By Connie Deardorff, guest writer
Stepping into your first teaching position for the first time can be quite daunting and at times intimidating. Stepping into a new school can present the same feelings. That is why making mentoring meaningful is so important in our schools.
Whether you are a new teacher in elementary, middle school or high school, it is usually apparent that all those classes on management, theory and curriculum may not have covered all essential topics for classroom success. On the other hand, a teacher coming into a new building has his or her own challenges of understanding the culture, expectations and demographics of their new school.
Mentoring needs to be an ongoing process
Most schools take a few days to prepare staff before the beginning of the year and usually dedicate a few hours to new staff. That time is usually spent on handbooks, emergency protocol and school identity. Those few days are usually lacking any substantial mentoring for new teachers walking into the classroom for the first time or the new teacher to the building let alone any program that would support the teacher for the year.
As teachers, we all know the importance of the curriculum and various disciplines which may be our specialty, but not many teachers have any idea of the importance of learning how to make their way through cultivating relationships with principals, other staff, board members parents and students.
Mentoring provides classroom and emotional success
Mentoring a new teacher is essential not only for classroom success but also for emotional success. As a new teacher there are so many questions that arise after a teacher becomes entrenched in the classroom. Providing a knowledgeable, caring veteran educator as a mentor helps to ensure the success for the new teacher especially in their crucial first year. To make mentoring meaningful, this mentor should be able to give advice and provide emotional support as the first year proceeds.
Providing a mentor to the veteran teacher helps them to navigate the expectations and climate for each position. It also gives the teacher an immediate contact for questions that can and will arise during the first year in a new building. This provides a comfort level that also helps to insure success.
Mentors cannot fill a one size fits all role
Since each teacher is unique in personality and teaching style the mentorship should allow for this and encourage trial and error in best practices. The mentor is not there to clone the mentor’s style but to help the teacher to develop his/her own style.
A school that just assigns teachers as mentors does a disservice to the new teacher since the mentor should be in total agreement to this commitment. Mentoring is a necessary part of first year teaching as well as for those who transfer into a new school.
The mentorship should be fluid to fit the person’s experience and background. “One size fits all” should never be used as a program as its success depends on it fitting the individual and their needs and wants.
Using techniques that qualify and empower teachers to mentor others will help in the success of that program and in turn will benefit the student as well as insure teacher retention.
Guest writer retired teacher Connie Deardorff says she entered the teaching field kicking and screaming into an 8th grade classroom of mostly boys who were more than a handful. With no teaching degree and a background in anthropology, she found she loved the energy and the sass and spent the next 30 years as a high school teacher, principal, school marketing specialist and servant leader in Catholic school, public school as well as adult ESL, New Tech school and Ivy Tech. She taught AP History, US History, English, Psychology, Business and World History. Her most important lessons taught were the relationships she formed with each of her students.