Supporting Novice Teachers in the Time of COVID-19

by Angela Adams, Lead Coach, Carolina Teacher Induction Program

Last June, my four-year-old asked me when Christmas would be here. I answered, “Six months.” “Six months is FOREVER!” was his response. I immediately started going through the mental list of things to do with two small children and a large extended family and thought, “Six months is not nearly long enough!” This difference in perspective is something we expect between adults and small children. For my son, six months is an eighth of his life; for me it’s a tiny percentage. We discuss this phenomenon in the Carolina Teacher Induction Program (CarolinaTIP) where I work as a coach for first, second, and third-year teachers. As a “grizzled” 20-year classroom veteran, I know there will always be new students, new parents, new administrators, new standards, a new school initiative, a new day. I’ve seen it happen over and over. So, I can handle an unfamiliar online gradebook or a schedule change fairly easily. When it comes to classroom experience, I am reminded that novice teachers have much less context and that the things happening take up a far bigger “slice” of memories. While I can move past a negative parent email knowing it represents a tiny fraction of all emails for the year, that same email may make up a full quarter of all the parent communication a young teacher has ever received. A CarolinaTIP coach lends perspective to those situations. We call it “right-sizing.” Right-sizing consists of listening to new teachers, then saying “This is normal. This is okay. I will help you navigate this,” or “This is not normal. This is not okay. I will help you navigate this.” It’s an important part of our job, and it’s our privilege to be able to support educators in this way. Whether the situation is run of the mill or catastrophic, the common denominator is the sentence, “I will help you navigate this.”

Keeping this in mind, let’s consider the COVID-19 pandemic. Public schools have been closed for six weeks, and this school year will end without any P-12 students getting to say goodbye to their teachers or without their teachers getting to say goodbye to them face-to-face. Now, try to look at this semester through the lens of novice teachers who may have been just starting to get their legs under them. For some, the spring concert was going to feel slightly less intimidating because of the winter concert’s success. The upcoming third round of parent conferences might not have seemed so daunting because of the two before. Now, these educators have become virtual teachers trying to make connections and increase student knowledge in an eLearning environment. All during a time of unprecedented national fear about getting sick, worry there won’t be any food left in the grocery stores, anxiety about the actions of our fellow citizens, and concern for the economic and health ramifications of this virus. It’s enough to make me, with my 20 years of classroom experience, want to curl up into a ball until it all passes. How much more so for our young coworkers? With the teacher shortage as it is, we can hardly afford to let any of them throw in the towel before they’ve truly gotten to experience the joy of our beloved profession.

"While the COVID-19 pandemic is unique, there is enough tangential intersection with past events for veteran educators to offer up empathy to younger, less experienced teachers."

How are they doing? In the case of my own first and second-year teacher coaches, their feelings are all over the place. Some are finding solace in the establishment of office hours. Some are wondering if their students are learning, especially the ones that have been unresponsive. Some are worrying about the students who might be taking care of younger siblings or not getting enough to eat. Some are proud of their successes in virtual teaching, running video conference “classes,” and making connections with their students. They are feeling creative and overwhelmed and unsure and relieved. The common theme through all my conversations with them in the past weeks is that they miss their students terribly and are grieving that loss. I know listening is my most important job as a coach, especially with a new teacher who is grieving. When the talking is finished, and I’m left with the choice to say, “This is normal. This is okay. I will help you navigate this,” or “This is not normal. This is not okay. I will help you navigate this,” which one is true? The answer is both. This is not normal. We don’t know if it will be okay. And still, there’s some familiarity to it all.

Whether it’s been for a hurricane or some other weather-related catastrophe, we have seen people run to stores in panic. In the 1980s when the AIDS crisis hit, many of us wondered if toilet seats and water fountains were safe anymore. My first year of teaching was the year of the Columbine shooting, and my fourth year in the classroom was 9/11. Both events seemed to make the world shift right under our feet, and as teachers we were tasked with helping our students process their own fears and feelings about whether things would ever be “normal” again. When the housing bubble burst in 2008 and the Great Recession took hold, we had students whose parents lost jobs, who suddenly became homeless or stopped coming to school, who took on a whole new set of “adult” concerns about the economy.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is unique, there is enough tangential intersection with past events for veteran educators to offer up empathy to younger, less experienced teachers. As some are grieving, empathy may be the most powerful support we can give. Empathy is based in connection. It is feeling WITH someone, not for someone. It is connecting with someone’s feelings and requires us to connect with something in ourselves that knows that feeling. One of the most empathetic things you can say to anyone grieving, “I know a bit about how you might be feeling and I’m here.” There’s no solution-offering, no Pollyanna-ish “It’ll be fine!” and no pointing out silver linings. Just “I know a bit about how you might be feeling, and I’m here.” And we veterans DO know what it feels like to be worried and sad about world events. If we can find a way back to the emotions we felt in the days around the Sandy Hook shooting or the fall of the World Trade Center, we may be able to summon up the empathy to help support and hopefully retain these young professionals.

