A Model for the Support of Interns and Beginning Teachers in Special Education

Dafna Hammer-Budnaro is Head of the induction unit in the Kibbutzim College of Education, Israel
Despite the desire to maintain a pedagogical continuum among the training stage, entry into teaching, and professional development, the bridge between training and the field is still unstable to a certain extent, thereby posing unfamiliar challenges to beginning teachers when they enter the education system.
At this point, the almost inevitable discrepancy between the excellent training the teachers received as student teachers and the immediate and intensive functioning of the school becomes evident, causing many beginning teachers to report a sense of alienation and loneliness, not to mention difficulties with regard to communication and integration into the school.
While every new teacher experiences a stage of "entry shock" when he/she begins teaching in a school, the shock of the transition from the college to schools that cater to students on the autistic spectrum continuum is even greater. The adjustment, along with the feeling of isolation engendered by working both with students who do not communicate and with their parents, necessitates finding an appropriate solution for these new teachers (Kaniel & Siman Tov, 2011; Siman Tov, 2014).
"Gil" and "Yachdav" are two outstanding special education schools in Tel Aviv, Israel, whose students are on the autistic spectrum. "Yachdav" is an elementary school and "Gil" is the high school that ultimately receives the "Yachdav" students.
In the current school year (2017), the head of the induction team and the principals of the above-mentioned schools resolved to bolster the continuity between the theoretical college studies and the beginning teachers' work with the students on the ASD continuum.
To this end, Kibbutzim College of initiated educational workshops for interns and beginning teachers at the induction stage. This entailed modifying the training model in the following manner: Instead of holding a general induction workshop at the institution that accompanied the trainee in his/her first steps in the schools, the arena was transferred to the school itself, thereby creating a partnership with the school, with the local authority, and with the policy makers. The workshops provided the teachers who teach this population with professional support and empowerment and met their specific needs.
It is important to note that at all stages of the continuum – during both training and internship – there was particular reference to special education but not to specific populations within it. The induction workshop included interns, beginning teachers, tutors and mentors, a counselor, a pedagogy advisor, and a multidisciplinary team.
The syllabus was built according to the needs of the participants and included topics such as "From ideal to real: Strengths and difficulties as a new teacher in the system"; "Diving into the depths: Understanding the disability from theory to practice"; "The school as a system and learning organization"; "My toolbox". In addition, the workshop taught "The skills of special education classroom management", "Modes of communication", and "Identifying my style of communication and its influence on me as a teacher, on the class, on the parents, and on the staff"; "Parents and teachers: The necessary alliance"; "The light within me: Learning from success", "Sexuality in special education"; "The sensual world of disabilities – the Snoezelen".
The interns, the mentors, and the school administration all reported a sense of satisfaction, of autonomy, of belonging to the school, and of professional empowerment. In contrast to previous years, all the teachers who participated in the induction workshop remained in the schools despite the normally high level of burnout. They learned to express their voices in various ways, such as providing activities for teachers and publishing a digital newspaper – and the schools heeded their voices.
As a result of the schools' positive reactions, absorption and support frameworks were constructed, the mentoring model was altered, the interns joined the school committees, and the continuity between the training and the field became stable. In a parallel process, the interns and the beginning teachers learned to teach their students to make their voices heard, to be proactive despite their disability, and to develop a sense of self-efficacy, autonomy, and belonging that creates motivation, perseverance, and a belief that continuity can be created across the continuum.
Kaniel, S., & Siman Tov, A. (2011). Stress and personal resource as predictors of the adjustment of parents to autistic children: A multivariate model. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(7), 879-890
Siman Tov, A. (2014). The relationship among the experience of stress, personal, family, and social resources, and coping strategies in parents of children with autism. DAPIM – Journal for Studies and Research in Education, 61, 174-204.
Updated: Aug. 01, 2017