“Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man,
and he will add to his learning.” (Proverbs 9:9).
As a new school year is gearing up in Christian schools around the country, and we welcome new faculty members and administrators to our rosters, schools have the privilege and obligation to set the stage for their success. With years of experience in the classroom or in school administration, there is an opportunity for us as seasoned professional educators to share knowledge and skills developed over our tenure of service. We can partner with colleagues to help define areas and build processes to elevate the professional experience and the organization as a whole. Mentoring is a means to practice quality communication, connect through teamwork, garner feedback on experiences, and understand where interactions could improve. Ultimately, it is the chance to grow in practical application of leadership for others in addition to the proven impact on the teaching/learning process. Let’s take a moment to consider the elements of a quality mentoring program.
The purpose of the mentoring program is to provide an education professional who is new to a professional role or simply new to a school with encouragement, support, and the accumulated knowledge and insight of an experienced Christian school educator. Too many gifted educators leave the profession after just a few years because of frustrations and discouragement over the time and effort required in instructional or administrative responsibilities. The goal of the mentoring plan is to prevent this from happening in Christian schools so that we can retain quality educators and assist them with longevity.
The scope of the mentoring program includes the mentoring teacher/administrator, the new staff member (mentee), and the support and oversight of the current head of school or other supervisory administration, who may be either directly or indirectly involved. The mentor focuses support on two areas: duties related to professional responsibilities and emotional encouragement. A third form of support, evaluation and assessment, serves as an avenue for professional growth.
The mentoring program is devised to provide the following:
1. Basic information about the position.
2. Spiritual and emotional support while adjusting to a new job and/or a new level of responsibility on the organizational chart.
3. Guidance in curriculum development, instructional strategies and methodology, materials selection, lesson plans, and assessment techniques.
4. Classroom management helps and hints, including motivational techniques.
5. Help in developing time-management principles–at school and in personal life.
6. Support in dealing with individual faculty members and their needs.
7. Support in communicating and dealing with faculty and parents.
8. Support in dealing with intra-school relationships among administration, staff, and faculty.
Ellen Moir (1999) identifies five phases educators in new positions go through:
1. Anticipation–enthusiastic, often idealistic.
2. Survival–attempting to survive the meetings and problems with 70+ hour weeks.
3. Disillusionment–usually after six to eight weeks. Wondering if they made the wrong transition, and they may even become ill.
4. Rejuvenation–usually begins in January, after a time of rest and reorganizing.
5. Reflection–the last few weeks of school, start thinking about ways to make it better next year.
The mentoring program is intended to be a help and encouragement. The plan requires that the mentee communicate frequently and honestly with the mentor and have a teachable spirit to take advantage of the help the plan offers. At the end of the program, the mentee should complete an evaluation of the mentor plan and the overall experience.
The mentor’s primary responsibility is to be an encouragement to the new faculty/administrator, praying for him/her daily, and providing viable solutions to the challenges faced within the position. Additionally, the mentor will be available to answer questions, provide insight from previous experiences, and help prepare for basic calendar events, deadlines, and responsibilities, offering advice and examples as appropriate–time management, school operations forms, curriculum, certification, etc.
Mentoring programs must prioritize people, not simply problems or compliance. As a Christian community of professional educators, we should capitalize on the exhortation of the body of Christ. Schools must take caution to choose mentors carefully and provide extra margin in time and schedules as well as levels of compensation for the added duties taken on by teachers and administrators to successfully mentor colleagues. Likewise, schools must genuinely address the real challenges of stress, fatigue, and the demands experienced by new teachers. A quality mentoring program should be well-designed, delineated for all, and evaluated regularly for effectiveness. If these components are embraced, a mentoring program has the potential to be an immense value-add of year-long support for onboarding a new teacher or administrator. And make no mistake, when we support and elevate our classroom teachers, they are better equipped to directly engage students and impact student learning.
Teaching matters – Teachers matter – Christian schools can set the stage to bring about the words of Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (ESV)
If Compass Education LLC can assist your school in understanding and designing a quality mentoring program, please reach out to our office. We are always excited about “Helping Schools Find Direction.”
Moir, E. (1999). A better beginning: Supporting and mentoring new teachers. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.