Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) New Teacher Induction (NTI) is supported by the Commission on Lutheran Schools and Martin Luther College to assist WELS schools in providing new teachers with the resources they need to succeed.
A trained mentor closely walks a new teacher through their first two years of teaching using instructional mentoring punctuated by management seminars and mentor observation. Along this path, mentors receive free training in how to encourage discussion and reflection around teaching standards and instructional practice.
The goals of NTI are to improve student academic achievement by supporting the development of new teachers. Research suggests that high-quality induction programs . . .
Enhance teacher retention
Strengthen student achievement
Develop teacher leadership
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why should today’s beginning teachers be mentored?
Education in the 21st century is vastly different from 20 years ago, and the dynamics of teaching, classroom management, and home-school relationships are increasingly complex. The “sink or swim” method for introducing new teachers into the profession is damaging to today’s schools and teachers. The decrease in WELS elementary students (7,356) and WELS elementary schools (42) over the past 20 years – as well as the increase in new WELS teachers leaving the profession from 287 in the 1980s to 867 in the 2000s – are evidence that “the way we’ve always done it” no longer works.
Schools today have an important responsibility, both to their students and to new teachers, to help the beginning teacher transition into the profession. Most other school systems have already experienced the benefits of providing trained mentors for beginning teachers. Over 30 states require mentoring for their new teachers. These other systems have discovered what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to mentoring new teachers. What works is an intensive mentoring experience from a trained mentor. What doesn’t work is simply assigning an experienced teacher who has no mentor training and little direction or accountability.
Q: What is New Teacher Induction?
New Teacher Induction is the name of a program that guides beginning WELS teachers through their first two years of teaching. A trained mentor is assigned to each teacher receiving his/her first call to a school. The trained mentor closely guides the development of the new teacher, helping him/her to connect practice to undergraduate preparation, reflect on practice according to teacher standards, and grow both spiritually and professionally. The mentor is accountable for weekly contacts, monthly face-to-face communications, and two or more classroom observations per semester as agreed upon with the new teacher.
New Teacher Induction began as a pilot program in the Milwaukee area under the direction of the Commission on Lutheran Schools. It was approved for use synod-wide by the 2011 synod convention. In 2012 it was expanded to all three Wisconsin districts, and it is now fully employed in all twelve districts.
Q: Isn’t this just the latest version of the school visitor or Assisting Beginning Teachers programs?
The WELS has long recognized that the “sink or swim” method of new teacher induction results in teacher resignation, poor practice, and school stress. Research agrees (Lortie, 1975; Wei, Darling- Hammond, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009). The WELS has attempted in the past to provide support.
The school visitor program brought in an outside, experienced teacher to observe a new teacher in each of the first two years. This program resulted more in evaluation than support and improvement. School visitors evaluated the new teacher and sent a report to the synod offices.
The Assisting Beginning Teachers (ABT) program was an improvement to the previous school visitor program because it intended to provide support for the new teacher. The ABT assigned an experienced teacher/mentor to be a resource for a new teacher. The mentor provided resources, offered suggestions, and provided orientation to the new teacher as needed. This program was a type of buddy system.
New Teacher Induction (NTI) is unlike its predecessors. The goal of NTI is the improvement of student learning by accelerating new teacher effectiveness. A trained mentor is accountable to provide the new teacher with weekly contacts, regular meetings, and two classroom observations per semester. The mentor is trained to use collaborative language and frequent feedback to guide beginning teachers in the use self-reflection, student data, comparison to teaching standards, and best instructional practices.
Q: What are the benefits of NTI?
Benefits to the mentee
The mentee receives regularly scheduled services of a trained mentor for two years. The mentee has weekly contacts, face-to-face conferencing, and classroom observations with a trusted, confidential, experienced teacher. The mentee improves classroom teaching and management to impact the current students and school. One of the biggest benefits is the opportunity to discuss classroom practices honestly with an experienced teacher trained to observe, encourage, and provide immediate feedback without the fear of evaluation by the principal. This trusting relationship encourages honest assessment and accelerated growth over traditional observation methods. As a result, the mentee is encouraged, coached, and supported as he/she develops into a confident, independent, reliable professional educator.
Benefits to the school
The school benefits by receiving a trained, high-quality mentor for its beginning teacher. A confident, young teacher infuses energy into a school and satisfies parents. New practices are introduced into the school culture by the mentor, and collaboration around topics of student learning is encouraged.
