This post was originally published on the TNTP Blog.
Over the last few years, we’ve completely revamped our teacher training programs to spend less time on theory and more time on hands-on practice. Our programs start with an intense, five-week summer training called Fast Start, in which Teaching Fellows spend time practicing and mastering four critical classroom management skills that will help them start off their first year ready for the challenges ahead. Then, throughout the year, we continue their development through active coaching, training and support. To learn more more about how we've rebuilt our training program, read our new report, Fast Start: Training Better Teachers Faster, with Focus, Practice and Feedback.
Sixth grade teacher Norma Toner already had three years of teaching experience in Connecticut when she moved to Atlanta and joined TNTP Teaching Fellows with the goal of obtaining a Georgia teaching license. We asked Norma to compare her two experiences of teacher training, and to reflect on how the Fast Start pre-service training and coaching have influenced her development as a career-changer in the classroom.
Norma Toner had what she thought were all the necessary elements to teach middle-school math: after a career in the business world, she had three years of teaching experience, plus a master’s degree in education. But when she moved with her family from Connecticut to suburban Atlanta, she needed a Georgia teaching license to get a job, and enrolled in TNTP’s Georgia Teaching Fellows program as a quick path to a credential.
“I thought I was just doing what I had to do because the state made me,” she said, “but I walked out recognizing how naïve I was and how much I truly learned from all the content learning, coaching observations and Teach Like a Champion techniques. Georgia Teaching Fellows taught me how to be an effective teacher.”
Even after earning a master’s degree, “everything I’d done up to that point in education was self-taught. When I walked into that first day of pre-service training, I was scared to death. I was overwhelmed. But once we started putting the classroom management techniques and planning into practice, they hand-held me through the whole process.”
She described her Fast Start pre-service training and full-year seminar instructor, Beverly Wallflower, as “my role model.”
“She wasn’t just explaining, she was providing examples. She gave me everything I needed. She would give me a new strategy by explaining, demonstrating, role-playing and coaching. She was so involved in everything that I did—I still email her when things go well.”
Last year, Norma volunteered to teach math to a group of struggling students, including one 6th grader who hadn’t passed annual state tests in math since the third grade. “At the beginning of the year, she could barely do half a page of multiplication. But she was so engaged, and she wanted to learn.” After months of study, the student passed the 6th grade statewide exam, and Norma finished the year with an “exceptional” rating from her school and passed TNTP’s Assessment of Classroom Effectiveness “with distinction.”
“I would not be an exceptional teacher had it not been for Georgia Teaching Fellows,” she said. “It made a huge difference for me. I walked in thinking, ‘I am a teacher, I don’t need this program.’ I look back now, and I was nowhere near what I am today. It’s amazing. If you want to make a difference in a child’s life, that’s why I’m where I am.”