Thinking of implementing a teacher mentoring program? There may be good reasons to do so. More than 60% of Canadian teachers feel unsupported by their Ministry of Education. An urban school district south of the border found that more than 90% of teachers who received moderate to high “doses” of mentorship were retained by the school district after their first year. In other words, a good teacher mentoring program can help your school hold onto educators.
If you’re looking to create a program—or make your current one even better—we’ve got five tips that can help.
Find the right mentor/mentee match
Providing a new teacher with a mentor is a great way to help them keep going when the going gets tough. But the mentor/mentee relationship will have even more impact if the participants have commonalities such as grades being taught, subject matter, classroom size, building location and life experience/culture.
These shared experiences can help build empathy and understanding and ensure the new teacher knows they are working with someone who understands their challenges.
Create frequent opportunities for observation
When it comes to being a mentor, merely telling a teacher about different teaching methods, approaches to classroom management or how to handle a complicated lesson isn’t enough to ensure success.
Instead, observation by both mentor and mentee provides a great “visual aid,” plus a chance to ask clarifying questions.
Give new teachers the opportunity to see their mentor in action, either live or via video, so they can see how the mentor handles challenges and how those methods can work in their own classroom.
Mentors should observe new teachers in a classroom environment so they can see live and in person what’s working and what needs work. Make demonstration and discussion simple by recording the lessons onto a USB drive.
Use and document reflection time
The first few years of teaching are full of vital information and new experiences. So much so, it can be difficult to remember what worked, what didn’t work and how to improve. On a regular basis, document:
- What’s working?
- What challenges is the teacher facing?
- What steps are needed to address those challenges?
- What can the mentor do to assist?
- What are the results?
Bring new teachers together
Although having a mentor can be a powerful educational tool, new teachers can feel isolated and insecure about the mistakes they’re making, and the learning needed to “catch up” with their mentors’ experience.
Bring peers together to collaborate and connect. This can be done during a weekly “lunch and learn” or after-school session. Boost camaraderie with a useful teacher gift like branded polo shirts or travel mugs.
While it may feel like mentor/mentee relationships provide one-way learning, both teachers often have information to share. For example, while the more experienced teacher will have more classroom experience, the mentee may have learned new teaching techniques or useful technology.
Mentoring programs build better teachers
A great teacher mentoring program creates one win after another, from better trained staff to holding onto your educators year after year.