Monday, March 5, 2012

Mentoring New Teachers

By Michele Luck

Teachers Pay Teachers Store Front: Michele Luck's Social Studies   

Mentoring new teachers is a great privilege and a great challenge. Experienced teachers often enjoy having young, learning mentees in their classrooms because they offer new perspectives and updated content knowledge. Yet, they can also feel burdened by obligations to prepare new teachers well for their blossoming careers. Being a good mentoring teacher requires preparation, open-mindedness, and dedication.

To provide new teachers with great learning experiences, mentoring teachers must teach as they know best. They do this in several ways: providing excellent learning opportunities, allowing new teachers to step outside of the box, and letting new teachers fail. With most training taking place in working classrooms, it can be stressful for parents to hand over children to inexperienced teachers. For mentoring teachers and parents, it can be fearful to allow new educators to fail from time to time, but this is how they gain skills and determination needed in their professional careers. For mentoring teachers, one of the greatest challenges is to keep control of “real classrooms” while turning them into “learning environments”. At the same time, mentoring teachers will witness wonderful interactions and incredible learning moments that will be priceless in their own teaching careers.

Here are some simple steps all mentoring teachers should take in assisting their new teacher counterparts:

1. Show mentees around their new environments. This seems like an elementary activity, but new teachers can become overwhelmed with simple things, such as finding bathrooms in a hurry. Show them the faculty areas, introduce them to support staff, and include them into teaching teams. 

2. Provide resources. Allow new teacher to use veterans’ materials, show them workroom materials, and provide them links to favorite teaching sites. Help them identify content area websites, and be sure to inform them about great resources available at Teachers Pay Teachers!

3. Model correct classroom management. One of the greatest challenges for most new teachers is classroom management. Share ideas, provide them long-standing tools that have worked. Try Wong’s First Days of School or my handbook A Lesson Plan for Teachers, New & Old then offer suggestions for mentees’ classroom development plans.

4. Explain the curriculum. Despite the many classes new teachers take on curriculum, they will only begin to know their content once they start teaching it. More importantly, new teachers need to understand what standards are required and what objectives their students must learn. Those two things may not always be the same! Help mentees’ write lesson plans and encourage them to find tools that will be helpful.

5. Become a soundboard. Listen, listen, and listen some more. New teachers are often very sensitive to their failures and frustrations, so encourage them then let them know that we have experienced similar incidents. Allow them an open forum where advice if offered and where failures and frustrations are shared, which will help them validate their own insecurities. Finally, as new teachers are sent off to their classrooms provide them links to favorite teaching blogs. Remember to offer ongoing support since we know what it is like to “walk in their shoes”! 

In many states, first year teachers are paired with veterans or well-established teachers for learning experiences that only successful, working teachers with their own classrooms can provide. What new teachers learn in their monitoring experiences cannot be taught from textbooks and cannot be shared in lectures. Only “walking in the others’ shoes” can help mentees learn the skills and patience they will need to be effective and successful in their own classrooms. 

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  1. Great post! I am currently mentoring a new teacher.

  2. As a new teacher this is exactly what I need. Thank you for sharing.

    Mrs Poland
    Think, Wonder, & Teach


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