One of our recent physics teaching graduates took a mid-year vacancy teaching 8th grade physical science in an struggling urban area. There are many factors making this job particularly difficult for the student, operating under survival mode.
- The new teacher is coming into the classroom mid-year, with students who have had a substitute for the past month
- Between the interview and first day, there were four days, little to time to prepare and get oriented.
- The school appears to have no induction process for new teachers
- The school really is a struggling / failing school, both by qualitative sense and quantitative measures
- The population this teachert is working with is very different than populations he experienced while student teaching
- Our existing program does too little to prepare students for classroom management
- Both the students’ content and pedagogical knowledge better prepared him for teach high school physics than middle school
- Our program doesn’t yet properly support students in making job decisions and initial/ongoing support.
- Our program doesn’t yet have students leaving us with any fail-safes like, if all else fails, “Here is exactly what you are going to do the first month you are teaching, and here is a basket of all the things you’ll need to pull that off.”
By far the biggest problems he is facing is typical for new teachers–classroom management. One of the things I’m wondering is, what role can the physics department play in preparing / supporting students in this way? I mean, I can say, well, “Shouldn’t the education classes deal with that?” But I think that’s just punting on responsibilities to put our physics teacher in the best possible position to succeed.
I feel like that last bullet might be the thing that we can change the most in our department. Make sure that when students leave, they have very specific plans in place, including activities oriented toward setting classroom expectations. A kind of thing that can carry them through that terribly difficult beginning. And the second thing is for us to be more involved with them in the decisions they make for jobs. And obviously, we need to better coordinate with education side on initial and ongoing support, because we can’t do that alone. But we should be involved.
Help! What do we need to do? What do we need to think about? Grace, I’m looking at you especially.