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[Professional Development] 4 Ways to Become a Better Mentor

[Professional Development] 4 Ways to Become a Better Mentor

Great mentors can be the key to setting yourself up for success in any career. Being a mentor can be a great way to pass down the wisdom, tips, and tricks you’ve learned over the course of your career.  Mentoring matters. Many veteran teachers often volunteer (or are urged to) mentor an incoming teacher.

While being a mentor can be a lot of work, mentoring new teachers is critical to the success of the school year (and their teaching career as a whole). Here are a few best practices to help you mentor in a more effective way this school year:

1. Start off with self-assessment of mentees

Most people tend to have a pretty good read on what their personal strengths and weaknesses are, despite a lack of experience on the job. Begin your relationship by asking a few simple questions, such as what the backgrounds of mentees look like, what they like about the field of education, what they are most nervous about, and where they feel their strengths and weaknesses lie. Consider having mentees take a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or CliftonStrengths 34 (formerly Clifton StrengthsFinder) assessment. Knowing mentees’ perspectives is likely to save you a lot of time.

2. Observe mentees in action

Let mentees settle into a classroom routine, and then schedule a time to come and observe them in action. Write down what you liked, what you thought they could improve upon, and what ways you’ve overcome the same challenges in your own classroom. Mentees may face the same challenges you once did and will definitely appreciate your feedback! Be sure to follow up, as, sometimes, a friendly face and a simple: “How are you doing?” makes a big impact. 

3. Acquaint mentees with others

For everyone, even a seasoned teacher, starting a new job (in a possibly brand-new place) can be overwhelming. Take this time to introduce mentees to others and invite them to social outings. You don’t need to answer ALL questions from mentees on your own; networking allows you to know the specialties and superpowers of other educators in your program and having mentees interact with colleagues can provide a variety of skills for support. Insider tips can help mentees feel more welcome and in tune with what’s gong on at your school. We know that when we give students choice and the power to work together, we see stronger results in both engagement and learning. The same is true for teachers and colleagues.

4. Don’t sugarcoat the good, bad, and ugly truths

It can be easy to give only positive advice and tips about your own experiences at school. However, mentees are still fresh in their teaching careers and could benefit to hear both the good and bad parts about your journey thus far. When you discuss your triumphs and best practices, try and also include examples of challenges or obstacles you encountered and how you overcame them. Remember, while it’s important to talk about the negative experiences, remain objective and neutral. Let mentees form their own opinions about other teachers and building or district policies.

This is an incredibly exciting time in the life of a new teacher, but it is also incredibly stressful. By taking the time to check in, chat, and acknowledge the pressures of the position, you can start building trust and a process for sharing and support.

While you’re building relationships with new teachers at your school, make sure to evaluate and grow in your own performance with these helpful self-reflection tips!

Interested in learning more about the Edmentum Educator Network? Get the details and join our community today!

This post was originally published July 2018 by Brita Hammer and has been updated.

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Winnie O'Leary

Winnie O’Leary has spent over 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, school board member, a family advocate, special education teacher, curriculum writer and currently the Educator Initiatives Manager. Her experiences have allowed her to work with districts all over the country where she learns something new and exciting every day.