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McMillan Practicum Project


The University of TN-Chattanooga

School Leadership/Principal Licensure Programs
Field Experience Practicum Project
Student Name:
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Please submit on or before date in syllabus
The Program Handbook says:
Field Experience Practicum Project
Candidates are expected to show evidence of the ability to lead an element of school reform in
the practicum project. The project is expected to be substantive, data driven and student
achievement orientated. The candidate is to assume the role of the leader of this project and
would be expected to devote approximately 50 hours to it. The project must be approved by the
end of the 3rd semester in the program.
The new TILS requirements state that each PL student must complete a practicum project, which
1. is a major leadership endeavor that produces results related to student achievement in his/
her school
2. and allows the graduate student to demonstrate the best of his/her leadership skills.
3. The project must be approved by the professor and a mentor.
4. It is expected to take approximately 50 hours and will be included in the portfolio, but will be
graded separately.
How will you report on this in the portfolio?
You will include a summary of the project in the appropriate TILS section. The following are expected:
1. The project will be clearly marked as Major Practicum Project
2. Why this project was selected will be articulated.
3. Goals of the project will be articulated.
4. You will include a summary of what you did, who you worked with (no names, but positions)
and what you implemented. Remember that he project must represent at least 50 hours of leadership on your part, so the summary should provide evidence of that level of involvement.
5. Results in terms of student achievement must be clearly documented. Do not include student
6. Accomplishment of other goals should be reported in the summary paper.
7. A reflection should conclude the paper. Given the chance to do this or something like this in
the future, what will you do again? What will you change to make it better? What have you
learned from this experience?
This is to be submitted with the portfolio.

McMillan Practicum Project


Your Name: Martha McMillan

UTC email (new mocsnet): qfg294@mocs.utc.edu
Title of Project: There is No I in Team East Lake A New Teacher Mentoring Program

Statement of the Problem

East Lake Elementary School has a high teacher turnover rate and most new teachers to East Lake
feel overwhelmed by the workload and environment of an urban school. East Lake used to participate
in a New Teacher Mentoring Program that was sponsored by PEF (Public Education Foundation).
However, due to funding reasons, this program stopped three years ago. Currently, out of 29 classroom teachers, East Lake has 10 new teachers. But, this is a common thing at my school. In 2011
(my first year at East Lake), I was one of 15 new teachers. In 2012, there were eight new teachers. In
2013, there were six new teachers. With the constant transfers in and out of East Lake, the school
loses a bit of stability and consistency that the students thrive on. The goal of this program is to assign these new teachers to effective teachers who have been at East Lake for a few years. The hope is
that through the teacher mentoring program, we develop and retain effective teachers at East Lake.

Review of the Literature

A school is only as good as its staff members. However, most of the time, new teachers are
thrown into the classroom and asked to perform the same tasks as a teacher who has been there for
twenty years, without much (or any) extra support. Schools with high turnover rates (such as high
poverty schools) are seeing a greater need to ensure they are hiring talented competent educators
but that is not always enough. Joan Halford (Educational Leadership, 1998) states that is only a first
step; schools must also help novice teachers develop staying power. High turnover rates challenge
school reform which requires years of sustained staff effort (Halford, 1998). According to Linda
Darling-Hammond (National Commission on Teaching and Americas Future, executive director), to
retain new teachers, we must do two things: design good schools in which to teach and employ mentoring (Halford, 1998). Halford (Educational Leadership) also speaks to the fact that the mentor and

McMillan Practicum Project


mentee relationship (when formed correctly) can be a strong lifeline because mentors are confidential support providers not formal evaluators (Halford, 1998).
Teaching is a profession where newcomers are put in the spotlight right away. Beginning teachers too often go from a highly supervised situation to one with little or no supervision.causes new
teachers stress, anxiety, frustration, and isolation (David, Kappa Delta Pi, 2012). Because of this,
the amount of new teachers who stay in the profession is very low. Mentoring programs, however,
can help boost that number, by giving new teachers someone to reach out to and gain support from on
an informal level. However, it is not just the new teachers that benefit from a mentoring program.
The benefits reach to the school and to current (and future) students of the new teacher. Ryan Wise
(Iowa Department of Education, deputy director) claims, If teachers emerge from the [teacher mentoring] program as highly effective instructors, future students also benefit (Stegmeir, 2014). The
first years lay the groundwork for the years to come. Start developing effective teachers during year
one. One way to do that is through teacher mentoring programs.