Benefits to the principal
The principal benefits by having a trained mentor working closely with his new teacher. He receives assistance in helping the new teacher develop, which eases his schedule. Most WELS principals teach full- or nearly full-time. Having a trained mentor provide regular instructional observations and feedback means he does not have the added time and expense required for a substitute so he can do the job. The principal can be assured that the instructional mentoring and guidance is occurring regardless of his busy schedule. Finally, an effective new teacher makes school satisfaction and promotion easier.
Q: Can anyone be a mentor?
No. A mentor must be an experienced teacher (three years) who demonstrates understanding and competence in areas of faith, instruction, assessment, and management. A mentor is recommended by his/her supervisor, applies for the position, and then is trained specifically for the WELS New Teacher Induction program. Mentors unable to provide the expected level of service for their mentees are dismissed from the program.
Q: What does a mentor do?
A mentor works together with the beginning teacher and principal to accomplish the following tasks:
Encourage beginning teachers to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ
Encourage the spiritual growth/development of new teachers
Coach and assist beginning teachers with curriculum development, classroom management, instructional strategies, lesson planning, assessment of student performance, and all aspects of their professional development
Assist/support beginning teachers in developing a learning goal
Assist/support beginning teachers in developing a Ministry Development Plan
Plan, participate in, and facilitate support in professional development activities for beginning teachers
Participate in principal/instructional mentor/beginning teacher orientation
Provide feedback on program effectiveness with principals, lead mentors, and the Commission on Lutheran Schools office
Comply with the Mentor Accountability Log
A mentor engages in the following types of professional growth:
Participates in mentor forums
Participates in mentor trainings
Participates and completes the mentoring certification program
Collaborates with other trained mentors as appropriate to assist with beginning teacher support
A mentor develops the following in his/her relationships:
A reflective and trusting partnership with beginning teachers
Confidentiality as outlined by the mentor program
A mentor provides the following services:
Two or more observations per semester
Monthly face-to-face contact
Q: What training does a mentor need?
To be effective, a mentor needs to learn the language and skills related to observation, support, self-reflection, and trusting relationships. The mentor also needs to learn the procedures necessary to carry out the roles and responsibilities. All training and related expenses are provided to the mentor free of charge.
The mentor acquires the needed skills through participation in a series of mentor trainings throughout the first few years of mentoring. Engaging in mentor training while also mentoring enables the training to be immediately applied to real contexts, thus encouraging proper implementation. Through training, the mentor learns how to do the following:
Select appropriate coaching strategies
Develop the language and behavior of support
Use professional teaching standards in mentoring
Help new teachers reflect upon and assess teaching according to standards
Guide the creation of a Ministry Development Plan (MDP)
Use planned and reflective conference protocols
Use observation tools
Gain skills in collecting and analyzing observation data
Give strategic feedback using the language of support
Analyze student work
Guide differentiated instruction
Q: What is the program’s cost to schools?
Schools with beginning teachers pay $1,000 each year per teacher for two years.
Q: Why are the schools asked to pay for mentoring?
New teachers and their schools receive many services during the induction period. The teacher and principal receive access to a trained mentor. The new teacher has weekly contact with his/her mentor, monthly face-to-face contacts, and classroom observations with feedback two or more times each semester. This added supervision frees the principal for other duties and eliminates other school expenses, like paying for substitutes for the principal while he observes the new teacher. Providing these services to new teachers and their schools requires funding. Mentor training, mentor observations and visits, and program coordination all cost money. The actual expenses to run the New Teacher Induction program synod-wide are estimated to be $1,800 per new teacher each year. Schools are asked to pay two-thirds of the cost. The remaining one-third is provided by alternate funding sources.
Q: What if a school can’t afford it?
Budgets are always tight, but three things should be considered when the decision is made to call a graduate rather than an experienced teacher.
For most schools the salaries of new teachers are lower than the veteran teacher he/she is replacing. This lower budget impact can be used to offset the school’s cost of mentoring.
The cost of mentoring is small in comparison to the benefits the school receives. It is important for congregations/schools to remember that a beginning teacher cannot be expected to perform his/her duties at the same level as an experienced teacher. The New Teacher Induction program helps the new teacher become effective more quickly, benefiting students, school, and principal.
New Teacher Induction is often in a school’s continuing education budget already. Most WELS schools budget an annual amount for teacher continuing education. For the new teacher, the funds are spent on mentoring rather than courses or workshops. For most WELS schools, therefore, the funds for NTI are already set aside in their continuing education budgets and therefore are not an extra expense.