Why Teachers Need Mentors?

When one chooses to become a teaching mentor, it is surely a chance by which difference can be made in someone’s life. Mentoring can enable a new teacher to make an effective transition into the multifaceted and productive career. This can later facilitate the students to have a healthy and flourishing year ahead.

Mentoring is not an easy task; the tactics, which might be persuasive for one teacher might not work so well for other teachers. There can be times when well-intended criticism appears to be a negative one for someone. There are always some ways that can assist mentors in becoming better, and for new teachers, mentors are always a blessing.

Deb Bowles, a primary school teacher mentor, associated with Great Books Foundation, recalls her experience of working with Elsa, who is a fifth-grade teacher in Los Angeles. Elsa was in a struggling situation because she was finding it difficult to engage all the students in her large class, into class discussions.

“She was always judging herself critically, and I just kept on assuring her that this is a situation that will soon be over, and she can overcome it,” said Bowles, her mentor, who always guided her about using shared inquiry method of learning.

“I used to tell her that shared inquiry method was simple and challenging both. By using shared inquiry, you will be able to manage and mold the thinking of all the students in your class. Naturally, you should practice how to do it,” Bowles added.

This is something true for every teacher. A mentor is someone who can serves as another set of eyes and can is a shoulder to cry on at times, as well. No doubt, a mentor always creates an immense impact on the teaching and learning experience.

It has been more than a decade during which various research studies have shown that quality of teachers is directly related to student achievements, as it is one of the most influential school-related determinants. According to considerable evidence, many education leader programs are initiated at different levels in the US. Not only average teachers become good, but good teachers also become highly trained educators, when mentors are chosen and trained via intensive processes and given ample time to work with them. A usual practice observed in some of the US districts is that the new teachers are most often allocated to poorest schools with most challenging classrooms. The mentoring programs serve as powerful levers for filling up the gaps in teachers, and these also ensure that all the students in a class succeed, despite their backgrounds.

Stepping Ahead And Not Looking Back: The Story Of A True Mentor

Another teacher mentor Abby Paske, who works at New Teacher Center at Oakland in the Team Science Program, shares one of her unforgettable experiences with a new teacher. For her, mentoring was a hard task, which was dependent upon constant give and take relationship while adopting the educational approach for new teachers. She considered mentoring as a juggling act- where the mentee is given adequate allowance to make mistakes. However, according to the situation in her district, those teachers were needed in the classrooms who could make real differences in students’ lives while also keeping a careful eye on them.

Annette was one of the teachers with whom she regards her experience as a breakthrough of her career. Annette worked at a small middle school with struggling students. She taught both science and math there. Most of the students who studied there were having chronic truancy and other sorts of behavioral problems, which prevented them to be successful at the school. When Abby met Annette, she explicitly told her that her students were not able to do hands-on activities. Whenever they are given to do one, they always make a mess. According to Annette, she was not able to bring seriousness in their attitudes and control the excitement of her students. She thought that hands-on activities did not work for her class.

It took almost a year for Abby to revive Annette’s courage for making her students perform hands-on activities in class. Abby’s breakthrough started to work nearly eight weeks ago when they both were planning to do some hands-on activity in chemistry class. Abby counseled her to make a group of three most well-behaved students in the class and first conduct the activity with them. At the same time, she also had to make the video of these students while doing work. Later, Abby advised her to conduct the same activity in the class by running the video and use those three students to instruct other students by gathering them in small groups. Annette led the class activity in the same way, and it was a huge success. She also videotaped the experience, and they both watched it together. It was astonishing to see that the whole class was in control and only learning environment prevailed throughout the session.  Annette’s students also got appreciation when she took them to a district event with other pupils in the community. Her students, who were named as ‘problem kids’ by others in the district, actually pinned down other students with the knowledge of the topics that they had learned by using this newly developed strategy. Annette was highly ecstatic by her and her students’ success, and she owed all this success to her mentor, Abby. She believed that Abby was the one who told her that using teacher-directed style was not workable, particularly, when you have to work with struggling students.

Now, when the academic year is finishing, Abby is proud of Annette. She feels happy on the success of her mentee and also of her students. She also encourages other mentors to work hard on their mentees and always move forward without looking back. There are solutions for everyone!

Personality Traits of Excellent Mentors

Commitment: Mentors are always needed in a society. They are committed to their tasks and aid to finding good teachers for the development of the community. Mentors never give up on their job. They totally understand the importance of persistence in classroom teaching, and they show the same through their attitude. Mentors always have an inner belief that they are capable of creating an active and vital impact on others lives. Such commitments always flow naturally, as they are grounded in the experiences of real mentors. They have the knowledge that makes the challenging job of mentoring easier for them. In fact, they consider this job as an investment of their time and energy in a very positive direction.

Acceptance: The beginning of an effective mentoring is grounded in having empathy, which only means accepting someone without making critical judgments. The mentor is always accepting new teachers as the ones who need to be nurtured both personally and professionally. Mentors do not make instant decisions or rebuff their mentees as being not prepared, arrogant, inexperienced, or defensive. Rather, good mentors always take these attributes as challenges for themselves and give meaningful support to mentees.

Skilled in providing Instructional Support: Novice teachers always step in their professional careers with different levels of skills in them. Some are good, and some are average at design and delivery of curriculum. Good mentors teach beginning teachers regardless of their skill levels. They train everyone with their knowledge and expertise and bring improvement.

Good interpersonal relations: The new teachers are not equivalent and so are not all the mentors. Relationship difficulties can exist between mentors and mentees and can result in diminished support for new teachers. It depends only upon the mentors to recognize that every mentoring relationship is unique, and help has to be provided at every level.