"Let’s draw upon our experience and show empathy by reaching out and checking in with that young colleague from down the hall or even in another school. We can all find opportunities to do the same."

Veterans and new teachers alike are struggling with finding a new normal for the rest of this school year and maybe beyond. I propose that for our novice colleagues, those feelings of worry, fear, and uncertainty loom even larger. Like a four-year-old’s interminable wait for Christmas, the school calendar feels much different for the novice. Let’s draw upon our experience and show empathy by reaching out and checking in with that young colleague from down the hall or even in another school. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be right-sizing things for novice teachers the best I can, but truthfully I’ll mostly be listening and telling them, “I know a bit about how you might be feeling, and I’m here.” We can all find opportunities to do the same.

Recruitment and Retention of Teachers in Rural South Carolina

ABSTRACT

Challenges of teacher recruitment and retention in rural areas continue to plague our nation. South Carolina is no exception. Identifying promising practices to meet these challenges is critical as 24% (12 million) of our nation's students and 40% of our South Carolina students are educated in rural schools. In this paper, we discuss challenges facing rural schools associated with teacher recruitment and retention, highlight promising practices identified through a comprehensive literature review, and conclude with recommendations for meeting these challenges. While we include the national perspective, we also specifically examine these areas of focus from a South Carolina centric lens.

Click here to read the full-length Working Paper.

 

Click here to read the Fact Sheet.

 

View the infographic here.

ROUNDTABLE: Focusing On Our State's Retention Issues

How are issues of teacher retention impacting students and schools in South Carolina?

What are educators and public education advocates doing to increase retention in the profession?

What impact are those strategies having on teacher retention?

Like many other states across the country, South Carolina had an increasing number of teachers leaving the profession - until this past year. According to the 2019-2020 South Carolina Annual Educator Supply and Demand Report, released by the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA), this school year 6,650 teachers did not return to a teaching position in the same district that they were in during the 2018 - 2019 school year, a 9% decrease. While schools and districts filled most of those vacancies, there were still 555.5 vacant positions at the start of the ’19-’20 school year. That number of vacancies represents an 11% decrease from the prior year that, while promising, means that thousands of South Carolina’s children started school without a certified teacher. 

The good news is that SC-TEACHER was created to study the issue of retention (in addition to recruitment and preparation) so that practitioners and policymakers can make strategic decisions based on more sophisticated data and analyses. 

Over the next several weeks, blogs featured in this roundtable will set the stage for urgent action, then share current efforts taking place to address the issue of teacher retention. 

Please join the conversation and share your thoughts and experiences by commenting on these blog posts and inviting your colleagues to join the discussion on social media with @SCTEACHERTweets. Follow SC-TEACHER on Twitter to see when each new blog is posted. 

 

Featured February 18, 2020:

The House is On Fire by Patrick Kelly, Coordinator of Professional Learning in Richland School District 2 (On Twitter: @plkelly27)

 

Featured February 25, 2020:

CarolinaTIP: A Promising Solution to the Teacher Shortage By Nicole Skeen, University Induction Coordinator | UofSC College of Education @eneskeen

 

Featured March 3, 2020:

Policy Discussion on Preparation, Recruitment and Retention of Teachers by Melanie Barton, Executive Director – South Carolina Education Oversight Committee

 

Featured March 19, 2020:

Let’s Talk About That: Teacher Retention by Cindy Van Buren, Assistant Dean for Professional Partnerships, University of South Carolina, @Cindy_Van_Buren

SC-TEACHER All-Partner Meeting | January 15, 2020

The agenda of our 3rd all-partner meeting.

SC-TEACHER 01.15 Agenda

Published January 2020 | Adobe PDF | 290 KB

Alternative Certification in Higher Education: New Initiatives in South Carolina

INTRODUCTION & RATIONALE

The 2018-19 school year began as the previous year with classrooms nationwide without certified teachers. In South Carolina, there were approximately 621 vacancies compared to 500 just one year ago for the 2017-18 school year as reported by the Center for Educator Recruitment Retention and Advancement (CERRA, 2018). In addition, a review of enrollment in teacher education programs across the nation indicates that the number of individuals entering traditional certifying programs has declined from what to what from when to when. In response to these events, policy makers are considering ways to increase the pipeline of qualified teachers, including the development of alternative teacher certification pathways that are offered by higher education institutions.

Click here to read the Working Paper package.

 

Click here to read the Fact Sheet.

 

Click here to review the Infographic.

