The early years of teaching can be incredibly challenging for beginning teachers. Research indicates that a increasing amount of teachers are leaving the profession within the first 5 years. There are two things that are helping teachers to remain in the profession: Professional Development (for example, my Beginning Teacher Starter Pack) and Mentoring and Support.
New teachers benefit from having a good mentor who help and encourage them in their teaching journey. Like Mentor, who carefully looked after Telmachus when his Dad, Odysseus, went away to war, new teachers are supported by their mentors in the early years of their teaching career.
Here’s 10 quick ways to be a great mentor:
1. Be available
Have an ‘open-door’ policy – the new teacher you are mentoring needs to feel that you are approachable and that they can chat to you any time. Make it easy for them to ask questions and check in with you.
2. Meet regularly
Schedule a regular time to meet with your mentee. Even if it is just over lunch one day a week, make a time that you will regularly catch up. This means you can both prepare for that time and the new teacher will be able to have some of his/her questions answered on a regular basis.
Listen to what the new teacher is saying. Really listen. Read between the lines. What are they really wanting to know? Don’t be too quick to jump in with solutions and strategies. Take the time to listen and let the new teacher talk.
We all thrive on encouragement. Being a new teacher can be incredibly challenging and sometimes all a new teacher needs is someone to encourage them and to tell them they are doing a great job.
5. Give feedback
Beginning teachers need feedback. Be kind and gentle when doing so. Feedback can be both positive and constructive. Tell the beginning teacher which parts of the lesson went really well. Give them some strategies for improvement. If the feedback is a bit tricky, follow these steps for having a difficult conversation.
6. Share resources
Be generous with sharing resources with the new teacher. Give them lessons or resources that you have developed. Let them use some of the department or school resources to help them be even more effective. If you’ve developed proformas or checklists or worksheets, share them! These will really help the new teacher.
7. Give practical help
Sometimes your mentee teacher will just need a helping hand with everyday teaching things like photocopying or collating or organizational tasks. Sure, these tasks are fairly easy to do but a new teacher often feels overwhelmed with everything they are trying to do and your few minutes of practical assistance can make all the difference. Just offer to help them out for five or ten minutes.
8. Introduce them to others
They are the ‘new kid on the block’ so helping them form professional relationships is an important part of your role as their mentor teacher. Introduce them to other staff members, the administration staff, the canteen managers, the Parents and Citizens members, various community people – helping your new teacher to build relationships will help them settle into the school and into their role.
9. Be a good example
We all want someone to follow. Be a good example in your attitude, in your willingness to try new things, in the way you speak about other staff members, in your diligence with lesson planning and curriculum development. Be an example that your new teacher would want to emulate.
Great teachers are always learning. As a mentor teacher, learn from your new mentee teacher. Try and learn something new every day. Be observant. Notice how they do things. Listen to what they are saying and what they are learning. Learn from them and let them teach you. And be sure to acknowledge your learning – your mentee teacher will feel so encouraged that they were able to teach you something and help you be a better educator.
Enjoy the journey,
And more importantly,
Enjoy the moments.
QUESTION: What have you found most rewarding/challenging about being a Mentor Teacher? Leave your comments here.