Supported Site University of Arizona: Induction & Mentoring

Successes

  • In the years in which our beginning physics teachers taught in the Tucson area, our teachers-in-residence were able to establish strong mentoring relationships with them.
  • All but one of the physics teachers prepared in our program is still teaching. The one teacher who just left teaching taught for three years, and is pursuing a position in which he will assist other teachers through professional development.

Challenges

  • Those teachers who moved away from Tucson did not often take advantage of our efforts to provide long-distance mentoring via e-mail or web conferencing.
  • When the teacher-in-residence returned to the classroom fulltime, it was virtually impossible for him/her to have the time to mentor the beginning teachers in the area.

Sustainability/Institutional Buy-In

  • We are philosophically committed to continuing support of the teachers prepared in our program. However, our resources are currently stretched too thin to allow our adjunct instructors to formally mentor beginning teachers. We are exploring whether two of our local districts will fund a support program for early-career science teachers.
  • Beginning physics teachers who remain in the Tucson area are invited to join the Tucson Area Physics Teachers, a local physics alliance that has existed for some 25 years.
  • We are able to offer all our beginning teachers one year of membership in the professional organization of their choice, thanks to a memorial fund established for one of the founding members of our program.

Lessons Learned

  • Beginning teachers need to have flexible options for mentoring if they are too overwhelmed during their first years. If they know that they can contact us for support or to answer questions, they will to do that, even if they don’t have time to attend formal meetings. Ironically, many beginning teachers just don’t feel they have the time, even though they admit the workshops would be helpful!
  • The cost of mentoring early-career teachers is one that needs to be partially borne by the districts in which these teachers work, not solely by the university program that prepared them.

Induction Activities

  • Beginning physics teachers were supported to attend Summer Meetings of AAPT. Over the course of the project, two beginning teachers were able to take advantage of this support.

Mentoring Activities

  • The PhysTEC TIRs mentored beginning physics and physical science teachers in the Tucson area, offering classroom observations and follow-up discussions. Some, but not all, beginning teachers took advantage of this.
  • The PhysTEC TIRs and the CoS TPP Director mentored beginning physics and physical science teachers who moved away from Tucson via e-mail and video conferencing (using an inexpensive webcam on a computer at each end). Again, the beginning teachers varied in the degree to which they took advantage of this.
  • The PhysTEC TIRs serve as voices of practical experience for our preservice teachers. Class discussions are enriched by their experiences and the preservice teachers view their expertise as more authentic and recent than that of the program faculty members. (Most of the program faculty members also have secondary teaching experience.)
  • Although students do not proceed through the CoS TPP as a cohort, informal cohorts do arise in the advanced courses, as the preservice teachers work together on class assignments. These cohorts arise spontaneously.
  • Program faculty and adjunct instructors continue to mentor beginning teachers on an informal basis, via e-mail and conversations during school visits. Program graduates who have completed three years of teaching in the Tucson area are invited to serve as mentor teachers to current students in the program.