DOBSON — Surry County Schools recently completed a two-day refresher district wide course for veteran teachers as part of the North Carolina Mentor Program.
The program was led by Northwest Region Educational Facilitator Dr. Monica Shepherd.
“We’re doing this because it is mandated by the state and because Surry County wants to keep getting better,” said Surry County Schools Director of Teacher Quality and Instructional Media and Director of Communications Sonia Dickerson. “One way of improving teaching is through establishing education relationships with students and relationships between new teachers and their mentors.”
She explained the state has an aligned system of 21st century standards, professional teaching standards and a new teacher evaluations system. Mentors were selected who exhibited attributes including optimism for teaching, continuous professional development, desire to serve all students, the ability to adapt instructional methods to individual students and commitment to collaboration.
“Beginning teachers are mandated by the state and county to complete this program in the first three years of their career,” said Dickerson. “We work with them to make sure they do and so do our principals.” She said the program’s five standards for the program are mentors supporting beginning teacher leadership, how to establish a respectful student environment, strong knowledge of the area they teach, how to help students learn and ways to evaluate what they are practicing in the classroom.
Shepherd told the 30 veteran teachers, many with five year or more of experience, participating they are preparing students for a technical world which they don’t understand.
“Jobs and technology they will be using don’t exist today,” said Shepherd. “Beginning teachers can help with that. We must constantly refocus our beginning teachers on what students will need. Education is one of the few professions where beginners are expected to do as well as those who have been teaching for 30 years.”
Dickerson said each beginning teacher is assigned a mentor as required by state law.
“We give attention to who they are assigned to,” Dickerson said. “We are trying to have a mentor for them in the same grade level with a classroom near them and if they teach the same subject area or are in the same Professional Learning Community (PLC).”
She said beginning teachers in Surry County Schools have three powerful resources which are a private mentor, being a member in a PLC and the information management software Haiku. She said the for the mentor program was focusing on teachers who had been with the system from one to three years.
“When I began in teaching I didn’t have any of these three,”said Dickerson. “Before starting teachers were typically handed a curriculum book, a key to the room and good wishes for the school year. Surry County’s goal is to give everyone support to perform as a tenured teacher.”
Other activities in the program included frank discussions of the need for connectivity as well as new issues such as what to do when students forget their laptop computers. The teachers also discussed how students are often more familiar with technology than the teachers are and are learning technology faster than their teachers. One sentiment expressed was that teachers need to be sure technology supports learning and is not the ultimate goal.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.