"It was a big surprise," recalls Dr. Mary Jane
Owen, Director of Staff Development for the Henry County
Public Schools, which serves some 18,000 students in 23
schools. "Some of the training team members careers
have been changed as a result of this. Theyve been
asked to do something that they believe in and have become
completely committed to it."
Three of the team members for the Teacher Induction Program
(TIP) were veteran classroom teachers when identified as
TIP team planners; they are now assistant principals. "I
think they have learned and have become more able professionally,
as result of the TIP experiences," Dr. Owen contends.
One high school principal involved in TIP has even branched
out from his role as a "good solid principal"
to become a staff development program presenter.
Now entering its fourth year, the Henry County induction
program is a hybrid of ideas gathered during visits to Flowing
Wells and Gaston County and research from Dr. Owens
years of staff development experience.
"I have been working with beginning teachers since
1981 in a variety of capacities," Dr. Owen recalls.
"So, I have some intuitive knowledge of things that
work and dont work for first-year teachers."
In researching her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Owen conducted
a study of zero-experience teachers and found information
that, she argues, "clearly led me to strongly believe
that if you provide opportunities for people to develop
a sense of community, and provide assistance to them so
they have someone there with them during the first year,
they become better teachers."
Taking its cue from the Flowing Wells program, Henry County
provides its first-year teachers with a five-day training
institute, complete with a history of the region and a bus
tour of the schools and community. Demonstration classrooms
also are arranged, and new teachers are introduced to various
district staff members.
"Once they get into their buildings, our new teachers
know who the key people in the system are. They have a real
good notion of policies and our expectations, and they have
a strong sense that this is a school system still small
enough to build community," Dr. Owen says. "All
of this is important to us."
Opportunities for socialization, group meals, and down-home
entertainment are sprinkled throughout the program.
The TIP program also stresses classroom management skills,
using Harry Wongs The First Days of School as the
text for TIP Week. "We use those pro-active tactics
that are outlined in Dr. Wongs books," she says,
"but we support that with the basic principles that
have been learned about the brain. Dr. Wong tells you what
to do; brain research, we think, answers WHY you do it."
Henry County requires all new teachersboth zero-experience
and veterans coming from other districtsto attend
"In a system like ours, we attract teachers with 10
or 12 years experience," Dr. Owen says. "We
want to take full advantage of what they already know, and
we try to build in opportunities for them to share. But
we also want them to respect that we have found some things
that we know to be successful. We dont want them to
be unfamiliar with these things when they get into our schools."
In turn, the local Board of Education provides a $250 stipend
for all teachers who undergo the week-long training.
The training for zero-experience teachers continues beyond
the five-day institute throughout the course of the first
year. A team of Teacher Support Specialists (TSS), who have
received 100 hours of specialized training approved by the
State of Georgia, provide mentoring to new teachers.
In addition, periodic follow-up sessions are scheduled from
September through May to address the expressed needs of
"Everybody involvedincluding folks in the community
who are involved in some facet of what we doare enthusiastic
about it," Dr. Owen says. "We even have retired
teachers who have seen something in the paper about the
TIP program and call to say, Gosh, wouldnt it
have been nice to have something like that when I was coming
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