What happened?!? I came to my classroom todayprepared
to dazzle my students with my command of caterpillars, butterflies,
and the miracle of metamorphosis. Instead, they ate me alive!!
They were horrible. Rude, blood-thirsty beasts in Power
Ranger tennis shoes. Whats wrong with me? Am I such
a bad teacher . . . really?
All across America, first-year teachers are coming home
from work each day, emotionally and physically drained,
and writing just such words in their personal journals.
At the same moment, all across America, superintendents
and staff development coordinators in local school districts
are trying to devise new and effective ways to respond to
these desperate cries--cries from formerly fresh-faced,
eager, enthusiastic, young teachers who emerge from colleges
and universities armed with theory and raw knowledge but
lacking one element vital to teaching success: classroom
Many school districts have discovered that at least part
of the solution to establishing teacher success seems to
reside in new teacher induction programs.
Induction programs are planned staff development opportunities
designed to better equip new teachersboth those just
emerging from the halls of academia and those experienced
souls forced to adjust themselves to new school environmentsfor
the challenges of the classroom. Of course, while all induction
programs are intended to meet the specific needs of the
district and its employees, each school systems approach
to new teacher training is as unique as the population it
The best of these new teacher induction programs address
both classroom management skills and discipline, instructional
strategies and academic performance, and careful preparation
In preparing for new teacher training, a great many school
districts with successful induction programs have looked
to the West for guidance and inspiration to the unassuming
oasis of the Flowing Wells School District in Tucson, Arizona.
An Oasis of Learning
Located on the northwest edge of Tucson, Flowing Wells is
one of those small Southwest locations that historically
have drawn their modest living from the land. For years,
farming was the areas principal industry, and only
recently has it given way to a colony of small family businesses.
There are no million-dollar homes in the school district;
in fact, there are more mobile homes than even middle-class
family residences. The demographics are squarely lower middle-class,
and depending upon which of Flowing Wells eight schools
you visit, some 50 to 75 percent of the student population
will be eligible for free or reduced lunch.
However, social disadvantage has not stopped the Flowing
Wells School District from becoming a leader in the Arizona
education community. Seven of its schools have earned national
academic recognition, seven Arizona Teacher of the Year
winners or finalists, and a runner-up to the National Teacher
of the Year are counted among its staff.
Clearly, Flowing Wells Schools is a community where the
education of its 6,200 school-age children is a top priority.
"Thats what people enjoy about our district.
Its a real place with real problems, and yet weve
managed to do some great things in educating our children,"
says Susie Heintz, Staff Development Coordinator for Flowing
Wells Schools. "We are a community that doesnt
have a lot of money, but the people here will always come
forward for education. Weve never lost a bond election,
and we have the greatest administrators in the world. We
are a family."
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