Historically, NWT schools have drawn on a pool of teachers from all parts of Canada. This trend continues to the present, along with increasing numbers of Northern teachers who represent the territory’s population and cultures. Teacher recruitment is generally done between January and June; however, circumstances sometimes require late hiring into the summer and during the school year.
It is important for new and beginning teachers to acquire as much information as possible soon after hiring, so that they can prepare for their transition to a new environment and possibly the beginning of a new profession.
Information for the School Year
New and beginning teachers in the NWT, in the past, have asked for accurate information on their teaching assignment, NWT curriculum and resources, school philosophy and expectations. This allows time for the teacher to understand the professional requirements of the new assignment. It will also allow time to gather personal teaching resources to help get started.
The NWT Teacher Induction program has designed a website for new and beginning teachers to the NWT at www.newteachersnwt.ca/. This website is intended to be a resource for anyone interested in teaching and living in the NWT. There are links to curriculum documents, the schools, and the cultural regions and language groups of the Northwest Territories.
Long before they arrive in their new community and school, new and beginning teachers will also want to find out as much as possible about the environment in which they will be living and teaching. Information about the community, the region and the territory in general, will make for a smoother transition, particularly if this is their first experience teaching in the North and/or in an isolated community. Learning about the culture of the children and the history of the area will go a long way toward preparing for this new experience. It will be important to come with knowledge, but also with an open mind.
Finally, it is important to be prepared personally. This includes having an accurate picture of living conditions – housing, community services, cost of living, transportation routes and necessities required for personal comfort. Situations vary greatly from community to community so it is important to ask about your particular situation. New and beginning teachers also need to understand their salary and benefits package and should feel free to ask the necessary questions before arriving at their new teaching assignment.
This type of information is available through several sources. First, the Divisional Education Council in the region where the beginning teacher will be teaching will have information specific to the job assignment. It is recommended that all new and beginning teachers contact the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association by telephone at 867 873 8501 and online at www.nwtta.nt.ca/.
It is very important to clarify as many uncertainties as possible in advance of arrival. This is the purpose of pre-orientation - the time between hiring and arrival.
Orientation for teachers in the NWT has taken many forms over the years; however, the purpose remains the same. It is a process of introducing new and beginning teachers and teachers new to the community, into the professional fabric of the school, the community and the region.
A very important part of orientation in most NWT communities is an introduction to the culture and language of the community. Orientation usually takes place from the time of arrival through the first two months in the new teaching assignment. It involves a variety of activities to introduce the beginning teacher to professional, environmental and personal aspects of their new experience.
Some regions host a Regional Orientation or beginning teachers’ conference within the first month at which new staff receives information on the NWT curriculum, program resources, regional philosophy and policies. Questions about salary and benefits can then be answered. This is an ideal time to meet other beginning teachers and experienced staff from the region who can become a support network for the remainder of the year.
Regional orientation may include the following:
- Mission and strategic plan
- NWT and regional curricula and resources
- NWT resource people – curriculum coordinators and consultants
- Regional resource people
- Policies and procedures
- Cultural awareness
- Teaching and Learning Centres
- Networking opportunities
- Electronic mail systems
- Expectations of parents and elders
- Advice from experienced northern teachers
- Salary and benefits
- NWTTA information
- Regional principals’ meeting
Community orientation takes different forms and is often organized by the District Education Authority. In some locations, new staff members are taken on a fall caribou hunt, to visit a local fishing camp or on other traditional events. Such activities allow the community to welcome the new teachers into their culture. These are valuable experiences that initiate lasting friendships and provide valuable insight into the lifestyle of the students who will be entering the classroom doors very soon. This is also an opportunity to break down potential barriers caused by cultural misunderstandings before they have a chance to form. Some communities assign a local family who adopts a beginning teacher and it becomes their responsibility to provide the teacher with an orientation to the community.
