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Les Potter is currently the director of the American International School West in Cairo, Egypt. Les has over 40 years in educational leadership in the US and Egypt and most recently has been a...
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Developing a Mentoring Program for Beginning Teachers

Mentoring is a relationship in which a more experienced person facilitates the broad development of a less-experienced person on a regular basis and over an extended period-of-time, as said by B.A. Lankford.

In its simplest form, a veteran teacher volunteers or is assigned to guide a novice teacher for a certain amount of time to help smooth the transition. How new teachers are mentored will likely determine how successful they become and how long they stay in the profession.

Having a good mentoring program means a positive climate for new teachers and established teachers alike, as many experienced teachers will work with the new ones. Interact with the central office or other districts in this endeavor, and the impact on faculty will be positive.

Research indicates that beginning teachers need to know and master a number of important ideas and concepts to be effect.

What beginning teachers should:

  • Have a thorough knowledge of the content area.
  • Know how a subject connects across areas of the curriculum and how these ideas can be successfully integrated with other subjects to ensure that what the student is learning is useful in everyday life.
  • Understand that students are in different spurts of their cognitive, social, physical and emotional growth.
  • Learn how to motive all students-those who are at risk, unmotivated or have special needs.
  • Learn how to care for all students, treating them with dignity and respect.
  • Know the different learning styles, teaching methods and strategies.
  • Evaluate students’ knowledge and assess students’ approaches to learning.
  • Know the latest in curriculum resources and technology.
  • Use successful classroom management techniques.
  • Have the ability to reflect on, critique and improve their teaching.
  • Know the academic standards and the curriculum of the school, district and state.

These items can be reinforces through a mentor relationship. The keen eye and sensitive ear of a mentor can provide a beginning teacher with necessary and critical support. If done correctly, mentoring is a valuable tool in helping beginning teachers improve in their profession, stay focused, and get acclimated.

If the school district does not have a formal mentoring program and one is needed, remember that it must tailor to fit individual school needs. Mentoring programs can take many forms and serve several purposes. They can help a new teacher become better acquainted with the job of teaching, they can help them learn the ropes, and they can help them accomplish more in the classroom.

It is best to allow the veteran teacher to select the new teacher they wish to mentor. Assigning mentors to new teachers can sometimes backfire because there can be personality clash or perhaps the veteran teacher is not a “strong” educator. If mentors choose who they wish to work with, there usually is greater commitment and fewer problems.

Principals can minimize the obstacles to effective mentoring. Mentoring, when it does happen, may be haphazard at best. Often, the mentoring teacher receives negligible formal training. Little or no reduction in his or her workload, and no additional monetary compensation. In many instances, it is usually unpaid and thankless “duty”. The quality of mentoring in school settings often depends on the ability of the staff to incorporate career development concepts and activities into the curriculum and to consult with and use staff members for beginning teacher improvement.

It is beneficial to work with a committee of both experienced and beginning teachers to establish the goals, objectives and structure of the mentoring program. To build a successful program you should:

  • Evaluate the need for a mentoring program. Will it help new teachers?
  • Identify essentials components of effective mentoring programs.
  • Decide what the program should accomplish. This can include pedagogy, classroom management, adjustment to the new position, time management, new ideas in teaching, teamwork, and so forth.
  • Conclude how it is going to help new teachers.
  • Decide how the program will be implemented.
  • Set the structure of the program. Will be a “buddy system” Informal/formal and so forth.
  • Determine the cost of the program and how the funds are to be procured.
  • Consider the time involved. This can range from minimal to extensive.
  • Outline the responsibilities of mentoring teachers, beginning teachers and administrators. What role does each play? What is expected of the novice teachers? How are the mentors to be selected and trained?
  • Evaluate the program.
  • Principals need to constantly review and tweak aspects of the program as and when needed. Evaluate during and at the end of the program.

More to come.

 

Les Potter, Ed. D.

Director
American International School West
Cairo, Egypt