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Components of support for mentor teachers

Research suggests the following components are important for support of educative mentors.  Each school or district should consider the components in light of its own mentoring and school priorities. Support of mentors, like selection of mentors, should be directly related to the definition and goals of mentoring. The support provided mentors should be continually assessed and modified as needed. 

Knowledge and beliefs about teaching, learning and students

  • Clarify and articulate a vision of good teaching
  • Understand own underlying assumptions about teaching, learning and students
  • Understand school’s goals and philosophy of education
  • Strengthen connections between theory and practice and the ability to articulate them

Non-evaluative strategies of support and guidance

  • See and analyze effective styles of mentoring
  • Rehearse educative mentoring practices: observing, conferencing, co-planning, co-teaching, modeling and analyzing student work
  • Develop skills in observing and talking about teaching in analytical and non-judgmental ways
  • Gather a variety of observation techniques
  • Strengthen language of counseling and coaching
  • Strengthen ability to articulate thinking and make it explicit
  • Learn to help beginning teachers identify problems and possibilities
  • Gain strategies for helping beginning teachers see alternatives and set goals
  • Practice inviting and extending thinking
  • Learn to assess own effectiveness as mentor

Interpersonal skills

  • Gather strategies for building motivation and commitment
  • Strengthen a non-threatening stance that shows empathy, sensitivity and genuineness
  • Strengthen communication skills
  • Explore leadership styles

Needs of beginning teachers

  • Develop an understanding of typical beginning teacher needs and phases of first year teaching
  • Learn to assess new teachers’ progress
  • Understand and be able to provide beginning teachers with information on school and district’s procedures, policies events, deadlines and politics

Formats for support programs

The following suggestions for the delivery of mentor support can be used in combination and adapted to fit the specific needs of the mentoring program. There are four important dimensions to consider when creating a support program. These are illustrated in the continuums below. Examples of support programs are provided in another section. Research recommends programs that involve professional learning communities and on-going support.

Possibilities:

  • Orientation to mentoring before the school year begins
  • Regularly scheduled professional development sessions
  • Professional learning community of mentors
  • Individual mentor support
  • Provision of mentor guide book and materials

Other important considerations

Time: Time is the greatest need of mentors and typically one of the greatest obstacles to their work. Mentors need time to plan for and interact with beginning teachers and to attend to their own professional development as mentors. Suggestions for providing mentors with necessary time include:

  • Ensuring regular release time from the classroom
  • Reducing or eliminating other professional responsibilities
  • Providing compensation for professional development and meetings with beginning teachers outside of regular school hours
  • Using administrators or other staff to teach mentor’s classes for specified periods of time

Resources: Besides time, mentors need additional resources to support their preparation and interactions with beginning teachers. Suggestions for additional resources include:

  • Mentor guide book and materials covering the important support components
  • Audio and video equipment

Compensation: Mentoring requires significant time and effort. Mentors should be compensated for their preparation and interactions with beginning teachers. Suggestions for providing compensation include:

  • Stipends
  • Professional development credit
  • Reduction of other professional responsibilities
  • School, district and community recognition

Professional culture: To best enable educative mentoring, attention should be paid to the norms of interaction and professional culture within the school and district. In particular, schools should focus on fostering:

  • Collaboration and communication instead of privacy and isolation
  • Constructive criticism and healthy debate instead of conflict avoidance for the sake of outward harmony
  • Interdependence and shared responsibility instead of self-sufficiency

References

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). Helping novices learn to teach: Lessons from an exemplary support teacher. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(1), 17-30.

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2003). What new teachers need to learn. Educational Leadership, 60, 25-29.

Gold, Y. (1996). Beginning teacher support: Attrition, mentoring and induction. In Sikula, J., Buttery, T.J., & Guyton, E. (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education,2nd ed. (pp. 548-616). New York: Macmilan.