Home      Organizing Induction      Improving Practice   

Tool: Selecting and assigning mentors

Purpose of this tool: This tool is designed to help you determine appropriate criteria for selecting mentors and matching them with beginning teachers. The tool describes the qualities of effective mentors and mentor teams and then provides an exercise that will help you identify teachers who possess these qualities. For several reasons, administrators often find it difficult to match experienced teachers who demonstrate most or all of these qualities with each of their beginning teachers. The tool will explain these reasons and help you decide whether the use of mentor teams is appropriate in your school.

Qualities of effective mentors

The qualities of effective mentors can be organized into four general categories: attitude and character, professional competence and experience, communication skills, and interpersonal skills. For example, a strong attitude and character is characterized by a strong commitment to the teaching profession, willingness to serve as a role model for other teachers and willingness to share ideas and information with colleagues. Professional competence includes expert knowledge of pedagogy and subject matter, excellent classroom management skills and being regarded by colleagues as an outstanding teacher.

Teachers with strong communication skills are able to articulate effective instructional strategies, willing to listen attentively and able to offer critiques in positive and productive ways. Important interpersonal skills for mentors include the ability to maintain trust, attentiveness to sensitive political issues and the ability to easily establish rapport with others. The exercise below includes comprehensive lists of the qualities associated with effective mentoring for each of these four categories.

Matching mentors with beginning teachers

In order for mentors to provide meaningful assistance to new teachers on issues related to curriculum, instruction, assessment and classroom management, they not only need to possess many of the qualities described above. In addition, they need to be knowledgeable about the subject matter and curriculum being taught by their mentees. Research indicates that new teachers are much more likely to continue teaching in their schools of origin when they are matched with a helpful mentor with knowledge of their content area. (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004).

Obstacles to identifying mentors and matching them with new teachers

There are several factors, though, that can make it difficult for principals to identify mentors with most or all desired qualities and match them with new teachers in the same grade level and content area. One factor is the large number of teachers who are currently retiring and being replaced, in many cases, by teachers new to the profession. At many schools, this has left a small pool of experienced teachers from which to select mentors. Second, many teachers who demonstrate most or all of the qualities of effective mentors have already assumed many additional responsibilities in their schools; as a result, they may not have time to serve as mentors. Third, many factors can limit the interactions between beginning teachers and their assigned mentors including proximity in the building; whether they share common planning time; and differences in age, gender, teaching philosophy or personality.

In view of these challenges, administrators sometimes elect to match new teachers with multiple individuals who collectively demonstrate many of the qualities associated with effective mentoring. The exercise below will help you determine whether to match beginning teachers in your school with individual mentors or mentor teams.

References:

  • Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From preparation to practice: Designing a continuum to strengthen and sustain teaching. Teachers College Record, 103 (6), 1013-1055.
  • National Education Association (no date). Creating a teacher mentoring program. The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education, News and Publications. http://www.nfie.org/publications/mentoring.htm#conten
  • Smith, T.M. & Ingersoll, R.M. (2004). Reducing teacher turnover: What are the components of effective induction? American Educational Research Journal, 41(3), 681-714.


Mentor selection and assignment

This tool is designed to help principals determine appropriate criteria for 1) selecting mentors and 2) matching new teachers with mentors or mentor teams.

Criteria for selecting mentors

The first part of this exercise lists criteria for selecting mentors that are organized in four categories: attitude and character, professional competence and experience, communication skills, and interpersonal skills. For each category, you are asked a series of eight questions about potential mentors. One way to utilize the exercise is to list evidence in support of your answers, determine the relative importance of each criterion and list any concerns you might have about the potential mentor with respect to each criterion.

Attitude and character
Professional competence and experience
Communication skills

Interpersonal skills
Matching beginning teachers with mentors and/or mentor teams

 

1. Attitude and character

Y
N
Evidence

Importance of criterion
(High, Medium, Low)

Concerns

1. Does the potential mentor exhibit a strong commitment to the teaching profession?

         
2. Is s/he willing to serve as a role model for other teachers?

 

       
3. Is s/he eager to share information and ideas with colleagues?

 

       

4. Is s/he reflective and able to learn more mistakes?

 

       
5. Is s/he willing to advocate on behalf of colleagues?

 

       

6. Is s/he flexible, persistent, resilient and open-minded?

         
7. Does s/he exhibit good humor and resourcefulness?          
8. Is s/he willing to participate in training to improve her mentoring skills?          

2. Professional competence and experience

Y
N
Evidence
Importance of criterion
(High, Medium, Low)
Concerns

1. Does the potential mentor have expert knowledge of pedagogy and subject matter?

         
2. Does s/he demonstrate excellent classroom management skills?

 

       
3. Is s/he regarded by colleagues as an outstanding teacher?

 

       

4. Does s/he have confidence in his own instructional skills?

 

       
5. Does s/he understand the policies and procedures of the school, district and teacher association?

 

       

6. Does s/he collaborate well with other teachers and administrators?

         
7. Does s/he feel comfortable being observed?          
8. Is s/he willing to learn new teaching strategies from beginning teachers?          

Back

3. Communication skills

Y
N
Evidence
Importance of criterion
(High, Medium, Low)
Concerns

1. Is the potential mentor able to articulate effective instructional strategies?

         
2. Does s/he listen attentively?

 

       
3. Does s/he ask questions that prompt reflection and understanding?

 

       

4. Does s/he offer critiques in positive and productive ways?

 

       
5. Does s/he use e-mail effectively?

 

       

6. Is s/he efficient with the use of time?

         
7. Does s/he convey passion and enthusiasm for teaching?          
8. Is s/he discreet and able to maintain confidentiality?          

Back

4. Interpersonal skills

Y
N
Evidence
Importance of criterion
(High, Medium, Low)
Concerns

1. Is the potential mentor able to maintain a trusting professional relationship?

         
2. Does s/he know how to demonstrate care for a new teacher’s professional and emotional needs?

 

       
3. Is s/he attentive to sensitive political issues?

 

       

4. Does s/he work well with individuals from different cultural backgrounds?

 

       
5. Does s/he use e-mail effectively?

 

       

6. Is s/he approachable?

         
7. Is s/he able to easily establish rapport with others?          
8. Is s/he patient?          

Back

Matching beginning teachers with mentors and/or a mentor team

The second part of this exercise provides a list of questions designed to help you determine whether to match beginning teachers in your school with mentors and/or mentor teams. The categories #1-4 in this part of the exercise refer to the same four categories from the first part of the exercise.

5. Matching beginning teachers with mentors and/or mentor teams

Yes
No

1. What grade(s) and subject area(s) will the new teacher be teaching?

Grade(s):
Subject area(s):

   
2. Does she have a grade-level or subject area colleague who meets most/all of the criteria in categories #1-4?

If yes, go to 3.

If no, go to 7.
3. Is this colleague likely to have the time and inclination to help the new teacher address instructional issues, classroom management issues, other professional issues and emotional issues on a regular basis?

If yes, go to 4.

If no, go to 7.

4. If applicable, will this colleague be able to address such issues as working with special needs students, working with English language learners and/or incorporating technology into the curriculum?

If yes, go to 5.

If no, go to 7.
5. Do you have other concerns about matching this colleague one-on-one with this new teacher?

If yes, go to 7.

If no, go to 6.

6. Assign this mentor to work one-on-one with this new teacher.

   
7. Consider assigning a mentor team (two or more individuals who collectively demonstrate many of the qualities in Categories #1-4) to this new teacher.    

Back

Top