Approximately 50% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years of teaching. Why are they leaving? There are several reasons, ranging from high stress levels, heavy workload, or poor working conditions.
Many teachers experience physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, especially those who are working in low-performing schools (where the demands are high, and the challenges are immense). But even in high-performing schools, some teachers experience burnout or are simply not satisfied with the way things are going. This is why it is important to mentor new teachers.
Why New Teachers Need Mentors
Mentors can help new teachers in many ways. Mentors are veteran teachers who are both knowledgeable and experienced. They assist new teachers to adapt to the school climate and culture. They also guide the new teachers with curriculum, teaching strategies, and communication skills.
Having a mentor means there is someone to supervise and provide suggestions so that improvements can be made. Novice teachers can turn to their mentors for support and advice. In many programs, mentors are responsible for assessments of new teachers. Also, successful mentorship programs guide new teachers in choosing professional development opportunities.
Importance of Mentoring New Teachers
There are two areas in which mentoring provide new teachers with support – methodological and professional expertise. Although much of the methodological information has been studied prior to the new teacher’s placement, it is within the practical component through observation and practice, that knowledge and understanding of the methodological expertise will be strengthened.
The mentoring program can play a significant role in shaping the values, beliefs, and teaching skills of a new teacher. It can have a huge influence on their behavior and the choices they can make later in their career. Mentoring has the following functions – orientation, instruction and guidance, personal support, and providing feedback.
One crucial element of the mentoring process is communication. There can never be too much, especially since the new teacher may be hesitant to ask for help. The mentor should be sensitive to the new teacher’s feelings to help diagnose the situation and come up with the potential solution. Mentors have many roles – observer, role model, counselor, quality controller, critical friend, assessor, and manager.
The mentor gives helpful advice to novice teachers to improve teaching methods and practices. Open communication between the mentor and the apprentice is crucial to success.
Educational experts have discussed the evolution of mentors’ perceptions of their roles. Mentors saw a shift in their view of seeing their relationship as one-way (giving feedback to a new teacher) to a two-way (where both mentor and apprentice both have a say in the relationship). It suggests a more collaborative form of mentoring which involves dialogue between the new teacher and the veteran. As a result, a learning environment is created for both. Mentoring is an important aspect of professional development for educators.
The benefits of mentoring aren’t limited to the apprentice. As college students, new teachers are exposed to the most recently developed methods in education. It’s an opportunity for veteran teachers to learn innovative practices and observe them being taught. The exposure to new ideas often breeds renewed enthusiasm in veteran teachers.
Although a personality match between the mentor and new teacher may influence the teaching experience, overall, teachers receive very high evaluations regardless of personality match when making placement decisions. Regardless of the participants’ personalities, clear guidelines for all stakeholders, are in effect, the more important component in the success of the mentoring program.
With proper training and encouragement, new teachers will greatly benefit from the experience and advice their mentors have to offer. However, starting mentoring with clear guidelines and understanding the functions and roles of all parties are crucial to the level of its success.
As it takes time to master the craft of teaching and developing teaching expertise, new teachers who experience the positive mentoring period by having all necessary elements in place will be able to start their career with increased confidence, commitment, and enthusiasm.
How Veteran Teachers Can Become Good Mentors
Respect and Trust
There must be mutual respect between the veteran teacher and the novice teacher. However, respect does not come instantly; it takes time. As the saying goes, “respect is earned.” Both parties should be able to give ideas and suggestions freely.
Mutual trust is also important. A new teacher must be able to express doubts, anxieties, and fears without being judged. If the apprentice commits a mistake, the mentor can provide feedback in a constructive, reassuring way.
You get to know a person on a more personal level by listening. When mentors listen, they can have a better understanding of what areas need improvement and pinpoint exactly how they can assist the new teacher.
Mentors spur growth by introducing new ways of thinking and pushing new teachers outside of their comfort zone. They present new teaching methods and provide tips on how to handle various situations inside and outside the classroom. By doing so, mentors help new teachers develop and grow as educators.
It is mutually beneficial for mentors and new teachers to work together because everybody will walk away with new and improved strategies, ideas, and learnings. The bond between them will also be strengthened when they both bring ideas to the table.
In some instances, a mentor can also take the role of a personal life coach. Sometimes, new teachers carry emotional baggage and personal problems when they go to work. By showing empathy, mentors can win over the trust of their apprentice.
Check out these great books to learn more about mentoring new teachers:
Mentoring New Teachers by Hal Portner (Amazon)
Mentoring New Special Education Teachers: A Guide for Mentors and Program Developers by Mary Lou Duffy and James Forgan (Amazon)
Sometimes, a college degree is not enough to prepare new teachers for the challenges inside and outside the classroom, leaving them wanting in knowledge and skills. Inadequately trained teachers can have a huge impact on students’ performance, as achievement depends largely on the quality of instruction. Mentors can help new teachers improve teaching skills, increase resiliency, enhance communication skills, and boost self-confidence. If you are a new teacher without and would like to read some amazing books to help you with your new teaching role, check out this list!
INcompassing Education provides high-quality professional development for teachers in Indiana, Tennessee, and other US states (contact us to learn more). We have on-site PD, off-site PD, and online PD. Our team of highly qualified and experienced educators can design a customized mentorship program for your school or district to build capacity and promote growth.
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