Sunday, October 28, 2012

2. More St. Patrick's: The National Induction Programme for Teachers

Halls of St. Patrick's College
Our time at Pat's was so professionally enriching that there is no way that one post can suffice. Actually, not even two can do it, but here is the second part of our visit to Pat's. After our wonderful visits with Dr. Waldron and Dr. Keogh, we then visited The Gate Lodge which houses The National Induction Programme for Teachers.  Billy Redmond and Mary Burke are the NIPT National Co-ordinators for the Programme. Their knowledge, creativity and energy are truly inspiring!
Dr. Waldron gives us a tour and accompanies us to the
Gate Lodge to meet with Billy Redmond and Mary Burke

Gate Lodge - Big things happen in small buildings!
The NIPT slogan on the website says, "to ask for support is a sign of strengh" and providing support is what NIPT is all about.  The Programme was established in 2010 by the Teaching Council which is the professional body for teaching in Ireland. We found out this differs from our state or U.S. departments of education because it is a self regulating body, in many ways, with teacher representatives on the Council. The Council was established in 2006.

According to the NIPT website, it's goal is "to support the induction of newly qualified teachers into the teaching professor...The main objective of induction is towards promoting the professional development of NQTs by way of systematic support in their first year of teaching...A key characteristic of the Programme is access by the NQTS to a mentor at school level or in a neighboring school. Mentors are experienced teachers who are fully probated, have a minimum of 5 years teaching experience and have undertaken professional training for the role..."

Unlike our teacher licensure in Alabama, teacher in Ireland are granted a probationary license. Full licensing (called full registration) is conferred after meeting the probationary requirements. The probation period is for a amximum of three years. During this time teacher must take 12 professional development workshops (evenings, after school, weekends), create portfolios, be observed and evaluated, and complete a certain number of teaching hours.

NIPT provides support at five different levels--this is taken from the Framework of Support on the NIPT website. The five levels are:

1.  Workshop Programme:  There are 12 two hour workshop required of probationary teachers. Three are offered together for both primary and secondary and nine are offered by teaching level.  These workshops are delivered by practicing teachers who have undergone training for the presentations. Two hundred fifty teachers are involved in delivering the workshops which provide very practical experience. There are 21 Teacher Education Centers throughout the county. We told them about our Regional Inservice Centers in Alabama which provide a somewhat similar function.

2. School Visits: (I believe this is probationary teachers who do not have mentors) If extra  support for NQTs is needed, school visits can be arranged through the NIPT office- again, very practical, formative assistance to teachers.

3.   Professional Support Groups: These are sessions that can be arranged for groups of teachers and are very individualized. For instance, if a groups of teachers needed some help with classroom management or special education students, a support group could be held for them.

4.  Website Support:  The NIPT website is a continual source of support.  Billy said that there would be a re-launch of the website in Dec.

5.  School Based Support:  This is really at the heart of the framework because this is the commitment on behalf of the school to support its new teachers. The mentoring program is a strong recommendation, but does not occur at all schools.

Susan discussing teacher induction with Mary and Billy
It was fascinating for us to hear about this wonderful induction program. There are states in the U.S. which have probationary licenses. I don't know enough about the requirements teachers must meet to become fully licensed, but that is something I would like to research once I am home. I think the concept is so sound--kind of like a learner's permit in driving. I believe it could greatly reduce the number of teacher who leave the profession within the first five years, which is very high n the U.S. a 2006 Washington Post article estimated the percentage as 50%, which is shocking and tragic!

Mentors for new teachers are used in many schools. Again, I want to look into this more. Billy and Mary said that they had examined the PAR program in Ohio, the CTTEAM program in Connecticut and the New Teacher Center at Santa Cruz. The mentors participate in a 20 hour program, over 3 Saturdays, which require them to engage in reflective experiences. They have a wonderful notebook to use. They receive a one class per week release time to serve as mentors. Billy said that a side result has been that the mentors report that their own teaching improves as a result of the mentoring and that school climates often improve. He and Mary said that problem is that mentors get so motivated that they often move on to administrative positions which necessitates training new mentors. Mentors have to be nominated by their principals.

