Mentoring for Lifelong Teachers
by Amy Kunkle
Who remembers those first few weeks of school as a brand-new teacher wondering, “Am I doing this right?”, “What have I gotten myself into?”, and “What was I thinking?” Often, the only support new teachers receive is help with managing tasks: When to go to lunch or other noncurricular activities, where and how to input grades, or how to implement procedures for handling discipline. What should be taking place, but often isn’t, is mentors supporting teachers in high-quality, school-based experiences that focus on student achievement. So how do we get that? We need valuable mentors who possess the knowledge, time, and personal commitment to growing new education leaders.
It is difficult to apply any new learning without proper support. Many new teachers feel isolated and overwhelmed; in fact, a study from the National Educational Association found that approximately half of new teachers in the United States are likely to quit within the first five years (Lambert, 2006). Therefore, creating mentor programs to support new teachers can help them adjust to more than just procedures; these programs can also help teachers become more confident and effective. So what are the characteristics of a good mentor program? Successful mentor programs should ensure appropriate time for mentors to interact with mentees, include specific guidelines for mentoring activities, and require formal mentor training (Holloway, 2004).
Rowley (2009) suggests that successful mentors must be able to accept different perspectives while demonstrating empathy, provide instructional support, work with individuals of varying levels of expertise, and model reflective practice. In addition, effective mentors should also be optimistic and committed to the task of mentoring. The good news is that individuals can cultivate and hone these traits and skills over time. Therefore, training for new mentors should include the level of commitment required, clearly define the expectations and role responsibilities, and educate mentors on how to begin the support process.
When trying to create a sustainable support structure, think about how to build a comprehensive program that can support a variety of needs. Not every new teacher will have the same needs within your building, just like not every new student will have the same needs within a class. Research repeatedly indicates that differentiated instruction provides the best way to meet the needs of all of your students. So, if we individualize our instruction for students, why don’t we do the same for our teachers? Differentiated support for teachers responds to each teacher’s background and needs individually to provide them the best possible support for professional growth.
Mentors might offer new teachers the following support structures:
- Observation of veteran professionals followed by discussion on those teachers’ decisions and how they affect students’ learning
- Model lessons in the mentee’s content area or grade level followed by a reflective coaching conversation, or lessons observed by an experienced teacher who provides feedback in real time
- Team-teaching with a mentor followed by a reflective coaching conversation from the mentor
- Collaborative planning sessions
- Observation of the new teacher followed by a reflective coaching conversation
If we know that teachers may need differentiated support, then the next step would be to create an actionable plan of sequenced support. We should also plan for a gradual release of support to help new teachers build confidence and efficacy as they work with students. Fisher and Frey provide four steps in the gradual release of responsibility as new learners transition into more accountable roles. In the gradual release model, the new learners progress through watching and listening as experts show them how to complete a task, working collaboratively with expert support, practicing collaboratively with positive feedback, and participating in independent practice with expert feedback (Fisher & Frey, 2012). Note that the gradual release of responsibility is not linear: it is a two-way street that mentors can modify to provide the most appropriate levels of support.
When applying these guidelines to supporting new teachers, mentors should identify their mentees’ individual needs by observing them “in action” before developing a plan of differentiated support. As with the gradual release model, starting with the most supportive structures, such as planning and modeling within mentees’ content areas, and progressing to less hands-on support strategies, such as team-teaching and observation with coaching, will give teachers the tools necessary to be highly effective while still feeling supported.
Mentors need to know and understand their mentees individually so that they can adjust to different learning styles and needs. By respecting their mentees’ various learning and interpersonal styles, mentors can begin building relationships of trust and transparency that contribute to a school culture of continuous growth and development. As this culture develops, staff and students alike will progress and benefit.
Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2012). Improving adolescent literacy: Content area strategies at work (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Holloway, J. (2004, April). Mentoring new teachers. Educational Leadership, 61(7). Retrieved fromhttp://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr04/vol61/num07/-Mentoring-New-Leaders.aspx.