 

CarolinaTIP: A Promising Solution to the Teacher Shortage

By Nicole Skeen, University Induction Coordinator | UofSC College of Education

When my husband and I found out we were expecting, we did everything in our power to prepare. We read books, attended classes, and sought the advice of experts. Over weekends, we even borrowed our friends’ children in an attempt to hone our pre-parenting skills. Unsurprisingly, as any parent knows, nothing (and I mean nothing!) could have prepared us for the fatigue, concern, stress, and self-doubt that stems from the reality of raising three boys. 

For teachers, the journey of stepping into their own classrooms for the first time follows much the same trajectory of bewilderment and exhaustion faced by new parents. Many enter the profession with the tools and knowledge required for success. However, new teachers often find themselves at a loss for how to effectively wield these tools as they learn how to make more than 1,500 decisions per day, navigate the needs of 20 to 30 students simultaneously, assimilate into a school culture, and balance increasing demands – all without breaking under the pressures of accountability mandates. The numerous challenges new teachers face are substantiated by a myriad of research and data including:

  1. Studies that show the need for and promise of induction support models (Bastian & Marks, 2017; Ronfeldt & McQueen, 2017); 
  2. Research that points to job stress, job satisfaction, and a diminished sense of self-efficacy as early indicators a teacher will leave the profession (Dicke et al, 2014; Hong, 2010; Tait, 2008; Zee & Koomen, 2016); and
  3. South Carolina’s teacher shortage crisis as illustrated in Patrick Kelly’s The House is on Fire.

 

CarolinaTIP won the prestigious Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award, given by The Riley Institute at Furman University to celebrate promising education initiatives that are improving outcomes for SC students. The Carolina Teacher Induction Program, or CarolinaTIP, was announced as the winner and received a $10,000 gift to support the program.

At least 17 % of teachers leave the profession altogether within the first five years of teaching (Gray & Taie, 2015). In South Carolina, the situation is equally dire. A total of 5,300 SC teachers exited the profession at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. Almost half of those leaving the profession were induction teachers with five or fewer years’ experience.  Alarmingly, a full quarter of first year teachers left the classroom during or at the end of the 2017-2018 school year (CERRA, 2018). These numbers paint a grim picture. One that reveals an urgent need to identify and provide the type of support required to not only keep our newest teachers in the classroom but also enable them to cultivate the confidence, resiliency, and grit needed to thrive in the profession.

Simply put, the essential question is: How can we support teachers through the inherent growing pains of their induction years in order to unlock their full promise and potential in the classroom? 

The University of South Carolina College of Education’s Carolina Teacher Induction Program (CarolinaTIP) is making strides toward answering this critical question. In its third iteration, the university-based induction program currently provides supplemental, comprehensive, holistic, and teacher-centered support to more than 100 teachers across six school districts.  

Read more about the program in the news:

A Case for Teacher Mentoring, Coaching and Induction Support by Dr. Jon Pedersen

Survive to Thrive by Craig Brandhorst

Columbia Business Report Article

The foundation of CarolinaTIP rests on two core beliefs:  

  1. Teachers require support that meets the evolving professional needs of the novice educator, provides personalized and responsive coaching, and strategically guides teachers through the journey of uncovering their unique teacher identity while growing their comprehensive capacity.
  2. Teachers deserve support that is teacher-centered, focused beyond the needs of the students to intentionally target the needs of the teacher and designed to provide holistic support aimed at increasing overall wellness, self-efficacy, and resiliency.

These beliefs are manifested throughout the program in whole-group training sessions strategically designed to intersect with the developmental readiness of induction teachers, in-class support from an assigned Carolina Coach, and tiered responsive coaching intended to meet the individual teacher’s professional and emotional needs.

The Research, Evaluation and Measurement (REM) Center  is conducting an external evaluation of the program’s effectiveness. Recognizing the following as precursors to teachers leaving the profession, REM Center evaluators are collecting data on a combination of teacher-efficacy, job satisfaction, job stress, and teacher attendance to measure CarolinaTIP’s progress toward meeting its ultimate goal of increasing teacher retention. The following represent key findings about CarolinaTIP from two years of program evaluation informed by interviews, focus groups, surveys, and a synthesis of all data collected: 