Community orientation may include the following:
- Community/ DEA welcome for new teachers
- History of the community
- History of education in the community
- Community tour
- Welcome Wagon
- Local family buddy
- Community cultural orientation
- On the land experience i.e. caribou hunt, fishing trip, etc
- Community welcome event, i.e. picnic, scavenger hunt
- Introduction to community leaders, elders
- New staff attend DEA meeting
- Explanation of community organization, structures and services
- Calendar of events for the community
School orientations are usually organized by the principal and, possibly, some experienced staff members. Early in the fall, most schools host a “Meet the Teacher” night. This is also an important part of orientation when beginning teachers have an opportunity to meet parents in a friendly atmosphere. Remember, it is very important to get to know your students’ parents before any issues arise, so make the contact early.
School Orientations may include the following:
- School tour
- School goals and mission statements
- Professional Development procedures
- School routines, resources
- School policies and procedures, i.e. supervision, substitute teachers
- Assembly to introduce new teachers
- Administration days before school begins
- Meet the teacher night and open house
- Calendar of events for the school
- Professional Information
- Local Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association Information
- Prior-to-first-day teacher checklists
- Sample long-range plans of previous teachers
- Information/workshops on student suppor
Further information on NWT schools can be found @ ECE Administration.
In order to maintain an Interim Professional Teaching Certification,
a teacher is required to participate in a minimum of 50 hours of
professional development during the first three-year term of the
certificate. There are regional Professional Development Committees
that organize and tend to professional development on a local level.
New and beginning teachers are expected to attend local professional
development. Within the Induction and mentoring programs, PD needs
to consider offering workshops and courses allow teachers to connect
the theory of preservice with their teaching experience in the
beginning years. Experienced teachers also benefit by refreshing
their knowledge and by learning new strategies.
Suggested Professional Areas of Concern for Beginning Teachers
The Department of Education, Culture and Employment offers
professional development inservices and workshops upon request from
schools and regions. The workshops are organized into four main
- Multi-level instruction
- Long-range planning
- Inclusive schooling
- Cultural awareness
- Creating a positive learning environment
- Classroom management
- Creative teaching strategies
- Student evaluation
- Creating teaching materials
- Community involvement
- Working with teaching assistants and volunteers
- Parental involvement
Professional Development Opportunities
- Curricular areas
- a. Assessment
- b. Career Development
- c. On line learning
- d. Health /Physical Education
- e. Language Arts
- f. Math
- g. Northern Studies/Social Studies
- h. Science
- Culture Based Education
- Early Childhood
- Student Support Workshops
- a. Behaviour support
- b. Inclusive schooling
- c. Healing and recovery
- d. Strategies to help teachers meet student needs
The professional development calendar from Alberta's Teachers'
Association is available in NWT schools in the early fall. Administrators make
PD opportunities known to staff as they become available through the
The NWT/ Nunavut Education Leadership Program (formerly Principal
Certification Program) is offered to northerner teachers with at
least two years of teaching experience. The course is offered in a
northern community over two weeks in the summer. Phases One and Two
deal with issues facing northern teachers and administrators. ELP is
recognized for transfer credit in Master of Education programs at
some universities. Contact Don Morrison @ ECE, Education Operations
and Development, 867 7355.
Professional Development Funding
Funding for professional development is available from local
professional improvement committees. Allocation of funding is guided
by NWTTA bylaws and terms of the contract.
Be sure to check in with your local professional development
committee to find out criteria and deadlines for conferences,
workshops, courses, intersession and summer school.
Systemic Sustained Supports
Systemic Sustained Supports provide a framework for new and beginning teachers that will help them apply their knowledge, skills and previous experience to their new teaching assignment in the NWT. These supports will let the new and beginning teacher know that they are part of a process which does not expect them to know everything or get everything right the first time.
