Mentoring another person can be a daunting task, but supporting a new teacher can be as easy as offering a sympathetic ear to listen and a word of advice when needed. The key to being a successful mentor is to take everything step by step. Your role as a mentor is an important one. Most new teachers feel overwhelmed by the reality facing them in the classroom. Training in the day-to-day operations of a classroom including the paperwork, routines, and interpersonal relations with students and other teachers is not taught and is only experienced in a limited fashion during student teaching. This leaves most new teachers floundering during their first year. Your role, as the mentor, is to offer guidance and support. It can be difficult, however, to determine how much help to offer a new teacher. Below are some guidelines that you may find helpful as you undertake your role as a mentor.
Begin by asking your new teacher his or her preference for ideas and suggestions from you. Some new teachers would like to start trying out their own ideas right away while others may want more detailed information and ideas to help get started in the beginning.
When talking with the new teacher, ask guiding and specific questions rather than "umbrella" questions such as "How is your week going?" or "How are you doing?" A more constructive question would be, "How are your students responding to your lessons? Why do you think this is occurring?" or "What kind of behavior problems are you facing in the classroom?"
Do not be afraid to offer suggestions, but donít be offended if they are not used immediately. It may not be that the new teacher thinks your ideas are bad, but he/she may be too overwhelmed to make any changes at that point.
Being a buddy is fine, but it shouldnít be your only goal as a mentor.
Give information and ideas in small amounts and at appropriate times.
Refrain from being judgmental in your actions and comments to the new teacher.
When observing new teachers, be ready to provide an immediate positive comment and one area of improvement. Save the rest for your "de-briefing" either during a conference time or after school.
Allow the new teacher to listen to some of your initial parent contacts or sit in on one of your parent conferences as a "team member." This allows the new teacher to see how you handle different situations and builds his/her comfort level.
When going over paperwork, be ready to fill out an example with the new teacher.
Offer a time for the new teacher to observe you on a "regular" day or class period.
Take your role seriously. Use the time with your mentee in a constructive manner. Donít give in to the temptation to simply gossip or vent frustrations.
Be ready to provide constructive criticism when necessary. As with anyone, always start out with a positive comment first.
Help the new teacher get acquainted and involved with the other faculty members.