Plan Purposefully”. Planning is critical to ensure that the teacher can cover, in adequate depth, the material required when students are already behind. It also is critical for proper classroom management and keeping students on task with the most important work they can be doing. As one former teacher said, “If you don’t have a plan for the students, the students will have a plan for you.” This point is emphasized more with classroom teachers than tutors.
Teaches appropriate classroom management, standard behavior policies, and why upholding these policies is important
Kids need order and fairness in the classroom. Inexperienced teachers tend to be too lenient with students without regard to the long-term consequences to the student and the school. They also can be easily derailed from the main topic to address small behavior issues. It is absolutely critical that teachers learn the behavior policies of the school or program, understand why they are necessary to enforce, and understand the consequences of poor or inconsistent enforcement.
- MATCH makes sure that every tutor understands all of the finer points of the discipline and demerit system and explains each person’s role in upholding it. Someone who enters feeling like the system is too picky and that they will relax the rules will end training with a strong commitment to uphold the school’s culture and be consistent with other teachers, tutors, and staff in implementing a very clear, no-surprises system of discipline for students.
Sends off teachers with an ability to measure their progress and seek help from mentors and one another
Since an RTT program is short by definition, the trainees will need to be equipped to learn on their own. This includes processes for self-assessment, resources to go to for help, and trust that the program leaders and their peers are looking to help them grow in their role as a teacher.
- This point is not well implemented in many of the programs due to the difficultly of directly measuring teacher progress on a short-term basis. However, organizations that provide continuous mentoring, observation, and feedback (such as TFA and MATCH) allow for external evaluation and help for the teachers/tutors.
- TFA helps teachers get to know a mentor well by having them teach in front of a peer and the mentor every day during summer training. This relationship provides a couple of people that the teacher can count on to give helpful feedback and advice when needed.
- MATCH teachers work with the tutors before the school year begins to build a relationship with the tutors, and also continues to use the tutor’s common room as a teacher’s lounge for continued informal time together. The tutors, who live, eat, and work together all day, also grow to trust each other for observation and feedback when the need help or are looking to improve.