Systemic Sustained Supports can take various forms but the most popular for new and beginning teachers is the NWT Mentorship Model. However, if formal mentorship is not possible in a particular school, informal options may be considered. In very small schools, it may be necessary for a new and beginning teacher to develop a support network through e-mail and conference calls with an experienced teacher or consultant. Whatever form it takes, the value of systemic sustained supports should not be underestimated. Tapping into the experience of other educators can and does make an amazing difference during the early years of teaching.
Forms of Systemic Sustained Supports in the NWT:
1. Formal Mentorship Program
In the formal mentorship program, a new or beginning teacher is paired with a trained, experienced mentor who will provide support ranging from professional advice on classroom management to information about life in the community.
2. School Team Planning/Team Teaching
Several teachers teaching at a similar grade level or subject area meet regularly for joint planning. The team ideally consists of experienced and beginning teachers. Teachers share ideas, brainstorm, choose a format that suits everyone, and then expand the plan into more detailed, short-term weekly or daily plans. Teachers share responsibility for gathering resources and creating learning materials. Team planning may develop into team teaching where classes are combined. Cooperative learning and peer teaching methods may be introduced to address multi-levels. Team planning and team teaching allow teachers to share the planning and teaching responsibility, thus creating a cooperative model for their students. It reduces the feeling of isolation for teachers and also facilitates on-going feedback and opportunity for professional growth and reflection. Joint planning time may be facilitated through creative timetabling. Support of the principal is essential for success.
New and Beginning Teacher Website
A website, www.newteachersnwt.ca, for new and beginning teachers provides links to useful resources such as curriculum documents, beginning teacher websites, and lesson plan ideas.
Regional Teacher Networks
Beginning teachers generally develop informal networks, which begin at orientations and regional workshops. These networks can become very supportive, both personally and professionally. Beginning teachers, in particular, can benefit from regular contact with colleagues. In small schools, where there may only be one beginning teacher or one teacher teaching a particular level, networking through e-mail or telephone should be encouraged. This contact can reduce the feeling of isolation and provide valuable connections for personal and professional support.
5. Observations of Exemplary Teachers
Seeing is believing and being able to see a particular strategy in practice can be the best learning opportunity. With the support of the principal, a beginning teacher can request time to observe an experienced teacher. An observation can only be effective when the beginning teacher and the experienced teacher have a clear expectation. They should meet beforehand to plan the observation, and meet afterwards to reflect on the experience. It will also be helpful for the beginning teacher to discuss how the observed strategy will be integrated into his/her program.
6. Resource Files
Most schools keep files of long-range plans, sample unit plans and resource lists developed by teachers from previous years. These can be very useful for several reasons:
1) to be reused or adapted by beginning teachers;
2) to be used as models;
3) to give a new and beginning teacher an idea of what his/her class
learned last year.
7. Resource People
For the new and beginning teacher, it may be difficult to sort out where to go for information. Ask your mentor, administration or other staff members for advice. It is important to remember to go through the correct channels when accessing other agencies.
- Coordinator, NWT Induction and Mentorship Program
- NWT – Education, Culture and Employment Curriculum Coordinators
- Consultant, Teacher Training
- Divisional Education Council
- Board Consultants
- Teaching and Learning Centres
The NWT Mentorship Program
The Northwest Territories Teacher Mentorship Program is a formalized partnership between an experienced Northern teacher and a teacher new to the profession or new to the Northwest Territories in which the experienced teacher is trained to guide and support the beginning teacher during his/her initial phase of teaching.
Why have a formal mentorship program?
Research has shown that:
Beginning teachers need support during their transition into professional practice.
Teaching is the only profession that requires beginners to do the same work as experienced teachers.
Through mentoring activities, both the protégé and the mentor gain understandings and concrete skills that will benefit their students and be shared with colleagues.
Mentoring must be connected to a vision of good teaching, if it is to contribute to positive educational reform.
Mentors need opportunities to learn to mentor and time to mentor.
Mentoring is more than a social role. It is also a professional practice.
