5oaks Educator Support
Eight years ago oak trees survived the powerful hurricane Katrina on the gulf coast because of a shallow root system that was spread far and wide. Beneath the soil, oak trees interlock with roots of other oak trees. Contemporary poet, Alixa Naima, reminds us that "you cannot bring down a thousand oak trees bound beneath the soil." Such is the inspiration for the 5oaks Educator Support project—an initiative of the Wheelock College Aspire Institute designed with the intent to create a strong root system to support, prepare, inspire and retain the next generation of effective transformative educators.The five in 5oaks stand for the five key or "root" areas we believe are essential for teacher success:
- leadership development
- teacher support network
In January, 2014, Aspire launched this comprehensive new teacher support initiative. The 5oaks project aims to increase teacher efficacy and retention through mentoring and training, leadership and advocacy programs, and expanded teacher support networks, with a special focus on new teachers of color. The project is funded by an $800,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich.
The retention of new teachers, especially those of color is a daunting task. The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) (2011) reports "over a third of the nation's new teachers leave the profession within five years. In urban school districts, one in five new teachers leave the classroom after just one year, and nearly half leave within five years." The NCTAF (2011) "urges the development and adoption of a new approach to teacher deployment that mobilizes learning teams comprised of new teachers, teacher mentors, and teacher retirees..." At the same time, the teaching profession faces a significant teacher-student diversity gap. The Center for American Progress (2011) points out that nationally, "students of color make up more than 40 percent of the public school population, [but] teachers of color, who are not non-Hispanic white, are only 17 percent of the teaching force" (p.1).
The 5oaks Educator Support initiative consists of three components:
- 5oaks Educator Mentoring-to address the problem of limited mentoring support for new teachers by mobilizing a growing pool of retired educators to serve as skilled mentors in schools.
- 5oaks Teachers of Color Fellowship-to enhance the professional experience of teachers of color in Boston schools by providing supportive peer cultures and leadership development.
- 5oaks Competency-Based Professional Learning-to provide in-time training to new teachers in content knowledge and instructional skill.
Together, these program components will be designed to increase the numbers of promising teachers who stay in the profession beyond their first three to five years. Research points to experienced teachers as essential to student academic success, especially in urban, rural and low-income schools. "Education is about experiences," said Dr. Jibril Solomon, Education Program Director at the Aspire Institute, "meaningful experiences that transform the learning and lives of students. The 5oaks project empowers new teachers with vital skills, knowledge, training and support to facilitate the quality of students' positive educational experiences and outcomes."
About the 5oaks Educator Mentors
5oaks mentoring partners with high-need schools and districts and mobilizes skilled, experienced educators to support teachers in their second through fifth years of teaching.
Who are the 5oaks Educator Mentors?
Mentors are experienced alumni educators who have an interest and passion in mentoring new teachers. Specifically, a 5oaks mentor is someone who:
- Has 10 or more years of teaching experience
- Is committed to working with teacher-mentees 1-2 days (up to 10 hours) per week over the school year
- Lives within or can travel to the greater Boston area regularly
- May be retired, near retiring age, or working part-time
- Can participate in a learning community, meeting with other mentors, Wheelock faculty and staff from host schools 1-2 days per month over the school year and 3-5 days over the summer
What Does It Mean to be a 5oaks Educator Mentor?
"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own." - Benjamin Disraelli
5oaks mentors are transformative change agents that allow teachers to connect theory to practice. They play a key role in supporting teachers to become active agents in analyzing and improving their own practice. The mentoring is a power-free, two-way mutually beneficial relationship wherein mentors are facilitators and teachers allowing mentee teachers to discover their own direction while addressing four standards of practice.
- Relationship: Mentors establish and maintain confidential relationships with mentee teachers.
- Communication: Mentors utilize effective communication skills with mentee teachers and support mentee teachers to develop effective communication skills in interactions with colleagues and administration.
- Collaboration: Mentors work collaboratively with mentee teachers to establish specific goals for mentoring. Mentors support mentee teachers to engage in collaborative dialogue to improve professional practice.
- Advocacy: Mentors coach mentee teachers on methods of advocacy for themselves and their students.
Mentors support beginning teachers to:
- Know the content they teach
- Establish a respectful environment for a diverse population of students
- Facilitate learning for their students
- Reflect on and strive to improve their practice
- Establish a network of support for future sustainability
Mentors observe mentees in the classroom, collaborate with mentees to determine the goals for the year, and meet with mentees to provide support and feedback related to mentoring goals.
How are 5oaks Mentors supported?
Mentors serve as Wheelock Educators-in-Residence, and become part of a professional learning community with access to free college and continuing education courses, and other campus benefits. Educators-in-Residence can also serve as guest lecturers, develop their own workshops, and participate in research and policy initiatives.
New teacher mentees also receive free access to Wheelock continuing education and professional development offerings, including free course vouchers.
5oaks mentors are matched with new teachers in the Greater Boston area, in Worcester, and in Western Massachusetts. Each mentor works with one or two new teachers for at least one day per week. Host school sites integrate 5oaks mentors as professional colleagues, including them in school-wide professional development and instructional improvement efforts.