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Four Essential Strategies for Mentoring Teachers

Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present this advice from Mentoring and Coaching Tips: How Educators Can Help Each Other by Sheryn Waterman. The book is packed with creative tips and activities to support new and struggling teachers.

In this tip, find four strategies that leaders, coaches and mentors can use to support a close mentor relationship.


It seems optimal for collegial partners to have classrooms and/or offices near each other. It is important for teachers to be able to step next door or down the hall to communicate with their partners. On the other hand, those teachers and their partners who are not on the same floor or hallway might take time to visit more often to compensate for the distance. Although not essential, close physical proximity makes getting together more convenient and can play a role in the development and sustainability of partnerships. When school leaders cannot provide this proximity, committed staff can compensate by increasing their visits to those they want to help.

Frequent Contact

Talking to each other in person or via email on a daily basis is extremely important for helping relationships. Even brief conversations can help develop problem-solving relationships. Even if mentors and coaches do not communicate with their charges daily, it is important to know that the option for daily communication is available.

Quality Conversations

Collegial partners must meet every day to communicate with each other, and their communication must also have quality. In most studies, including mine, it is difficult to assess the quality of conversations that participants report rather than those that researchers observe. It is especially difficult to assess quality based on survey reports that quantify it. One of my participants, Mrs. Truitt (mentor), suggested that the best way to determine if mentors and coaches were having quality interactions with the teachers they were helping was to note the results of those interactions.

Classroom Observations

Learning from observing or co-teaching seems to deepen the level of communication available to collegial partners. For instance, seeing someone model a strategy is far more useful than merely hearing about it or practicing it in simulated activities during professional training sessions. Mentors and coaches, who do not have regular classroom duties, are more likely to be able to model lessons for novices and struggling teachers, and it is difficult for teachers to observe those who share their planning period.

Some teachers who work with pre-service teachers in a practice teaching situation have excellent opportunities to watch how someone with more experience handles classroom management with challenging students; however, practice teachers, who come into schools having recently taken courses in content or pedagogy, often have useful skills to demonstrate to the cooperating teachers with whom they are assigned.

The word observation intimidates some teachers, perhaps because they associate it with evaluation of their job performance. Some teachers might be less committed to the processes of observing one another because of the negative connotation the word observation carries.


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