Beginning teachers who are mentored experience success and satisfaction in the profession sooner than those who do not have mentors
Research shows that beginning teachers who are mentored are much more likely to stay in the profession.
Informal mentoring is not enough, because:
New educators often do not ask for the assistance they need.
Experienced teachers do not want to intrude.
Informal mentoring does not necessarily support improvement over time.
Informal mentoring may have a conservative effect on new teachers’ practice.
Informal programs are difficult to identify, support and evaluate.
There is a need to identify who is obtaining support and the quantity as well as the quality.
New educators need to observe a variety of effective teaching models.
- Giving constructive feedback
- Reflective thinking
- Building partnerships
Characteristics of a Mentor
- Willing and available
- A caring person
- Demonstrated competencies as an effective teacher
- Thorough understanding of the school, the NWT curriculum, the community culture, learning theories
- Experience with culture-based education
- Familiarity with NWT teaching resources
- Respected by fellow teachers and parents
- Continues to grow professionally
- 3-5 years teaching experience in NWT
- Similar teaching assignment as beginning teacher
- Ability to integrate change in the curriculum and school
- An effective team planner
Protégés have identified the following areas as their top ranked needs:
- Planning, organizing, and managing instruction
- Assessing and evaluating student progress
- Obtaining resources
- Dealing with individual needs
- Use of effective teaching methods
- Motivating students
- Managing the classroom
Mentors and protégés have identified the following areas as important for ‘new’ northerners, particularly in smaller communities:
- Availability of classroom resources
- Housing needs
- Recreational opportunities
- Winter clothing
- Food orders
- Local cultures, languages
- Culture Based Education
Timeline of the NWT Mentoring Program
||Experienced teachers are identified and invited by principals to join the mentorship program for the coming school year.
|May - August:
||Newly hired teachers are matched with mentors by principals. Mentors make contact with protégé by phone, email, or letter.
|August - Sept:
||Mentor meets beginning teacher and provides support on arrival and during orientation.
||NWT Teacher Induction and Mentorship Coordinator provides training sessions for mentors and protégés on request from the regions or schools.
|By Sept 30:
||The mentor and protégé develop a Mentorship Plan that must be approved by the principal. The plan is then sent to the superintendent for final approval. Mentorship allowance and release time are dependent on this approval.
|By October 15:
|| A mentorship/protégé participant list is sent to the Department of Education Induction/Mentorship Coordinator to initiate required funding for allowances and release time.
||Regular formal or informal meetings occur between mentor and protégé. If internal arrangements can be made, one half day per month is set aside with release time for meetings between mentor and protégé as outlined in their Mentorship Plan, found in this manual. Some schools allow their teams to bank the half days for longer PD sessions. This time may be used for classroom visits/observations, co-teaching opportunities, and lesson planning sessions. The intent of this release time is to provide the protégé with the opportunity to learn and grow from interactions with peers.
||Mentorship team reviews the mentorship plan and makes any needed changes. Take time to reflect on the mentorship process and plan. Celebrate successes.
Mentorship Training (Regional or School Level)
Suggested Content Model for Mentor Workshops
1. What is mentoring and who is a Mentor?
- Roles and Responsibilities of Mentors, Protégés, Administration & others
- Characteristics of Effective Mentors
- Functions of Mentoring
- Payoffs and Pitfalls of Mentoring
2. Assisting the Beginning Teacher
- Characteristics of Beginning Teachers
- Stages of Teacher Development
- Needs of Beginning Teachers
- Concerns of New Teachers
3. Helping Beginning Teachers with Critical Tasks of Teaching Classroom Management
- Arranging the Classroom Setting
- Planning and Teaching Rules and Procedures
- Managing Student Work
- Establishing a Positive Classroom Climate
- Supporting Good Student Behaviour
- Conducting Instruction and Maintaining the Momentum
- Getting the Year Off to a Good Start
- Planning for Instruction
The Process of Mentoring
- Mentoring vs. Evaluation
- Knowing the Characteristics of the Adult Learner
- Practicing Empathic Communication Skill
- Conducting Formal Observations
- Leading Novices to Construct Teaching Knowledge Using Reflective Discovery
5. Developing Action Plans
- Setting Goals and Plans
- The Art of Letting Go.