Action Plan (Methodology)

The first thing I will do is meet with my administration to select mentors for our new teachers.
These mentors should be effective teachers who have a good handle on classroom management and
who know their content area well. After mentors are selected, I will create a mentoring handbook for
these mentors. The mentoring handbook contains the five objectives of the program that my administration and I developed. These five objectives are: to improve beginning teachers skills and performances, to help develop and retain effective teachers, to support teacher morale and communications
to enhance collaboration school-wide, and to build and sustain reflective practitioners. The handbook
also shows the correlations to the Core Values of the Tennessee Department of Education (excellence,
optimism, judgment, courage, and teamwork). The rest of the handbook was adapted from the Public
Education Foundations Teacher Induction Program Handbook (created by Faye Pharr, 2011). It includes a list of monthly activities for both mentor and mentee, observation pages, and a log to record
all meetings between mentor and mentee. The goal is to not only get the mentors into the new teach-

McMillan Practicum Project


ers classrooms on a monthly basis, but to also get the new teachers into the mentors classrooms.
The basic outline of the program entails each member of mentoring team observing their mentee and
be observed by their mentee once a month. Both observations will be followed by a feedback discussion. The observations will follow our evaluation model (Project Coach) and each month will focus
on a new domain (October Classroom Management; November Delivery of Instruction; December
Revisit Management and Delivery; January Planning and Preparation for Learning; February
Monitoring, Assessment, and Follow-Up; March Classroom Management; April Planning and
Preparation for Learning/Monitoring, Assessment, and Follow-Up (both with regards to TCAP); and
May Revisit Classroom Management and Planning/Preparation for Learning as TCAP is over and
the year is dwindling down). I will also have a list of topics for the mentors and mentees to discuss
each month (administrative and housekeeping things, as well as strategies for management and lesson
delivery). These discussion topics came from my own experience as a new teacher (things I wanted/
needed to know), as well as from discussion topics from the PEF New Teacher Induction Handbook.
I will also provide monthly after-school sessions for the new teachers (which the mentors are welcome but not required to attend). We will participate in a book study on The End of Molasses Classes: Getting our Kids Unstuck and The Essential 55 (both by Ron Clark).
After the handbook was created, I met with the mentors to discuss their roles and responsibilities for the program.
I held a meeting for the new teachers detailing what the program would look like and each new
teacher filled out a Needs Assessment to let their mentor know what they perceive to be their
specific strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. This gave mentors a good starting point for
The mentors and mentees met together for some team-building/ice breaker activities. We
watched a TED Talk (Every Child Needs A Champion, Rita Pierson) and held a brief discussion on what it means to be a champion for our students. We played Human Tic-Tac-Toe to
allow teachers an opportunity to get to know each other in a group. Lastly, mentors and

McMillan Practicum Project


mentees paired up and had to work together to move a gummy worm from the top of a flipped
cup to the inside of a flipped cup where they had to get the gummy worm inside a gummy life
saver - all without using their hands. After this activity was over, I led a discussion asking pairs
what they had to do in order to successfully complete their mission. Teachers discussed things
like teamwork, good communication, trust in their partner, a steady hand, etc. I ended the
meeting talking about how everyone has something to learn from their counterpart and the
things needed to save the gummy work are the same things needed for a successful mentor
Teachers observed in each others classroom, focusing on classroom management; they made
goals on classroom management; and, they discussed both the successes and challenges of first
quarter, as well as how to fill out Cumulative Records.
Towards the end of the month, I held a meeting for the mentees (which most mentors showed up
to, as well). At the meeting, we held a discussion about the major ahas that occurred in our
classrooms during the first quarter. We also looked over the classroom management goals
(anonymously) that the mentee teachers had made. We discussed similarities in the goals. We
spent the remainder of the meeting discussing chapters from Ron Clarks The Essential 55 that
dealt with classroom management and procedures in the classroom. The group divided into
three groups, read the quick chapter, and highlighted on a chart the important information from
that chapter. Using a go-around protocol, each group shared the highlights from their chapter.
After we discussed transitions, procedures, and hallway behaviors, I asked teachers why it is
important to maintain consistent procedures in the classroom and how that can affect student
achievement. After discussing that question, I challenged teachers (both new and veteran) to
think about two questions:

Thinking about everything we discussed today, what is one or two things that
you can take back to your classroom and apply tomorrow?

McMillan Practicum Project



How can strengthening your classroom management affect student growth and
achievement in your classroom?

