To that end, the RAND Corporation conducted a literature review in 2004 on teacher training and retention. A quick glance at the Executive Summary will yield some amazing findings, including the fact that, "the highest attrition rates seen for teachers occurred in their first years of teaching and after many years of teaching when they were near retirement, thus producing a U-shaped pattern of attrition with respect to age or experience." This turnover is an egregious phenomenon that needs to be stopped. As a third year teacher I have had a chance to reflect on the opportunities afforded to me that ensured my continuation in this profession.
One of the most important of these was having a mentor teacher to consult with whenever I had questions. My "math coach," as she was called, visited my classroom on a weekly (sometimes more) basis and provided me with constructive feedback, supplies, lesson plan ideas, and general support. She had many years of experience and it was a pleasure to talk with her about pedagogy specific to my subject area. Without her I would most definitely not have improved much my first year.
Two months ago one of my colleagues went on sabbatical and was replaced by a new teacher with little experience in the classroom. He is earnest and willing to learn but unfortunately doesn't have enough time to gain true understanding. One specific recommendation I have been reading a lot about recently is transforming the first years of teaching into more of an apprenticeship where a "Master teacher" guides a newbie so that they can gain the experience necessary to become professionals. The RESPECT Project run by the Department of Education has a document making suggestions like this.
Imagine if in your first year of teaching - instead of teaching a whirlwind of five classes a day - instead you taught 3 or 4 and observed experienced teachers for the rest of the day. So much of what I do I learned by observation - if I was given designated time at the start of my career, I might be 10 times better today because of it. Somehow we must get more people talking and pushing for something like this.