Evertson & Smithey 2000, Experimental Field Study (p. 295)
Mentorship Roles and Responsibilities
Successful mentorship depends upon the clarity of participant roles and responsibilities.
Role of the Mentor
- Make contact with protégé by email, phone or mail as soon as they’re hired
- Show your protégé around the community and introduce them to community people.
- Ensure your protégé is oriented to the culture of the community
- Attend the initial training session as well as any follow up sessions.
- Acquaint the beginning teacher with school routines, procedures, resources and facilities.
- Provide encouragement and time for the beginning teacher to reflect on and discuss his/her practice.
- Understand the typical needs and challenges of beginning teachers; they need time and encouragement to develop their own strategies for teaching.
- Prepare to be especially helpful in areas known to be difficult for novice teachers, e.g. classroom management.
- Prepare for effective one-on-one communication with individual teachers.
- Develop a variety of strategies to assist the beginning teacher with gaining acceptance and support within the school.
- Discuss NWT curriculum and teaching strategies.
- Work with the protégé in a collegial fashion.
- Celebrate successes.
Role of the Protégé
- Get to know the mentor personally and professionally.
- Become familiar with school routines, procedures, and resources.
- Work with the mentor in a collegial fashion.
- Discuss NWT curriculum and teaching strategies.
- Work to create a culturally relevant learning environment.
- Encourage parent and community involvement.
- Celebrate successes.
Role of School Administration
- Inform potential mentors and protégés about the mentorship program.
- Identify teachers as potential mentors in the spring; teachers must be willing to participate. Do not assign teachers as mentors.
- Arrange for mentorship training either through the school or region.
- Match mentors and protégés – careful consideration of location, subject areas and prep time all contribute to successful ongoing mentoring.
- Recommend, assign or approve mentorship teams based on the strengths and needs of the school staff.
- Approve mentorship teams after the mentor and protégé have completed their Mentorship Plans. This needs to be completed by September 30 of the school year.
- Offer encouragement and support for the mentorship process and be interested.
- Support mentorship team orientation to community culture
- Provide release time for mentorship sessions.
- Do not associate mentorship with evaluation.
- Intervene if relationship is not working.
- Build a school wide culture among faculty that supports the professional development of beginning teachers
- Provide opportunities for interaction outside the classrooms, grade level meetings, Christmas concert committees, etc.
- Make sure all staff has access to email, First Class Client.
Role of ECE Induction and Mentorship Coordinator
Provide support for the mentorship program at the regional and district levels.
Develop and deliver mentorship training workshops.
Provide NWT Mentorship handbook.
Work with administration to provide support for the mentorship program.
Collect best induction practices from NWT schools.
Work with new and beginning teachers in the NWT.
Create and distribute a newsletter for new and beginning teachers.
Maintain the NWT Teacher Induction website: www.newteachersnwt.ca.
Provide resources for mentorship teams and beginning teachers.
Build connections and partnerships with the Aurora College Teacher Education Program in the NWT.
Build connections and partnerships within ECE to access resources, research and expertise for new and beginning teachers in the NWT.
Keep all NWT Teacher Induction materials current and relevant.
Evaluate the effectiveness of the NWT Mentorship Program
Role of DEA/DEC
- Provide support for the NWT Induction program.
- Plan and deliver an introductory community orientation to new and returning teachers. E.g. the DEA members in Aklavik meet and greet each new teacher on the individual’s arrival.
- Provide opportunities for new teachers to participate in community events.
- Consider ways to welcome teachers e.g. Adopt a Teacher Program