By: Nancy Currence
“In the mentoring process, reflection enables us to slow down, rest, and observe our journey and the process of self-knowledge that is so important along the way.” - Huang and Lynch, 1995
Unlike many professions which allow a recent graduate to work side by side with an experienced professional, the teaching profession requires the new professional to be alone in a classroom gaining experience without the benefit of a seasoned professional watching over them. This isolation may lead to discouragement and high anxiety among novice teachers resulting in high attrition and low retention rates. A solution to this problem is implementing an effective mentoring program.
Imagine you’re the teacher in a high school classroom when a verbal argument begins between two young men. This is your first year of teaching and you are not much older than your students and have never been involved in a conflict like this. You are trying to remember what your textbook taught you to do in this situation, but things are escalating faster than you can think. You know you cannot leave the room in search of help nearby, but something must be done immediately. Before you can place a call for help, the argument escalates into a physical confrontation. By the time help arrives, the situation is way out of hand. Or, imagine you are sitting quietly grading papers when one of your students knocks on your door. She is obviously upset and crying and asks if she can speak to you. She tells you she is pregnant and her boyfriend wants her to have an abortion. Looking at this young girl you realize she not much younger than you are, and she has entrusted her future to you. You realize that not only is her future at stake but also the life of another human being. You feel overwhelmed with the burden of responsibility. Has your formal education really prepared you for this non-textbook experience? If your school has an effective mentoring program then you know where to go for assistance in resolving these issues or you may have already had a discussion about these issues with your mentor. At least you know you are not alone!
What is mentoring?
As defined by Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, mentor means “a close, trusted, and experienced counselor or guide.” Among many professions, such as physicians, engineers, architects, and lawyers, direct supervision by a licensed professional is required in order to obtain professional licensure. A mentor who can communicate hope and optimism is needed to assist a novice teacher with the transition into the profession of teaching. There are many different types of induction (or mentor) programs, but this one aims at under-girding novice teachers.
What is the role of a mentor?
A mentor can provide for the novice teacher direction and guidance in how to set up behavioral management plans for the classroom, how to be flexible when problems arise, knowledgeable information about the characteristics of students they will be teaching, information about the community and local activities available for the student, how to organize and manage their classroom, the school procedures and policies, and how to interact with the administration.
The agenda of the mentoring program is to pair a veteran teacher and novice teacher in a mutually satisfying relationship. Steve Metz, a veteran science teacher was happy to mentor Lisa a first year teacher, and expressed that “the hidden secret—now revealed—is that I received by far the better part of the bargain.” Lisa offered enthusiasm for teaching, which was infectious and stimulated Steve’s imagination again allowing him not only to help Lisa experience personal professional development but also rekindled his desire for continued professional growth.
“My advisor kind of walked me through the year. She was always there to listen to my ideas, my reflections. I never felt alone, even when she wasn’t in the room…” - Moir, 2003
Why the need for a mentor program?
According to “School’s Out: The Crisis in Teacher Retention” approximately thirty percent of new teachers leave the teaching profession within three years; and associated with this is the estimated $2.6 billion annual cost due to this turnover (Alliance for excellent Education, 2004) which has brought about an increased awareness for the need of additional support for novice teachers. The mentoring program has been in the forefront of discussions as a method of retaining new teachers. First year teachers are known to show high levels of stress due to their lack of practical skills in the profession. They have difficulty balancing their work load of lectures, class interaction, resolving classroom issues, grading, administrative duties, and assuring that their lesson plan is addressing the standards of learning which is necessary for their evaluation as an effective teacher. It is evident that there is a need to retain new teachers and mentoring is one viable way to address this situation.
“Mentors who assume the mentor role without adequately preparing themselves or their relationship are often disappointed and dissatisfied.” - Zachary, 2000
How to ensure a successful mentoring program
In order for the mentoring program to be successful, training is necessary for the mentor. Workshops can help the mentor become aware of issues that they will need to address with novice teachers. A detailed job description is also needed so the mentor is aware of the objectives of the program (Rowley, 1999). The program should be supervised and evaluated for effectiveness.
- A mentor should be a veteran teacher who demonstrate the ability to assist in the professional growth of a novice teacher
- A mentor should have a strong belief in the teaching profession
- A mentor should believe that all children can learn
- A mentor should be skilled in a wide range of teaching strategies
- A mentor should communicate well (verbal and written)
- A mentor should be sensitive and capable of maintaining confidentiality
- A mentor should be proficient in planning and organizing.
One problem that has been associated with the mentoring program is efficiently matching up mentors and mentees in their appropriate fields. This especially occurs in the area of special education. East Carolina University has come up with a successful option to this situation. They have established an e-mentoring program. The program is web based, using Moodle "(http://moodle.org), a free, open course management system." (Williams, J., Warren, S., 2007). The mentors are matched with new teachers in their field, usually in a distant school district from the mentor with similar grade levels and classroom situations. They are required to maintain weekly contact with their mentors and "participate in one learning module per semester. Modules address specific topics and needs expressed by new teachers" (Willialms, Warren, 2007). such as inclusion, managing classroom behavior, etc. These topics often lead to forums which groups can participate in and is moderated by a university facilitator. The teachers/mentors can share personal success stories, resourses and gain comradery through this method. This is a potential option for those districts that have distant schools where mentors are in short supply or there are special needs teachers with little or no menotrs available as well. (Williams, Warren, 2007).
