Professionalizing the profession

Making the transition from a student of teaching to a teacher of students is not an easy one. As Richard Ingersoll notes in his book Teacher Turnover, Teacher Shortages, and the Organization of Schools:

"Teaching is the only profession where entry-level personnel are expected to do the same job and perform at the same level of competence as experienced practitioners. There is typically no staged entry through residency, internship, or apprenticeship. This is unfair and unrealistic. Every district should offer a multiyear induction program that provides systemic help and support, and this cannot be done adequately by another teacher with a full-time load who drops by when time permits or when a problem arises."

Teaching is, after all, a clinical profession. Whether setting up a classroom, interacting with parents, planning lessons, assessing the needs of different children, or constructing tests, a teacher must be able to assess, diagnose, prescribe, and modify their strategies in light of ever-changing circumstances.

Studies of teacher turnover have shown that 50% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years, citing a lack of a feeling of efficacy and lack of support as the main reasons they quit (Ingersoll, Is There Really a Teacher Shortage, 2003).

The Alaska Statewide Mentor Project provides a structured support for teachers when they first enter the "clinical environment" of their classroom. The mentors have dedicated time to serve their teachers so that they can provide consistent ongoing support through the school year.