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Teacher Mentors

A Three Year Long Mentoring/Induction Program

The following was part of a paper written to argue for a mandated and state-supported induction program in Illinois. As the author, I am glad to share it with you as a possible road map for a multi-year program.

This Induction Program provides a three year professional development program for both beginning and new but experienced teachers. The Program is designed to accomplish two goals:
- To accelerate the professional growth of both mentor and protege
- To promote the restructuring of schools by establishing new norms, two teachers at a time, for the daily professional interaction and work of educators.

In year one of the three year induction process, the mentor and protege begin by attending an initial training that prepares them for their work together. The essential work of a mentor-protege pair is orientation, learning the curriculum, and accelerating the necessary transition from thinking like a student to thinking and behaving like a professional educator.

In addition to these critical tasks, throughout this initial year the mentor is constantly modeling and promoting discussion of a wide range of effective teaching practices. The effective practices which are emphasized are those which are dictated by the research on the typical needs of beginning teachers and those identified as areas for growth by assessment of the specific needs of the beginning teacher assigned to the mentor.

Later on in year one the mentor and protege are trained in the skills of peer observation, non judgmental feed back, and coaching for reflection and analysis. All of these skills are focused on inquiry into effective classroom instruction. In addition, evidence of the protege's teaching and of the mentor and protege work together is collected throughout year one to be used later on in creating a professional growth plan and in the protege's professional development portfolio.

The culmination of year one is the mentors' and principals' feed back to the proteges and the protege's self-assessment of their own teaching relative to the state teaching standards. The final product of that analysis is a personal profile of the protege's teaching strengths, 2-3 standards areas targeted for growth, and a professional development work plan addressing those target areas.

During year one many of the protege's survival needs are laid to rest. In year two beginning teachers continue to refine their teaching practices and they have greater ability and self confidence to take a more critical look at their own teaching. To support this self-examination, the mentor-protege pair conduct initial peer observation and coaching and they learn and apply the process of action research. All of the coaching and action research is focused on the implementation of their professional development work plan, a continuous study of effective teaching practices, and the increase of teaching skills in the targeted areas of the state Teaching Standards.

The protege continues to collect evidence of professional growth, of the work with the mentor, and of the work of teaching of students. The mentor and protege analyze this evidence, especially for its relevance to the demonstration of growth in the targeted areas of the state Teaching Standards identified in their initial professional development work plan. This work plan may be updated and extended as needed so it remains an effective guide for the mentor and protege's work together.

The final products of year two of the induction process are the selected evidence of the protege's growth relative to the state Teaching Standards, the data collected from the observation of their teaching, and reflective writing by both mentor and protege about the conclusions they have reached about their mutual work and growth.

At the end of the second year the mentor prompts protege self-assessment, reflection, and conclusions about areas for growth relative to the state Teaching Standards. The mentor provides feed back on the protege's strengths and reinforces the protege's accurate self perceptions about areas for growth. When the protege and the mentor's perspectives about the need for growth are different, the mentor prompts analysis of the data collected and conclusions about the need for continued growth relative to the state Teaching Standards. Together, the mentor and protege develop a professional development work plan for their third and last year of working as a mentoring pair.

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