Lambert, L. (2006, May 9). Half of teachers quit in five years. The Washington Post. Retrieved fromhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/08/AR2006050801344.html
Rowley, J. B. (1999, May). The good mentor. Educational Leadership, 56(8). Retrieved fromhttp://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may99/vol56/num08/The-Good-Mentor.aspx.
Amy Kunkle is a regional master teacher with The System for Teacher and Student Advancement—commonly known as TAP—in S.C. She works with leadership teams to develop and deliver effective professional development and mentors staff support in schools around the state.
ASCD Express, Vol. 11, No. 7. Copyright 2015 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.
Are teachers excited about this? Those in education longer than 15 years know where we used to be and how to find their way forward with the knowledge you have gained. Grab the hands of newer teachers and show us the way.
How do you feel about this new Every Student Succeeds Act?
READ: THE WHITE HOUSE REPORT
What an incredible opportunity. Go to the site see how close this opportunity is!
2016 Educators Rising National Conference
Join us June 24-27, 2016, at Boston University (Boston, Mass.) for the 2016 Educators Rising National Conference! It will be three action-packed days of networking, learning, competing, and celebrating.
It’s an opportunity for students and their teacher leaders to:
- Connect and learn from each other through more than 60 breakout workshops designed to help students develop teaching skills
- Compete for national titles in more than 20 competitive events designed to allow students to develop and showcase their teaching skills
- Be inspired by keynote presentations from national education leaders
Registration will open in February 2016.
Get more information now:
- Call for Session Proposals
- Registration & Housing: General Info
- Registration & Housing: Packages
- Registration and Housing FAQ
- Sponsorship, Exhibition, and Advertising Opportunities
Call for Session Proposals
For its first national conference, Educators Rising is seeking proposals for conference sessions that are relevant and engaging for two specific audiences: 1) middle school, high school, and college students who are exploring careers in education, and 2) professional educators who are mentoring aspiring educators.
Sessions will be held on the campus of Boston University in Boston, Mass. A small number of sessions will be offered on Saturday, June 25, and Sunday, June 26. The majority of our sessions will be offered on Monday, June 27. Each session will be 45 minutes and may be led by anyone involved in education, including Educators Rising students. Join us in Boston to share your knowledge and skills with the next generation of powerful educators. Submit a session proposal now!
Please note that these sessions are to be informative, educational sessions and are not to be used to advertise or sell a product or service. We expect approximately 1,000 rising educators from across the country to attend the conference.
The theme of the conference is “There’s power in teaching.” Get creative! Session topics may include, but are not limited to, the ideas listed below. To be considered as a presenter, your proposal must be completed in its entirety and received by Educators Rising by 5:00 p.m. ET on Jan. 13, 2016.
Audience: Middle/High school and college students
- Teaching tips
- Teaching as leadership
- How to effectively teach specific content areas
- Connecting with students
- Assessment literacy
- Cultural Competence
PLANNING YOUR PATH
- The path to college (admissions process, paying for college, what to do while in high school to be ready for college, etc.)
- The path to accomplished teaching
- College life
- Service learning
- Careers in education
- Educational leadership
Audience: Professional educators who are mentoring aspiring educators
- Tips for successful Educators Rising projects and programs
- Teacher recruitment & preparation
- Teacher leadership
- Other relevant education issues
Registration and Housing
This year, Educators Rising is offering conference attendees an exciting opportunity to live and play on the Boston University campus — right where all the action is happening! We offer a wide range of registrations to fit all needs and budgets. Regardless of what package you choose, all registrations include:
- Select complimentary meals in the residential dining halls
- Sat., June 25 — Lunch
- Sun., June 26 — Lunch and Dinner
- Mon., June 27 — Lunch
- Access to more than 60 breakout workshops designed to help students develop teaching skills
- Opportunity to compete in more than 20 competitive events designed for students to showcase their teaching and leadership skills
- Entry into three keynote presentations from national education leaders
- Admission to the Educators Rising College Day and Innovation Fair
Registration and Housing Packages
Package A — Registration fee includes double occupancy housing for 4 nights (Our most popular and best value!)
