Mentoring programs for new teachers need to be tailored to meet each educator's needs and can be accomplished through a variety of models, depending on what best fits the situation and what's feasible given a district's resources, District Administration reports.
One example of a one-on-one coaching model is The Mentor Program, a partnership between Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, which screens experienced mentors and pairs them with beginning teachers to offer evaluation-free personalized professional development and emotional support.
Other models include the WoLakota Project, a partnership between the South Dakota Department of Education and Technology and Innovation in Education (TIE) that supports new teachers — who come from high-needs districts serving a large Native American student population — through mentoring, networking and retreats. In contrast, the Urban Teacher Residency Partnership Program, a collaboration between the University of South Florida and Florida’s Hillsborough County Public Schools, uses video coaching to support preservice teachers through a two-year residency program that guarantees them a job in the district.
According to a recent blog post published by the Institute of Education Sciences, about 17% of teachers leave within the first five years of teaching. “This turnover rate costs states and districts money and time, and negatively affects student outcomes. Teacher induction programs offer a way to provide supports for beginning teachers and keep them in classrooms. Although the research is mixed on the effects of mentoring and induction programs, some studies suggest that comprehensive induction programs can increase retention rates among beginning teachers,” the article states.
This impact of mentoring on beginning teacher retention is also borne out by a study in Washington state that examined the impact of the Beginning Educator Support Team teacher mentorship program. Based on trends from a five-year span, the study predicted that only 6% of first-year teachers in districts that adopted the program would leave within one year, compared to 10% of first-year teachers in districts that did not participate fully.
Beginning teachers need better preparation for the profession and better support for the challenges they may face in the classroom. While professional development alone can provide some training and collaboration, good mentors provide more support by helping to personalize instruction, answer questions, and provide the emotional support and confidence that beginning teachers desperately need.
Taking on a mentor role also benefits veteran teachers in multiple ways: Not only does this extra responsibility often come with a pay boost, but it also allows these teachers to have more voice and influence. Great teachers love to teach, whether it is a student in a classroom or a new educator learning to adapt to the realities of instruction. Acting as a mentor solidifies the legacy and impact of a seasoned teacher and can place them in a position poised for advancement.
Principals also play a large role in the success of newer teachers. By understanding the challenges they face and providing them with adequate supports — either through mentorship programs, residencies or other forms of professional development — these school leaders can increase the likelihood of success and effectiveness in the classroom.