Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.
This past school year, I was offered a special opportunity. Instead of returning to my 1st grade classroom, I was selected by the Rhode Island Department of Education to be an “induction coach” for first-year teachers. An induction coach is a mentor who helps and supports new teachers in every aspect of their work. I was assigned 15 first-year teachers, in four separate communities, to help throughout this school year.
Mentoring new teachers makes perfect sense, and precedents for mentoring new professionals have long been set. Doctors just out of medical school are guided for years by senior doctors. Police departments would never send a rookie officer out alone. A mentoring system should be in place for virtually all professional occupations, so why not teachers?
I found that the time I spent with my first-year teachers was challenging, exhilarating, and rewarding for both the teachers and for me. Problem-solving, sharing successful tips, teaching shortcuts, and offering encouragement during weekly meetings with my new teachers helped accelerate their teaching skills. In turn, this helped their students move forward. For example, I was able to help new teachers take better control of classroom management by sharing some very simple strategies.
Now that this current school year is ending, I would like to report that the induction coach concept for new teachers is a wonderful idea! In my opinion, it should be incorporated into all the school systems across our country. I’m proud that Rhode Island was able to implement this concept through federal Race to the Top funding awarded to our state.
I’m humbled and excited that I’ve been asked to return for a second year as an induction coach. This experience has greatly helped my perspective as an educator. Working with teachers in urban and suburban communities across kindergarten through 8th grade has increased the depth of my teaching experience. Besides, as my husband jokes, for the first time in my career, I’m helping people taller than three feet!