I told teachers to take their answers and put them on their bulletin board or computer, as a way to
hold themselves accountable and remember the importance of classroom management. I also sent
the mentors an email to remind them that those could be used as discussion points during their
next meeting.
Teachers observed in each others classroom, focusing on lesson delivery; they made goals on
lesson delivery; and, they discussed progress on classroom management skills, using COGNOS
to gather data on students, and the referral process.
Towards the middle of the month, I checked in with the mentors individually to see how they
perceived the program to be going. Most told me that it was going well, except with the short
months of November and December, they were struggling to find time to fit in two observations
each (two for the mentor and two for the mentee). After discussing this with the mentors and my
administrative team, we agreed that instead of doing observations in both November and December, each pair would complete one set of observations in either November or December, focusing on lesson delivery.
At the end of November, I met with the mentees (and again, most mentors came to the meeting,
as well). We discussed how classroom management has changed in classrooms since our last
meeting and any major ahas that have come out of observations centered around lesson delivery. (This was a shorter discussion because not all teachers had completed those observations
yet.) I, then, led a discussion on how classroom management and student engagement (which is
linked to lesson delivery) are connected. At the end of the meeting, we pulled up COGNOS (the
county-wide data system) and talked about how we could use COGNOS effectively in our classrooms.

McMillan Practicum Project


I met with my administrative team to discuss their perceptions of the project thus far. They
agreed that in most rooms, they were seeing major improvements from August - especially concerning transitions and procedures in the classroom. The county had transferred one of our mentors (ESOL teacher) to another school during that semester, so we had to assign her two mentees
to another mentor(s). We discussed the merits and drawbacks of having mentors in different
grades than the mentees, as well as the importance in the future of having one-to-one mentormentee pairings.
Mentors and mentees filled out mid-year evaluations that let myself and the administrative team
collect some data on how well the program seemed to be working.
After a pre-planning session, I met with the mentors to let them know that the program would be
operating in the same form for second semester. I let them know that Januarys focus would be
on planning and preparing for learning and Februarys focus would jump back to classroom
management and handed out observation forms.
Teachers observed in each others classroom, focusing on planning and preparation for learning;
during their monthly meeting, they were asked to talk about the lesson planning process (what
works well, what doesnt work well, strategies to make it go smoother, etc.), as well as online
resources that are teacher friendly.
Towards the end of January, I met with the mentees (not many mentors showed up this month)
and I held a Backwards Planning In a Nutshell session. [A few years prior, our assistant principal introduced the concept of backwards planning to the staff, on which we base our units of
study. However, seeing as the mentees are new teachers, a lot of them have little to no experience with backwards planning.] We discussed the merits of starting with the assessment first
and then using that to jumpstart unit planning. We also shared strategies on using formative assessments to further guide instruction in the classroom. Lastly, each mentee made a goal for
second semester (that they shared with their mentors) based on classroom management, lesson
delivery, or planning/preparation for learning.

McMillan Practicum Project


Due to unforeseen weather conditions and the fact that school was closed for half of the month,
activities for February were extended to March, as well.
Teachers observed in each others classroom, focusing on classroom management - being sure to
note progress made since October. During a monthly discussion, intermediate teachers discussed ways to prepare students for the upcoming state tests, as well as using data to shape instruction based on those state tests. Primary teachers discussed ways to continue to ensure student engagement during these last few months. (As the weather gets warmer and summer nears,
the students are prone to be less focused while at school.)
At the end of March, I met with the mentees and mentors, where we held a quick celebration for
being over the hump and only having one more quarter left in the year. (I believe that celebrations are just as important for teachers, as they are for students.) During the celebration, I had
each mentor name a success that they have seen in their mentee thus far in the year and I had the
mates share on important thing that their mentor had taught them. We, then, discussed all of the
major testing that we had coming up in the school year (TCAP, MAP, F&P Reading Levels, the
Social Studies Field Tests) and talked about ways to get students excited for the tests and ways
to sustain engagement after long days of testing.

Results will be measured in a few different ways. Both mentors and mentees will evaluate
progress that new teachers are making throughout the course of this program. They will also evaluate
the program (strengths and weaknesses) so that it can be improved, as well. I will periodically meet
with administration to talk about their views on whether or not the program is making a difference
(through what they see in observations). End of year evaluation scores can be factors into how well it
works. Lastly, if these teachers are retained and are performing at a higher level next year than they
did this year, I will consider the program successful.

