Language Minority Teacher Induction Program
Beginning teachers must negotiate a steep learning curve in their first years of experience. When part of this challenge involves working with linguistically diverse students with whom the teacher may not share ethnicity or language, the task can seem overwhelming.
In recognition of the need to improve language minority education as well as assist beginning teachers through their initial adventures, teachers from five high-impact high schools in the Washington DC metro area and faculty from George Mason University formed induction teams in 1998-1999. Each team met regularly to provide support, discuss mutual experiences and engage in systematic analyses of their seemingly-intractable challenges. While each took on a different character, their goal was to form cohesive learning communities in order to improve instruction and student achievement. A book containing their stories was published. We are now in the fifth year of the project, each year building on the experiences of the past and recording their lessons for others to benefit from their experiences. We've expanded to twelve schools, among which are two K-12 pyramids.
As might be expected, the teams achieved varying levels of success. In terms of support, most of the teachers developed professional friendships that will outlive the project. They came together across disciplines to work with colleagues who they normally would never have met. There was continual surprise as they learned that their partners faced similar mysteries, and satisfaction from a shared effort to understand.
Throughout this significant culture-learning effort, the teachers concentrated on a particular aspect of instruction and learning. In one school the whole team focused on literacy. In other sites, the teachers analyzed learning and teaching styles, the influence of the external environment, mentoring, increasing motivation through teachers' knowledge of culture, cooperative learning, class management, technology and a variety of other important topics.
More than 200 teachers have taken part in the project since its inception. If the experience of the first four years is any indication, their successors will have a great deal of wisdom to draw upon. We continue to learn valuable lessons about research and instruction.