More than 200 new public school teachers in Nashville sat as students recently during a four-day training in the New Teacher Induction Program. It’s a regular event this time of year for Metro Nashville Public Schools. But this time, there are significant changes, including a new format focusing on major content areas like classroom management, technology, and teaching strategies for English Language Learners.
“Our new teacher induction is much more intensive than it has been previously…and it’s making our first year teachers be able to get on board much more quickly and be successful,” says Earl Wiman, who works in MNPS Human Resources.
The biggest change of all is what may have attracted many of the 200 new teachers to MNPS in the first place: $40,000 starting pay.
“It’s been difficult for us to hire teachers, because so many urban districts outside pay more,” says Wiman. “With the $40,000 starting salary, that’s allowed us to be much more competitive.”
More than 113 languages are spoken in Metro Nashville Public Schools, which was a significant reason why English Language Learners (ELL) was a major focus of the training.
“I am nervous about teaching in a classroom that would have a high rate of English-language learners simply because…it would be hard maybe for me to tell whether I’m being effective until it is time for that unit test,” says first-year teacher Michael Mixon, who will be teaching middle school math and science.
Nashville public schools have the largest number of English Language Learners in Tennessee, according to Deana Conn, who is instructing the class.
“Some students– it’s very clear that they’re not proficient in English…and they have very specific needs about really helping them understand the content,” says Conn. “And then there’s the other category of students who come into the classroom speaking very well and they sort of sneak by teachers and teachers don’t realize that really…they’re not academically proficient.”
In the ELL workshop, teachers were given information about specific population breakdowns, learning the ELL lingo, and different cultural considerations and their impact.
One teacher simply asked what seemed to be on everyone else’s mind: how do you teach someone something in English if you don’t know his or her language?
“It’s important to make sure that teachers are thinking of visuals or how can they make sure their students understand what they’re telling…and can they do things that are hands-on and interactive to help them really grasp what’s going on,” says Conn.
Even as a new math teacher, Michael Mixon says he found great benefit in learning unique teaching strategies for dealing with English Language Learners.
“They are pushing us to use literacy and verbal skills, even in math classes, so this will be very helpful especially if you’re dealing with high-level math problems like word problems,” says Mixon.
“Also it’s kind of given me insight to dealing with how English language learners would deal with number sense. Different cultures are going to have different number sense, so things that seem obvious to me as a math teacher that was born and raised the United States may not necessarily be obvious to a student from a completely different culture.”
The real test for teachers will be when classes begin August first.