As I looked at the workshops required of new teachers, I could identify many concerns expressed by our students and by new teachers:  planning for effective instruction, classroom management and organization, behavior management, meeting the needs of a diverse student population, differentiating instruction, literacy, working with parents. Isn't it interesting that these are such common concerns! These topics are particularly important for teachers in Ireland as Mary estimated that 60% of elementary teach in classrooms with more than one grade level. Billy said that in the Gaeltacht (see below), there were often even more grade levels in a class--very much the one room schoolhouse idea. Think about how many lesson plans that would take for each day! We asked about circumstances, such as over crowded classrooms and Billy said that teachers would not allow that to happen and could say no to too may students in their classrooms. I'll have to admit that I'm unsure if unionized teachers can do this or not, but we shared some of the overcrowding situations with which we're familiar.

We talked about student diversity in terms of ethnicity. Billy said that there were 19-20 nationalities present with the largest being Polish. In terms of language diversity, Irish teachers face a situation that our teachers do not. In 2005,  legislation was passed which restored Irish as the country's official language with English technically as the second language. Billy said a goal is that 1/3 of new schools will be Irish language schools. All students take courses in, and must pass exams in Irish. Additionally, some areas of Ireland speak Irish as the first language. These areas are called Gaeltacht. Instruction in schools in these areas  is in Irish. Billy said that teachers who are fluent in Irish are quickly hired. All teachers complete an Irish school experience. All materials produced by NIPT are in both Irish and English. Workshops must be available in both!

Now for the even more amazing part.  We asked who had created all the the materials-the workshops, the mentor program and mentor notebooks, the website, the new teacher workshop and who trained the workshop presenters and visited schools which needed to be visited. The answer is Billy and Mary! Paige was especially impressed with Billy's instruction design expertise as she looked at the workshop materials. When I first contacted Billy, I was told that he was not often in the office and NOW we know why! We feel so fortunate to have come at a time when they were both in the office. These are two of the busiest people we have ever met-they are responsible for new teacher training across the entire country! They not only administer the Programme, they created every workshop, every piece of information, every structure. They do have some assistance now which must provide a bit of relief! It is a good thing that they are also immensely passionate and organized.
Susan, Billy and Mary

We left Pat's with new friendships and lots of ideas about improving our own practice and the practice of our students in the College of Education!
Paige, Billy and Mary

What do you think about a probationary teacher license?
What are your thoughts on having a mentorship program for first year teachers?
What are the most challenging areas in which you think new teachers might need support?


Mary Helms said...

The support that the NIPT offers the new teachers is great and probably very effective in retaining teachers. I think this idea of having a support system for new teachers would be a welcome addition in the US because we have all heard how hard the first couple of years can be. As a soon to be teacher- I fear not having an adequate support system to help me get started. It would be nice to have a mentor to bounce ideas off of or just help me troubleshoot. I also found it interesting that the top graduates in Ireland go in to education. Wow- that is a nation that values education! Love that! :)

Susan Santoli said...

Hello, Mary Donna! I enjoyed reading your comments. As you can tell, I was also very impressed with the program. It certainly has me thinking!

Kenesha Brown said...

Hello, I really enjoyed the mini adventure through Ireland with all the photos and information you posted. I find the program very impressive. Have a fun safe trip!

Kenesha Brown
EDM 310
University of South Alabama

Paige Vitulli said...

Billy and Mary were so very passionate about the very important job they do for the new teachers of Ireland. As an instructional designer i was very impressed with their expertise in developing professional development resources. As Dr. Santoli expressed, our meeting has me thinking of all sorts of future possibilities we could explore in the COE.

Bethanie Griffith said...

From reading your blog post, it seems you had a great time and learned a lot. I think it would be an awesome experience to visit other countries and explore how they manage schools and education. I think the five year probationary period for teachers in Ireland is a good idea. After five years a teacher will most likely know if he or she is meant to be an educator, and so will that person's supervisor. I am currently attending the University of South Alabama with a major in secondary education. It is always interesting to read about other school systems, statewide, nationwide, and in other countries. Thank you for sharing your experience.