A New Teacher Mentoring Knowledge Base of Best Practices
The ideas presented below represent years of experience by the author as a mentor program coordinator & consultant as well as ideas selected from mentoring programs across the world and from mentors across the years. This mentoring wisdom favors a view of mentoring as a professional development activity, so rely on your own sense of purpose for mentoring to guide the ways in which you might adapt and use this rich resource.
1. SOME BASIC ASSUMPTIONS
New staff need & deserve an on-going growth opportunity and support for that expectation.
Mentoring is the central feature of a successful induction process.
Without mentoring, new staff focus on survival. With mentoring, new staff can focus on professional development and on serving their students. All participants in mentoring gain from the experience. Many mentor programs don't achieve their potential because they have not been built on the mentoring knowledge base. If you have expectations, you need a formal program with in-depth training. Mentoring can vary widely, from mentor-protege pairs, to teams of mentors.
2. THE PURPOSE AND GOALS FOR MENTORING
The purpose of the program is the same as every other district program, "To help all students learn and achieve at high levels." In this way, induction and mentoring serve the strategic reason the district exits.
The goals of the program are what it uniquely contributes to achieving the purpose that no other program contributes. Goals typically remain the same year-to-year because they need to be done every year.
Mentoring goals at a general level vary from orientation, to induction (becoming a full member of a profession), to instructional improvement, to an intent to change the culture of the school to a more collaborative learning environment.
The goals drive every other decision so set them early and refer back to them often to evaluate the potential effectiveness of later decisions.
Other common options for mentor program goals are:
To speed up the learning of a new job or skill and reduce the stress of transition
To improve instructional performance through modeling by a top performer
To attract new staff in a very competitive recruiting environment
To retain excellent veteran staff in a setting where their contributions are valued
To respond to state, district, or contractual mandates, or to university programs
To promote the socialization of new staff into the school "family", values & traditions
To alter the culture and the norms of the school by creating a collaborative subculture
Most programs identify several goals. The best way to achieve several goals is to have activities that target each goal. Activities can address more than one goal. Identify additional (and different) goals for new but experienced staff you hire.