|Early bird rate (before April 19)||$399.00|
|Regular rate (after April 19)||$439.00|
This rate includes conference registration for one person and housing in a double occupancy room in Boston University’s West Campus dormitory-style residence halls for FOUR nights. (Housing arrival date: Fri., June 24. Housing departure date: Tues., June 28.)
Package B — Registration fee includes single occupancy housing for 4 nights
|Early bird rate (before April 19)||$479.00|
|Regular rate (after April 19)||$519.00|
This rate includes conference registration for one person and housing in a single occupancy room in Boston University’s West Campus dormitory-style residence halls for FOUR nights. (Housing arrival date: Fri., June 24. Housing departure date: Tues., June 28.)Package C — Registration fee includes double occupancy housing for 3 nights
|Early bird rate (before April 19)||$349.00|
|Regular rate (after April 19)||$389.00|
This rate includes conference registration for one person and housing in a double occupancy room in Boston University’s West Campus dormitory-style residence halls for THREE nights. (Housing arrival date: Fri., June 24. Housing departure date: Mon., June 27.)Package D — Registration fee includes single occupancy housing for 3 nights
|Early bird rate (before April 19)||$409.00|
|Regular rate (after April 19)||$449.00|
This rate includes conference registration for one person and housing in a single occupancy room in Boston University’s West Campus dormitory-style residence halls for THREE nights. (Housing arrival date: Fri., June 24. Housing departure date: Mon., June 27.)Package E — Registration fee without housing
|Early bird rate (before April 19)||$199.00|
|Regular rate (after April 19)||$239.00|
Registration and Housing FAQ
Sponsorship, Exhibition, and Advertising Opportunities
Nonprofit, for-profit, and public sector organizations focused on education are invited to sponsor, exhibit, and advertise during this one-of-a-kind event. Participating in the Educators Rising National Conference is a high-impact way to connect with high school students and gain exposure for your school, program, or product.
From Jennifer Weibert:
The CDE has released the first draft of the 2016 Science Framework. The document is open for public review and it is very important that science teachers from the Valley have a voice in the Framework. Teachers in grades K-6 are highly encouraged to attend along with 7-12 science teachers.
The Fresno County Office of Education would like to provide a regional opportunity for teachers to come together to read and review and prepare feedback collaboratively. This opportunity will be January 14th from 4:30pm-7:00pm at the Fresno County Office of Education. FREE of charge and dinner will be served.
This is your opportunity to read and review the 1st Draft of the California Science Curriculum Framework.
Participate in a working meeting where you will give feedback in a facilitated setting alongside colleagues (you are welcome to submit your own feedback directly, but we are hosting a public review session to help guide you through the process and allow for a collaborative setting). Your feedback must be submitted to the Instructional Quality Commission by the end of the 60-day public comment period (November 17, 2015 – January 19, 2016).
Be Prepared To Give Feedback
Before attending, check the CDE website for the link to download the draft document Public Review and Comment. Please do the following:
- Read Introduction/Guiding Principles to the CA Science Framework chapter. This will provide a grounding and common understanding of NGSS and the purpose of the document.
- Read the grade-level chapter(s) of greatest interest to you.
- Finally, we request participants to read one of the following supplemental chapters to ensure that the entire document is reviewed:
- Ch. 8 – Assessment
- Ch. 9-Access and Equity
- Appendix A-Literature for Science
- Appendix E-Teaching about HIV/AIDS
Please email Jennifer Weibert at email@example.com with any questions. You must RSVP to attend so that we have enough space and dinner.
Science Fair Regional Director
Fresno County Office of Education