Teachers often report they find their profession to be rewarding, and many people feel working in education helps make the world a better place. That comes from a PayScale survey of more than 500,000 professionals from multiple industries, and the results were dominated by education and healthcare. In fact, two types of teachers, high school teachers and GED teacher, made it into the top 10.
Unfortunately, teachers don’t always have the best experience early on in their careers. As a result, the Consortium for Policy Research in Education reported that 44% of new teachers choose different career paths within five years.
Experienced teachers and administrators can reverse that trend by supporting new teachers. Taking steps to reach out to new teachers with resources including emotional support and mentoring.
6 Tactics for Supporting New Teachers
Academic publisher The Conversation outlines six tactics administrators can leverage to deliver new teacher support. The article shows the power of supporting new teachers by:
1. Standardizing new teacher onboarding
Yes, four-year degrees prepare teachers to lead classrooms. But new teachers need additional training for the unique expectations of their first school. This is why a standard onboarding process is important. It helps teachers learn school policies, meet team members and acclimate to the culture before they engage with their students.
2. Assigning an experienced faculty mentor
Mentoring programs allow new teachers to learn from educators who have already navigated the new teacher journey. These relationships help new teachers feel supported and access personal advice for challenges they face.
3. Harnessing Schoolwide Expertise
Supporting new teachers demands participation from school leaders and faculty beyond a single mentor. School leaders can contribute by holding training sessions on key policies, and by making mentoring programs community-based, new teachers are able to form relationships with and learn from one another.
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4. Strengthening partnerships between schools and universities
Schools should partner with universities to offer continuous learning opportunities to faculty members who are involved in supporting new teachers. For instance, established teachers can enroll in education programs to learn how to boost their mentoring abilities, enhance onboarding processes, and contribute to schoolwide achievement.
5. Developing an ongoing induction plan
Induction, which can be confused with orientation, focuses on the transition of new teachers into the profession as a whole. Induction plans allow new teachers to access training for best teaching practices. Plans should span one to three school years and conform to lessons and activities in the school calendar.
6. Setting measurable goals for new teacher support tactics
All tactics outlined above should tie to clear, measurable goals. This requires schools to analyze new teacher performance in the context of support the school provides. School leaders should capture feedback from teachers and mentors to determine what went well and what can improve.
Ideas for Mentoring New Teachers
Mentors are on the front lines for supporting new teachers. The National Association of Secondary School Principals has detailed ways for schools to ensure faculty mentors deliver aid that new educators need. Their ideas include:
Taking a Team Approach to Mentoring
To paraphrase the poet John Donne, no mentor is an island. Mentors carry full teaching loads, so they need backup from teammates to offer new teacher support. Mentors should employ other faculty members as understudies, taking a team approach to supporting new teachers. This leads to a well-rounded experience where new teachers learn coping ideas based on diverse perspectives.
Role play between mentors and new teachers is a low-stress way to prepare for real-world challenges. For instance, mentors can play the role of parents and guardians when new teachers practice for parent-teacher conferences. Schools can also arrange for mentors to observe a new teacher’s class to offer feedback.
Opening a Dialogue
Basing a mentorship on honesty paves the way for productive mentor-mentee relationships. School leaders can open this dialogue by asking new teachers what they love about their mentor and what support is missing. These conversations offer ideas for refining current mentorships and improving mentoring programs for the next class of new teachers.
Helping Teachers Believe in Themselves
A mentor is a new teacher’s biggest cheerleader. Efforts for supporting new teachers should instill confidence that they can succeed despite how challenging teaching can be. Mentors can inspire the best in new teachers by celebrating wins big and small — and encouraging faculty and students to do the same.
Educators are developing other innovative ways to expand the role mentors play in new teachers’ careers. For example, fourth-grade teacher Stacey-Ann Barrett recently embarked on a mentorship with a student-teacher that spanned a complete school year instead of only one semester. The student-teacher got to set up her first classroom, attend faculty meetings and teach students under Barrett’s tutelage before graduating college.
This early, embedded experience helped the student-teacher identify and refine weaknesses while enrolled in college. Barrett helped the student-teacher learn from mistakes and gain the confidence to lead a class of her own.
Mentor the Mentors to Spark Continuous Improvement
It takes time to become an impactful teacher. It takes even longer for impactful teachers to gain the ability to double as effective mentors. In the guide Mentoring New Teachers: A Fresh Look, the Southern Regional Education Board offers plans for developing faculty mentors who specialize in supporting new teachers.
An important step is to develop mentor-selection benchmarks beyond years of experience. Schools should test whether a mentor candidate can empathize with new teachers and offer personal support that leads to continuous growth.
Schools should also encourage continuous growth for mentors. Key growth areas include strengthening a mentor’s relationship-building and coaching skills. A white paper by WestEd advocates for providing time away from class to attend training that promotes success. Training examples include seminars, workshops and academic programs that improve skills educators need in the classroom and beyond.
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