How Mentorship Can Help Teachers Succeed

Just like having good mentors is important to student teaching, as newly hired educator, having a mentor at your school is incredibly important, too. Mentor teachers can provide invaluable help to new teachers. Mentors are experienced, patient, knowledgeable veteran teachers who are selected and trained to guide new teachers. These mentors assist new teachers to adapt to the school culture and norms, which include official and nonofficial norms, and school or district-specific norms. They will also guide the new teachers with curriculum, teaching strategies, successful scheduling, and communication skills. They can supervise you and provide you with suggestions on improvements that you can make. New teachers can turn to their mentors for support when times are tough and seek advice. In many programs, mentors are responsible for new teacher assessments, and mentors can suggest training for teachers to improve performance. Successful mentorship programs don’t end there and also guide new teachers in choosing professional workshop opportunities.

Mentors Know The Ropes
Mentors can help you with recognizing which files from the principal get the highest priority and which administrator has the most power in evaluation, and they may offer you helpful inside information (e.g., the room where the best projector is located).

Mentors Help Keep You On Track
Not all schools have such programs, and in those schools, new teachers may have “tele-mentor” and “e-mentor” support programs over the Internet. If those options aren’t available, and you’d like to have a mentor teacher, you can always look for an unofficial one, or find support from several other teachers in the school. Research shows that first-year teachers who’ve had the support of a mentor develop better classroom management skills, stay in the teaching profession longer, and maintain their initial enthusiasm longer.

Mentors Know What You’re Talking About
True mentors are patient listeners and good guides. They provide thoughtful advice based on their years of experience. They can help prepare new teachers for formal evaluations. They understand how to provide support to new teachers learning the expectations of the field. You’ll find that as a new teacher, you’ll benefit from soliciting feedback from your mentor as a way to improve your teaching. When you receive feedback:

  • Focus on what is being said rather than how it is said.
  • Focus on feedback as information rather than as criticism.
  • Concentrate on receiving the new information rather than defending the old.
  • Probe for specifics rather than accept generalities.
  • Focus on clarifying what has been said by summarizing the main points to the satisfaction of all 

Be proactive about seeking out your mentor and engaging yourself in the professional relationship. Be thoughtful, be respectful, and be sure to remember to express your thanks!

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