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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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Mentoring New Teachers - Develop Your Own Program

Principals play a key role in facilitating the work of experienced teachers who serve as mentors, including preparing them for the role. Veteran teachers may have little experience with the core activity of mentoring---observing and discussing pedagogy with their colleagues.

Many teachers, especially those teaching in secondary schools, often work in isolation with little contact with their peers. This isolation, coupled with the lack of opportunity to observe and discuss each other’s work, can be a handicap when working with novices.

Specific suggestions for veteran teachers in developing a successful mentoring relationship include the following four phases:

  1. Develop a compatible working relationship with the new teacher inside and out of school.
  2. Mutually determine and agree on the mentor’s role.
  3. Applying effective mentoring styles and strategies.
  4. Disengage the relationship gradually so the beginning teacher will not feel abandoned and will be able to organize appropriate support from colleagues.

Finally, the following area should be explored and determined before the start of a mentoring program:

  • Recruiting and selecting mentors. What experience, traits, and qualities are you looking for?
  • Matching the mentor with the beginner. Should expertise, age, experience, personality, ideology, subject similarities come into play? Is it a one-on-one relationship or should there be more than one mentor for each new teacher? Can one mentor handle several new teachers? As stated previously, it is best to allow the mentor to choose how they wish to work with.
  • Selecting incentives. Are there any and should there be any?
  • Determine class adjustments---time for the mentor to observe the beginner’s classroom.
  • Agreeing on roles and responsibilities. There should be a clear and concise job description with specific guidelines that have understandable roles and responsibilities for each party.
  • Ensuring staff development. Mentors need to have training on how best to accomplish their goals.
  • Establish time commitment. This must be understood by all from the beginning. What is the time commitment for the mentor?

The principal must take a leadership role to ensure the stability and success of the program. There will be issues raised that the principal must clarify, such as how to make sure that the beginning teachers realize that the mentor is a resource not an evaluator, as well as encouraging the mentor’s acceptance.

The principal may also be required to determent the fine line between being helpful but not overbearing. How often should the mentor step up in during a school day and how much advice should be given?

Since the 1970’s, mentoring has been a vehicle to improve teacher training. University professors and school administrator alike have high hopes that mentoring blends the theoretical and the practical will help the beginning teacher do a better job in the classroom.

Mentoring can help the beginning teacher mature into successful experienced teachers…remember we were all beginning teachers at one time!


Les Potter, Ed. D.

American International School West
Cairo, Egypt