  • Evidence of CarolinaTIP’s effectiveness is emerging. With an expanded number of teachers and a growing coaching team, CarolinaTIP is increasingly demonstrating its effectiveness in retaining teachers and growing their professional capacity as early career professionals. Furthermore, evidence indicating that the program positively influences teachers’ self-efficacy, job stress, and job satisfaction is continuing to grow.   
  • The external nature of support and the centrality of personal relationships are the essence of CarolinaTIP. Participants and coaches consistently report that the program being independent of teachers’ employers was a key aspect of what makes the program valuable. This, paired with the program’s commitment to building strong personal relationships steeped in empathy, is what makes the program distinct.  
  • CarolinaTIP support is highly valued by participating teachers. Across all data sources, teachers express deep appreciation for the support they receive through CarolinaTIP. Many note making decisions about where to teach based on whether the school is partnered with CarolinaTIP and many exiting the program expressed regret that they could no longer participate due to lack of partnership with their new school. 
  • CarolinaTIP’s encouragement of self-reflection is growing reflective practitioners. While some participants initially noted a desire for more directive feedback and precise solutions, teachers who have been engaged in CarolinaTIP for a longer period of time have come to value the process of reflecting and deriving their own solutions.  
  • Emotional support and personalized mentoring are vital elements of the program. Teachers indicate that the emotional support they receive has been essential in helping them survive their first year and stabilize their practice during their second year in the classroom. Personal coaching that is adaptive to the strengths, needs, and personality of the individual teacher is one of the components that sets CarolinaTIP coaching apart. 

    Madalyn Hazlett’s story details how CarolinaTIP impacted her experience as a new teacher in her powerful first-person narrative.

While the emerging evidence of the program’s effectiveness and high retention rates of its teachers are encouraging, the program’s positive day-to-day impact on participating teachers is the most convincing evidence that CarolinaTIP is a promising solution to the teacher shortage crisis. 

“CarolinaTIP is such a powerful solution to the alarming rate that we are losing teachers in the profession. Teaching is not for the faint of heart. My coach’s joy, passion, transparency, and love of teaching inspire me to keep fighting and keep teaching. She reminds me of the love I found in this profession, and she has helped me see the big picture. I can’t drown with a life preserver like CarolinaTIP.”

Madalyn Hazlett’s story details how CarolinaTIP impacted her experience as a new teacher in her powerful first-person narrative

While nothing could have prepared my husband and me for the challenges (or the noise) that come with raising children, there was also no way we could have anticipated the sheer joy of watching our boys grow. Even still, there are times we need to be reminded to look beyond our current stress and struggle to see the hope and promise of the future. With so much negativity dictating the narrative around teaching, the underlying goal of CarolinaTIP is to whisper an alternative narrative directly into the ears of new teachers. To provide a narrative that resonates over the noise and speaks to the joy of being an educator; one that assures teachers that they can succeed, and they are not alone in their journey. 

 

 

References

Bastian, K.C. & Marks, J.T. (2017). Connecting teacher preparation to teacher induction: Outcomes for beginning teachers in a university-based support program in low-performing schools. American Educational Research Journal, 54(2), 360-394. doi: 10.3102/0002831217690517.

CERRA (2019, January). South Carolina Annual Educator Supply and Demand Report (2018-2019 School Year). Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement. Rock Hill, SC.

Dicke, T., Parker, P.D., Marsh, H.W., Kunter, M., Schmeck, A., & Leutner, D. (2014). Self-efficacy in classroom management, classroom disturbances, and emotional exhaustion: A moderated mediation analysis of teacher candidates. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(2), 569-583. doi: 10.1037/a0035504.

Gray, L.,, Taie, S. (2015). Public School Teacher Attrition and Mobility in the First Five Years: Results From the First Through Fifth Waves of the 2007–08 Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (NCES 2015-337). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved March 29, 2019 from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch

Hong, J.Y. (2010). Pre-service and beginning teachers’ professional identity and its relation to dropping out of the profession. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26, 1510-1543. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2010.06.003

Ronfeldt, M. & McQueen, K. (2017). Does new teacher induction really improve retention? Journal of Teacher Education, 684), 394-410. doi: 10.1177/0022487117702583.

Tait, M., (2008). Resilience as a contributor to novice teacher success, commitment, and retention. Teacher Education Quarterly, 35(4), 57-75.

Zee, M., & Koomen, H. M. (2016). Teacher self-efficacy and its effects on classroom processes, student academic adjustment, and teacher well-being: A synthesis of 40 years of research. Review of Educational Research86(4), 981-1015.

Clinical Practices for Elementary Teacher Preparation Across South Carolina

ABSTRACT

Policy documents have consistent recommendations regarding the clinical preparation of elementary teacher candidates and programs; however, the extent to which those policies are enacted in South Carolina is relatively unclear. Therefore, the purpose of this working paper is to explore the enactment of promising clinical practices for elementary teacher preparation across the state. Using an interview protocol established from policy recommendations, data were collected from 12 of the 28 Institutes of Higher Education (IHEs) with elementary teacher preparation programs. Findings revealed many of the IHEs are engaged in practices consistent with guiding documents, although there is room for growth across all. A series of implications and recommendations for various stakeholders is presented.

 

Click here to read the full Working Paper on Clinical Practices for Elementary Teacher Preparation Across South Carolina.
Click here to read the Fact Sheet based on the Elementary Clinical Practices Working Paper.
Click here to view the Infographic on Promising Practices in Elementary Teacher Preparation.