As the baby boomers start to retire, you lose the most experienced teachers in your school board. How do you engage in succession planning to ensure that student achievement stays high when younger, less experienced practitioners come to replace them? Many schools have found the answer to these questions in mentorship programs that encourage teachers to share their experience and knowledge.
Though mentorship programs can take on a number of forms, their goal is always to promote student learning in K12 education. Evidence suggests that mentorships encouraged by the administration produce gains in student achievement and expand opportunities for distributed leadership in schools. The programs also enhance the quality of discourse among educators, increase the focus on evidence-based practice, contribute to conflict management, and motivate teachers who often find genuine satisfaction in a mutually shared learning environment.
If you have been considering building a teacher mentorship program at your school board, here are some ideas to get you started:
Recommend Team Teaching
Engaging in mutual lesson planning and teaching gives new teachers the opportunity to observe how their more experienced colleagues pace their lessons, answer student questions, and deal with interruptions, while affording them a chance to practice teaching with content they are comfortable with. Lessons can be recorded and then watched together for consructive feedback. Journaling as a way to record challenges and growth can also be encouraged.
Stimulate Collaborative Inquiry
In collaborative inquiry, educators partner up to explore a specific question. Throughout the process, they learn more about their own and each other's teachings, share resources, and become more successful in their practice as a result.
Implement Skillful Observation
Classroom observations are a very effective way to measure the impact of teaching practice on student learning. Mentoring relationships can involve a number of classroom visits, with the possibility of using video as a resource for providing accurate, persuasive information about teachers' performance.
Increase Opportunities for Shared Leadership
Distributing the responsibility for student learning among all the stakeholders of the school community—including parents, support staff, students, teachers, and school leaders—creates a balance between informal and formal leadership and contributes to improving schools as a whole.
Accomplish Effective Communication
Schools can become more effective when communication is clear, thoughtful, and transparent. Make that a goal for your school board, and consider mentoring as a way to create opportunities for checking perceptions and asking challenging questions.
Engage in Evidence-Based Practice
Just as teachers' practice derives from current and relevant research, what teachers do in the classroom can also generate evidence of student learning. Inspire educators to help each other to become more skilled and knowledgeable in both of these aspects.
For any mentoring relationship to work, teachers must first be willing to give and receive mutually. Encourage teachers to learn from and with each other to invest in continuous growth.
There are other crucial issues to consider when building a mentorship program, including whether participation will be optional or mandatory; how long the mentor and mentee partnership should last; how often mentoring activities should happen; whether mentor-teachers will be full-time or not; and how to ensure confidentiality in mentor-mentee relationships.
The key is to create the atmosphere, the context, and the structure for the program to be successful and reap its outstanding rewards: improved quality of teaching, greater student success, and increased teacher retention.
Want to find out how you can make sure you're implementing the best processes at your board? Take a look at the 2015 Essential Guide to Improving School Board Operations.