A Conversation with Linda Darling-Hammond
The Challenges of
In this interview with Educational Leadership, Linda Darling-Hammond
describes the kind of preparation and support new teachers
need to survive their critical first years in the classroom.
Fifty years ago, Dan Lortie said the
new teacher was like Robinson Crusoe,
marooned on an island and facing challenges of survival. Modern Survivor
images aside, is it still like that for
It’s still like that for some teachers, but
less so than it once was. It’s true that a
number of beginners leave the teaching profession early because they don’t
feel effective. Sometimes they feel that
they’re crashing and burning, and sometimes, they really are.
But now most states have implemented some sort of professional
development or peer assistance for
new teachers. About three-fourths of
new teachers report that they have participated in an induction program and
have had a mentor teacher assigned
to them. 1 A few states even have fully
funded mentoring programs in which
the mentors are expert teachers who
have release time to be in the classroom
coaching on a regular basis.
It’s really important for beginners to
have systematic, intense mentoring in
the first year. Having weekly support
and in-classroom coaching in the first
year for fine-tuning skills, for planning
lessons, and for problem solving about
things that come up in the classroom
ensures that someone experienced is
there during the critical moments of the
beginning teacher’s first year.
That is the ideal way to make sure
beginning teachers don’t just survive
but also become competent and effective—and stay in the profession.
You’ve noted that teacher prepara-
tion plays a big role in the retention of
teachers. How does teacher prepara-
tion need to change?
In the old-style program, you took a
bunch of courses and then did eight
weeks of student teaching at the end of
the courses. Candidates learned things
in the abstract and then tended to forget
much of what they learned by the time
they actually got into a classroom. And
the practices in their student-teaching
classroom might not resemble those
described in their courses. That anti-
quated, fragmented program is becom-
ing a thing of the past.