ALL NEW TEACHERS NEED MENTORING PROGRAMS
Most educators agree that mentoring programs (induction) are essential for beginning teachers to meet the needs of their students. Although available mentoring programs have doubled in the past two decades, approximately half of the states still offer no formal mentoring for new teachers.
There are more new teachers in the U.S. today than at any time in the past 20 years. One reason that nearly 50% of them leave in the first 5 years is due to the lack of support from experienced teachers in the field. With new teachers leaving and experienced teachers retiring, we have a significant teacher shortage . New teachers rely on onsite training for classroom success. If they do not receive strong support and continued growth during the steep learning curve in their first 2 years, they are twice as likely to abandon their career. Mentoring programs train new teachers in a systematic and sequential approach to learn how to provide effective instruction to their deserving students.
WHAT SUPPORT DO NEW TEACHERS NEED?
New teachers are expected to perform like a seasoned veteran on the very first day of school. The hours spent in student teaching preparation programs is rarely sufficient to teach them all they need to know when they start teaching. Just a few of their monumental tasks include:
- Understanding and implementing the curriculum and meeting state standards
- Managing and organizing the classroom
- Developing and following a student discipline plan with rewards and consequences
- Applying various teaching strategies to accomodate various student learning styles
- Evaluating student progress and providing frequent feedback
- Conducting parent conferences and communicating on a regular basis
- Planning and preparing lessons meeting short-term and long-term goals and objectives
- Participating in extracurricular activities and serving on school committees
WHY SHOULD SCHOOLS OFFER NEW TEACHER MENTORING PROGRAMS?
- To improve the retention of new teachers
- To improve student achievement
- To increase the effectiveness of new teachers
- To reduce district recruiting costs
- To increase collaboration and teamwork among the faculty
- To expand teacher leadership opportunities
WHAT ARE THE KEY COMPONENTS OF STRONG MENTORING PROGRAMS?
The New Teacher Center, a national non-profit organization founded is 1998, is dedicated to strengthening the practice of beginning teachers. Based on their extensive research, they work at the federal, state and local levels with policymakers and educational leaders to develop and administer mentoring programs for new teachers. To assist states in developing strong mentoring programs, they created a state induction policy that identifies 9 areas of importance for success.
- Teachers Served
Require all new teachers to receive induction support for the first two years in the profession.
- Mentor Quality
Develop a rigorous mentor selection process.
Require initial and ongoing professional development for mentors.
Develop methods of assigning mentors to new teachers.
Create a reasonable student caseload for both new teachers and mentors.
Provide release time for mentors.
Provide dedicated mentor-new teacher contact time.
- Program Quality
Require mentors to regularly observe new teachers and to provide instructional feedback.
Require new teachers to observe other experienced teachers and to join a peer network.
Encourage a reduced student caseload for new teachers.
- Program Standards
States should adopt formal program standards that determine the design and operation of local induction programs.
Approve and appropriate dedicated funding for local new teacher mentor programs.
Create competitive and innovative funding methods to support new teacher mentoring programs.
- Teacher Certification
States should require new teachers to complete an induction program before moving to the next level license.
- Program Accountability
States should assess induction programs through program evaluation, program surveys and peer reviews.
- Teaching Conditions
Adopt formal standards for teaching and learning conditions.
Regularly assess these conditions.
Include these formal standards for such conditions into school improvement plans.
In spite of significant efforts made by policymakers and educational leaders to research and design new teacher mentoring programs, too many states offer limited support or none at all. Since most of the teaching population is now comprised of early-career teachers, all states need to create and implement mentoring programs to adequately and quickly support our new teachers.
Our students deserve well-supported teachers to achieve academic success!
“A mentoring program for new teachers is a critical component of the induction of new teachers into the profession. It makes necessary connections between theory and practice, supports the professional and personal growth of beginning teachers and provides professional development opportunities for the mentor teacher.”
This quote is from the ‘Mentoring Beginning Teachers Program Handbook’ published by The Alberta Teachers’ Association. In researching this topic, a number of other school districts have written mentoring handbooks which could help districts who are developing mentoring programs for their new teachers.
Stay tuned for the next blog on ‘How to be an outstanding mentor teacher’.