[Professional Development] 4 Tips to Be a Better Mentor

Thursday, July 28, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

At the beginning of the school year, veteran teachers often volunteer (or maybe are persuaded) to mentor an incoming new teacher. Mentoring is a noble pursuit—one that is indispensable in the development of the next generation of the teaching ranks. But, as with all aspects of the teaching profession, there are several best practices that can help both mentors and mentees make the best of this crucial relationship.                                                                                          

Ask for a Self-Assessment

Even the newest teachers have a read on what they are good at and what could use some improvement (just assume classroom management falls into the latter). Start a meaningful two-way relationship by asking the mentee what his or her background is, what drew him or her to the teaching profession, and what he or she feels his or her strengths and weaknesses are. Knowing what to work on can save a lot of time.

Observe and Be Observed

Wait a few weeks for your mentee to get comfortable in his or her new classroom, then schedule a time where you can observe one of his or her lessons. After that, make another appointment to have him or her observe you. Try to use your lesson as an opportunity to model practices that you saw as challenges for your mentee during his or her observation.

Plug In Your Mentee Socially

The new teacher you’re mentoring just got 100+ coworkers to meet and connect with; that’s a daunting task. Make sure that your mentee knows about all of the social outlets available to him or her. Is there a faculty softball team, book club, or other interest group? When and where are the happy hour gatherings? Things like this can take a lot longer for the mentee to find by himself or herself; the insider tips will make a big difference.

Be Objective

In helping your mentee get acclimated to the school and the teaching profession as a whole, you may find yourself either being too positive or negative in your commentary about certain aspects of the work. Keep in mind that this person is early on in his or her teaching journey in the midst of an intense period of his or her life, and he or she won’t want to hear all puppies and rainbows any more than strictly negative comments. Work to make your comments and advice objective; every new teacher has a right to form his or her own opinion about the life he or she has entered into.

Strong mentoring relationships are key to all educators’ development, but there are plenty of other outlets to utilize proactively to improve your practice on your mentee’s. Start with this Summer Reading List for Educators