Continuous learner: Effective solutions and better answers can only come in mind through constant reading and learning new things. Good mentors reveal this behavior when they are confronted with a problematic situation during mentoring. The process of learning for a good mentor never ends.

The Need For Good Mentors Always Grows In The Society!

Someone in our lives always creates a positive and enduring impact on our professional personality. Someone worthy enough of being called a mentor- a particular person who has been professionally appointed for helping others through the obstacles of their professional careers. Previously, teachers were not provided mentors for career development. In fact, there are many mentors who remember that their initial years in the classroom were difficult ones, and they had to face all the problems alone without any formal support. Fortunately, the situation has changed now. Many school districts in the US have introduced entry-level programs in which pairs of experienced and new teachers are made. In nearly all the cases, experienced officials pair up new teachers, even before the establishment of a personal relationship between them.  This current practice of school-based mentoring program is highly beneficial to cope up with unique challenges, and it helps to provide support, which increases student’s success in different academic disciplines.  Likewise, it also results in indefinite success of any academy as well that augments such mentoring programs in their curriculum.

David Cutler shares his experience as a history teacher. At the age of 23, he was a fresh graduate and moved to Miami to teach American history at the Palmer Trinity, a private school in Palmetto Bay. He was totally new at the place with no friends and family in the area and not much familiar with the surroundings. David wanted to get a firmer hold on the curriculum by making his lesson plans more appropriate and engaging for students.

Today, after having seven years of teaching experience and changing the lives of many students under his leadership, he considers whatever he has accomplished is directly related to high quality, helpful mentorship that he got during the first year of his teaching. He says that he would not have been what he is today if he had quit in his first few years of the job.

The mentorship serves several constructive purposes in the society. Some of them are:

Serve as a Best Friend:

Trust is one of the building blocks for having a real mentor-mentee relationship. New teachers are not much courageous to express their doubts and mistakes to experienced teachers without any fear, discomfiture or ramification. This can only be accomplished if mentors serve as confidants and not as judges. Their only concern must be to help the mentees so that in turn, the students could succeed in the classrooms.  There might be situations when it is not necessary to report the mistakes of mentees to seniors. A real mentor always gives allowance to refine and analyze first rather than just reporting. Scolding for mistakes is not a good approach to teaching. In fact, support and praise can lead to much better results for becoming an effective teacher.

Good Observers:

Mentors help by observing classes and discussing the flaws along with positive things observed during the class. Good mentors never threat or intimidate the mentees; rather they listen to their mentees as well. Listening and observing the new teachers can help to understand the feelings that are behind the words, those feelings that can be judged by the body language of teachers. Mentors help by evaluating the body language and then finding out the most honest way to help, instead of being hurtful or insensitive. Good mentors always manage the situation and provide guidance in a comfort zone to novice teachers.

Help To Build Up the Confidence:

Mentors help to develop the sense of empowering confidence in new teachers. They invest countless hours even after school to aid the teachers in the development of lesson plans and describing ways by which assessments can be made in effective ways. This attitude helps to create a tremendous sense of safety as the mentor gives the reassurance himself.

Provides Psychological Benefits:

Mentoring is not just limited to career benefits; rather there are psychological benefits also. It always raises the self-esteem of the mentee. The mentoring experience is associated with the development of a great sense of connotation in the world. Mentors also enjoy the satisfaction of helping someone who is less experienced. This could also be described as one of the ways of giving back and thanking the teaching profession.

Follow Coaching Plans:

Mentors also pursue rigorous and relevant instructional methods to teach the mentees. They already know the path through which success can come in the way of a new teacher’s professional development. Through their collegial acts, Mentors stimulate curiosity in their mentees and facilitate them in learning new things that can help them in the future ahead.

It is a Real Professional Development!

Teacher mentoring programs are constantly on the rise since the beginning of the year 1980 in the US. They are remarkably providing a vehicle, which strongly supports the novice teachers. Mentoring focuses on the development of new teaching professionals. It has many benefits as well, both for the mentors and for the mentees. It is a two-way process, in which both mentors and mentees benefit from each other in distinctive ways. This idea that mentors also benefit from mentoring is not a new one. In the 1980s, people started to acknowledge that it provided positive professional growth for mentors. Mentoring programs also expand the space for improvement of the classroom teaching skills of mentors. These programs also make them aware of the need for educators’ communication with each other in different ways. It also creates an understanding of the role that they have to practice in the institution.

The word, which can be associated with novice teacher, is the struggle. This association shows that the initial years for new teachers are always of struggle. Although, the sanguinity and the enthusiasm, which is found in a new professional, are there, these feelings fade off with time very quickly if mentoring is not done properly in beginning years. Anxiety and confusion are often seen in the first year of teaching. These feelings can be conquered if mentoring and coaching provided to new teachers is related to the development of excellence and student success. A new teacher is always concerned right from day one about students. During the whole year, different learning experiences are gained by new teachers, which can help to thrive professionally.  If all the needs are adequately addressed, then successful development can be made. Otherwise, it would be difficult to retain the new teachers in the teaching profession.

As an old saying goes, give a hungry person a fish, and you will feed him for a day, but teach him to fish and he will feed himself for the entire life; this holds true for mentorship too. The traits of good mentorship even last when the mentor is not there around because the aim of mentorship is to make the mentee self-sufficient. The primary goal of mentorship is to create the competency along with the capacity by which a teacher can make informed decisions on his/her own.