McMillan Practicum Project


Though it is not yet the end of the year, I have heard that, out of the ten new classroom teachers
that were hired this past year, eight will be returning for a second year. If no other teachers transfer
out of East Lake, that would only leave us with two open positions next year. At our last monthly
meeting, I held the mentors aside to discuss the program. It was unanimous that they felt like this
program gave their mentee teachers confidence and another resource to go to when they needed help
with something. A lot of mentors mentioned the fact that they were having their mentees come to
them more often when they had a problem, without being sought out first.
This program had a lot of things that went well, but there were also a number of things that I
would change, given the opportunity to do it again.
Things that went well
Observations in both the new and the veteran teachers classrooms gave both mentor and mentee a
new perspective. Teachers got the opportunity to learn from both ends of the pairing, and it gave
the new teacher a chance to actually see the mentor teacher teach. I believe (and evaluations corroborated) that this gave more validity to the conversations held between mentor and mentee. Not
only could mentors based observations on what they saw in mentees classrooms, but the mentees
also had a chance to base goals and new implementations based on what they observed in their
mentor teachers classroom.
At the beginning of this program, the administrative team and I discussed how I would lead the
program without much input from them. They did not necessarily want to be heavily involved. We
agreed that teachers will speak more honestly to other teachers, if they know that what is said will
not come back to them in a formal evaluation or if they know it wont reach administration. After
reaching the (almost) culmination of the program and having many discussions with the teachers
involved, it was agreed that teachers felt more free to say what they wanted to say and not worry
about feeling embarrassed about something, knowing that it was only other teachers involved and
not the administrative team, as well.

McMillan Practicum Project


The mentor teachers appreciated having a skeleton list of things to discuss with their mentee
teacher during the monthly meetings. The hope was that they would take that list, and flexibly
discuss those (and other things) that were pertinent to their mentees classroom. In feedback, the
mentors mentioned that it was helpful to have the list in case there was nothing else on the top of
their head to discuss. Plus, using that list often branched out into other conversations. As the program went on (into January and March), they used my skeleton list less and less.
Things to be improved

Being that some mentors and mentees were in the same grade level, it was more difficult for
classroom observations to occur. For other pairs, they were able to utilize their planning period
to observe their counterpart. However, for teachers in the same grade level, who had the same
planning period, this was not an option. As a result, we had to ensure that we were able to get
that classroom covered (by an assistant or similar position) in order for the observations to occur.
I think having mentors and mentees in the same grade-level makes sense because they teach the
same content, so they have someone to really plan with and go through the same things with.
However, I do think that teachers in similar grades (4th and 5th, 3rd and 4th) have close enough
content that the pairings would work. It also posed a problem for a pairing where the mentor
taught 3rd and the mentee taught 2nd. The grades are close together, but it is the difference of
intermediate and primary hall. The two halls are almost two separate worlds, so it was not as
convenient for that pair.

The program, this year, was open to all teachers who were new to East Lake. However, some
teachers came from other counties or states, where they had many, many years of experience.
For instance, one teacher, who was new to East Lake this year, came with over twenty years of
experience from Texas. However, my administration still placed her in the program with a mentor who only had four years of experience (but who was still a highly effective teacher). The
mentor felt awkward mentoring someone who seemed way more qualified. I think that, in the
future, as an administrator, I would only have new teachers be a part of the program who were
either brand new or who came to the school with minimal experience. I do think that all teachers

McMillan Practicum Project


can learn from a mentor/mentee counterpart, but someone with so much experience might do better in a peer-coaching program, where one peer coaches another, as opposed to a mentoring program.

Some mentors in the program had more than one mentees. This proved to be a lot of additional
work on the mentor - especially when both their mentees were in the same grade as the mentor.
That is an additional two observations a month (four total) that require some sort of coverage.
Being in a school that already can barely fill all substitute jobs, covering four classrooms a month
in a single grade level for an hour became much more than we had bargained for. I think that a 1to-1 relationship would work the best. I do see the flip-side (from an administrative point of
view) that sometimes the number of new teachers outnumber the amount of qualified, highly effective teachers, but if one only puts new teachers in the program (and not new to the school with
a lot of experience), those numbers may even up.

Lastly, as the coordinator of the program, it was a lot of work for me to coordinate, have two
mentees (and then an additional third mentee) assigned to me, as well as still be prepared to teach
in my room every day. I think that the coordinator of the program should be a coordinator (and
that is it). I think that removing them from the mentor position gives them more availability to
meet with mentors, mentees, and administration, as well as plan for the upcoming meetings.

All in all, I think, for the first year, the program was highly successful. However, I look forward to
trying it again, with the added changes in a future year.

David, T. (2012). Teacher mentoring benefits all around. Kappa Delta Pi Record. 36(3). Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/.VCKVOUvreG8.
Halford, J. (1998). Easing the way for new teachers. Educational Leadership, 55(5). Retrieved
from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb98/vol55/num05/Easing-the-Wayfor-New-Teachers.aspx.

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Stegmeir, M. (2014, May 12). Mentoring new teachers can boost students learning. The Des
Moines Register. Retreived from http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/