The Exhausted Mom’s Version of my Fulbright Project

Working two jobs

This morning, a friend asked if I am now a full-time researcher and mom: “some kind of superwoman,” as he put it. My brain isn’t working well enough for me to make a witty comparison between myself and superwoman. I am trying to wrap up my project on a ridiculously small amount of sleep.  Visiting schools, researching, and writing while wrangling a newborn is not easy. Normal tasks are taking much longer than usual, and I’m having trouble forming sentences. (I just spent ten minutes staring at the word “researcher” because it looked weird.)

Luckily, I did most of my project before Gussy was born so I could spend time recovering. Even then, I feel the need to tie up my project before going home.  I started this trip with a bunch of lists.  My brain is functioning in lists again. Here’s my project in list form.

The problem:

  • There is a teacher shortage in the United States because people aren’t choosing it as a career anymore and a bunch of teachers are leaving the profession every year.
  • New teachers leave at a higher rate. About 30-50% leave in the first five years.
  • Schools with high-poverty rates, like those in Chicago, have higher teacher attrition are hit hardest in a teacher shortage.

How to fix a teacher shortage:

  • Attract, train, and retain good teachers; my focus is on training and retaining teachers

How teacher mentoring can help:

  • Quality mentoring and induction programs reduce teacher attrition, build strong school communities, and improve the quality of instruction

Teacher mentoring in Chicago

  • It’s inconsistent. There are no national requirements for teacher training, education, or induction
  • It’s often not sustained. Teacher mentoring requires a financial investment that fell victim to budget cuts. It requires an investment of time that overloads already busy teachers.

Teacher mentoring in New Zealand:

  • All teachers are required to participate in a two-year mentoring program
  • Schools receive extra funding for induction activities
  • There are national guidelines for mentoring and induction
  • New teachers and mentors get release time to complete mentoring activities.
  • Teacher mentoring is supported by the Ministry, school leaders, teachers, and the unions

What I found out from visiting schools

  • Teacher induction is tailored to the needs of the individual school
  • New teachers appreciate the program. All new teachers I met with are happy in their schools and intend to stay in the profession.
  • New teachers stated that release time and a supportive principal were the most helpful aspects of the mentoring program.
  • New teachers were discouraged from taking on non-teaching responsibilities
  • Schools make improvements to their mentoring programs based on feedback from teachers.

What I think Chicago should do:

  • Require induction for all new teachers using a model that allows for release time for new and mentor teachers. Really, they could make a few changes to the GOLDEN program they once used and it would work well.
  • Restrict the number of extra activities (coaching sports, after-school clubs, committees, etc.) a new teacher can take on
  • Provide related professional development for principals, new teachers, and mentors

I hope this makes sense so far.  Now I’m going to take a nap.

One thought on “The Exhausted Mom’s Version of my Fulbright Project

  1. Support in the first few years of teaching is so important. We have problems with retaining teachers in Australia too. Victoria is starting to develop more in the way of mentoring programs to help new teachers. I think universities are not really able to prepare students for the realities of teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

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