In 1998, in response to the growing number of new science teachers in local schools and mindful of how difficult it is to retain new teachers, the Teacher Institute created two companion programs: the Beginning Teacher Program and the Leadership Program. The Leadership Program is designed to train mentors and classroom coaches to support our new science teachers in the Beginning Teacher Program. Research indicates that supporting individuals who face the complexities of science teaching in those beginning years helps them to develop their craft and increases the likelihood that they will remain in the profession.
The Leadership Program
The Exploratorium Leadership Program is a two-year training and support program for alumni of the Teacher Institute who mentor and coach novice science teachers in the Exploratorium Beginning Teacher Program. The program includes participation in a three-week Summer Institute at the Exploratorium.
The goal of the Leadership Program is to train a group of veteran science teachers to apprentice novice teachers in science teaching using exploration and inquiry. These veterans can choose to work as mentors or coaches (see descriptions below). Another equally important objective of the program is to provide our most experienced alumni with opportunities to develop their own leadership skills. The skills they learn in our program not only help the beginning science teachers in our two-year Induction Program, but they are also transferable skills that benefit other novice science teachers in the schools and districts in which mentors work.
What Is a Mentor?
Mentors are currently employed science teachers who are available after school and on weekends to meet with beginning teachers in our Beginning Teacher program. Mentors help our novice teachers by directing them to Exploratorium science-teaching resources that will best meet their needs; by discussing methods that work in classrooms through connections with other experts; by counseling them through difficult situations; and by helping them to be more reflective in—and make changes to improve—their practice. Mentors also lead special workshops, typically on Saturday afternoons, for beginning teachers. These workshops focus on the general challenges of teaching (e.g. classroom management, discipline, and parental involvement), but in the context of inquiry-based science teaching.
What Is a Coach?
Coaches are either retired from teaching or are currently on leave from their regular assignments. Unlike mentors—who normally only see novice teachers outside of class—the primary role of coaches is to observe beginning teachers in the new teacher’s classroom. They help novice teachers develop specific strategies and techniques of effective inquiry-based teaching and learning. Coaches also provide one-on-one support as beginning teachers try new inquiry-based activities and lessons through discussions, materials, and model lessons. Like mentors, coaches also help new teachers become more reflective and to use those insights to help improve their practice.
Applying to the Program
Are you an active Teacher Institute alumnus interested in supporting local beginning science teachers? Do you have at least five years’ science-teaching experience? Would you like to become a mentor or a classroom coach?
Contact Tammy Cook-Endres at firstname.lastname@example.org or Zeke Kossover at email@example.com for more information or for an application to the Leadership Program.
Coaching and Mentoring Guides
The Coaching Guide is for educators not currently teaching who coach new teachers in their classrooms. The Mentoring Guide is for experienced classroom teachers who provide after-school and weekend support to new teachers. Although these guides were developed for the Exploratorium, they could be easily modified for other programs.
Are you a beginning teacher who is interested in the Beginning Teacher Program? You can discover more information here.