As I embark on completing my formal education to become an educator I look forward to entering my profession yet I also feel great apprehension when realizing that without guidance I could be doomed to failure at what has been the dream of my life. However with the thought of a supportive mentoring program available for me I realize that the uncertainty of the first few years of teaching can be rewarding. I would look forward to working side by side with a veteran mentor who has been trained and is qualified to assist me in my new endeavor with optimism and hope of becoming an effective educator.
I had the opportunity to interview Leigh R. Quick, School Board, District 3, New Kent County who was instrumental in creating a mentoring program for New Kent County. I asked what goal she set when preparing the mentoring program and she replied, “to make new teachers feel welcome, give them resources (a mentor, as well as a written guide), and help prepare them as much as possible. I knew their success would translate into good instruction for our students and, hopefully, they would decide to stay a long time.”
I believe that the mentoring program is a great opportunity for novice teachers and will dispel many of the fears and trepidations facing someone new to the profession. While research indicates that the mentors greatly benefit from this experience and grows professionally while interacting with novice teachers. This interaction appears to counter the inevitable stagnation and complacency that may occur when a teacher has been teaching the same thing the same way for many years. Many experienced teachers express a renewed interest in the profession as a result of being a mentor. Mentoring can be a win-win situation for both the mentor and the novice teacher.
“The real-life classroom presents questions that only real-life experience can answer." - Zachary, 2000
1) A contributing factor to low first year teacher retention is:
a) high levels of stress
b) difficulty balancing work loads
c) resolving classroom issues
d) all of the above
2) A novice teacher is:
a) beginning teacher
b) experience teacher
d) none of the above
3) An effective induction program for novice teachers is:
a) a practical skill seminar
b) a formal education class
c) a mentoring program
d) a veteran teachers seminar
4) A mentor is:
a) a veteran teacher that helps students
b) a novice teacher that works with students at risk
c) a veteran teach that acts as a trusted counselor or guide to a novice teacher
d) all of the above
5) Attrition means:
a) a veteran teacher that works with a novice teacher
b) a reduction or decrease in numbers, size, or strength
c) a support programs for new teachers
d) a programs for novice teachers
How do you view the role of a mentor?
I believe a mentor is someone who enjoys their profession and wants to share their knowledge and experience with others. A mentor is someone that familiarizes you with the school and the community where you will be teaching. They will give you advice about daily classroom management, they will inform you of successful behavioral management plans for the classroom, explore first day strategies for the upcoming school year, help with individual problems as they arise and offer positive reinforcement. They will be your sounding board and bridge the gap from formal education to real-life classroom experiences. But most of all a mentor is someone who cares.
Cochran, L, & Reese, S (2007). Preparing the New Teacher. Techniques, 82.6, Retrieved Feb 28, 2008, from http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId-ITOF.
Huang, C, & Lynch, J (1995). Mentoring: The Tao of Giving and Receiving Wisdom.San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.
Liston, D, Whitcomb, J, & Borko, H Too little or too much: teacher preparation and first years of teachings. Journal of Teacher Education, 57.4, Retrieved Feb 21, 2008, from http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId-ITOF.
Martinez, K (2004). Mentoring new teachers: promise and problems in times of teacher shortage. Australian Journal of Education, 48.1, Retrieved Feb 27, 2008, from http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId=ITOF
Moir, E (2003).Launching the Next Generation of Teachers Through Quality Induction.
New Kent County Schools. A Guide for New Teachers and their Mentors [Brochure]. New Kent, VA: Leigh Quick.
Rowley, J (1999/08/31). The Good Mentor: What It Takes To Be Effective. Retrieved Feb 27, 2008, from http://www.edutopia.org
There's a crisis in America's high schools. Retrieved Feb 27, 2008, from Alliance for Excellent Education Web site: www.all4ed.org/node/13
Zachary, L (2000). The Mentor's Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
(1993). Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Holloway, J, H. "The Benefits of Mentoring.". Retrieved April 20, 2008, from National Education Association website: <www.nea.org/mentoring/resbene050603.html>.
Williams, J. Warren, S. (Summer 2007). E-Mentoring: Supporting First Year Educators and REjuevenating Veteran Teachers. Italic textThe Delta Kappa Gamma BulletinItalic text 73 no4 9-11, 39.
The “Benefits of Mentoring” is a good article because in the article the author writes about how the mentors need to be trained for the mentoring program to be effective. The novice teachers will learn more form the teachers that have been trained to mentor new teachers. In the article the author also writes about how the mentor teachers help the new teachers. The mentors help the new teachers by teaching them how to write lesson plans and observe there classes so the mentors can provide feedback on how the new teachers can improve. Even though the author of the article that I am editing included that the mentors need to me trained, I feel that “The Benefits of Mentoring” will expand on the subject of training mentor teachers.