The March BTLN session was a phenomenal opportunity for BTs to let their voices be heard.

Three members of the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission (PEPSC) — Dr. Patrick Miller, Green County Schools Superintendent; Dr. Andrew Sioberg, Service Support Coordinator with NCDPI Educator Effectiveness Division; and Ms. Jen DeNeal, Policy Fellow with the NC Board of Education — joined Wake BTLN members at WakeEd Partnership on March 15, 2018, to discuss their work in redesigning North Carolina’s teacher licensure and preparation programs. Turnout was great! The room was filled to capacity, and everyone was able to address the panel. Attendees provided valuable input about the needs of beginning teachers(BTs) as they transition into their own classrooms along with discussion about the gaps in teacher preparation programs.

The meeting’s primary goal was for PEPSC members to engage beginning teachers on their BT experience to consolidate a list of areas in which BTs seek additional support that may be incorporated into educator preparation programs. Additionally, BTs were presented with proposed recommendations for new policy and licensure requirements that increase BTs effectiveness and impact with all students.

Practical concerns of teachers in their early years as they face the challenges of entering the classroom and the profession were noted; BTs relayed experiences ranging from school culture to classroom procedures to uniform expectations for BT support.

Some key areas that were addressed include the following:
1. Professional development opportunities, mentorship programs, career pathways. There was a consensus among BTs that teacher preparedness programs should expose teacher candidates to professional development opportunities and mentorship programs that are available to them early in their career. As a group we learned that the mentoring experience may vary dramatically from district to district, as mentorship programs firmly reside in the policy realm, which is up to interpretation, instead of concrete laws.

Knowing that there are programs that are geared towards supporting beginning teachers — like Wake BTLN, or NCSU’s Beginning Teacher Program —  as they transition from student to teacher is empowering. Awareness of networking opportunities allows teachers to be proactive about plugging into support networks and positively impacts teacher retention. They also guide teachers in the development of teacher leadership, increasing their perspective on teacher empowerment in their beginning years. BTs are introduced to established leadership roles from within the classroom while gaining knowledge of different career pathways.

2. Equity, sensitivity training, overcoming biases. Equity issues were also discussed with an emphasis on practical exposure to various diverse groups through community-­‐based organizations and projects that would provide student teachers extended experiences with these groups and their parents. This topic also introduced the issue of the need for sensitivity training through courses that help student teachers become aware of, identify, and target their own biases to overcome them before beginning their education career. Many BTs voiced their concerns with the lack of cultural experiences in their education preparation programs, which led to a discussion about the logistics of planning and managing such a program and experience statewide.

3. Working with English learners. As NC’s population becomes increasingly more diverse, it is absolutely essential that teacher preparation programs provide training to teacher candidates on methods for teaching English language learners. This should not be something that is learned along the way. It is not only the ESL teacher’s job to teach ELs, it is every teacher’s job because ELs are part of every classroom. Teachers are required to make content accessible to all students; as such, BTs need to be given the necessary training to make that happen.

4. Childhood development. BTs expressed the need for more than a cursory exposure to the stages of childhood development and the ways various stages impact learning in the classroom and classroom behavior — especially adolescent stages of development.

5. Extending teacher “internship” experiences. BTs noted the brevity of the internship
experience, emphasizing the need to see the opening of the school year to see firsthand critical strategies and expectations for the important first days of school.

I, [Taura], was lucky enough to have had a principal who passed on information about the BTLN pilot in my first year. Participation in BTLN has made all the difference in my development as a teacher leader. Sessions like the one we experienced last month affirm the importance of my participation in professional networks like BTLN.

The opportunity to meet with the PEPSC members is only possible because of Wake BTLN. Not only were we as beginning teachers able to contribute positive change to our profession, but we were also able to learn a few things along the way.

Taura Simmons                                                     Jeremy Hodges
Zebulon Middle School                                         East Wake High School
Wake BTLN Leadership Council                           Wake BTLN Leadership Council

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