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September 3, 2021

The Secret to Great Teacher Mentorship (and 5 Tips)

Are you an experienced educator welcoming a student teacher to your classroom for the first time? Maybe you are transitioning from your own classroom to coaching or to new teacher induction, or perhaps you serve as a mentor officially or informally. Regardless of how you plan to support new teachers, you may be wondering about the secret to great teacher mentorship. If you weren’t, you are now! Here are five tips that will surely help you guide new teachers. (Note: new teachers include student teachers.)

Tip #1 – Be a resource

New teachers are faced with an overwhelming amount of information and high expectations when they start. Combine their newness with nerves and actual students in the classroom, and you likely have a great deal of anxiety.

  • Encourage them to come to you when they are feeling overloaded.
  • Remind them to breathe or use mindfulness.
  • Help them narrow the focus (even if only temporarily).
  • Give them access to your best stuff (websites, lesson plans, classroom visuals, etc.) 
  • Follow up with an email or note about the first few steps to take, and you’ve got a recipe for success. 

Tip #2 – Walk with them

If tip #1 doesn’t do the trick, you may need to sit with them as they write a lesson plan, learn new technology, or draft a formative assessment. New teachers often rely on experienced educators to model methods and strategies.

  • Consider using the Gradual Release of Responsibility model to increase confidence just like you do with students.  
  • Ask new teachers to come into your classroom to observe (I do) and then to team teach (we do).  
  • Then, observe new teachers in their classroom and provide feedback on skills and concepts implemented.
  • Of course, follow this up with a time to chat through the strengths, areas for improvement, and next steps for learning, and you are (both) on your way! 
  • Consider focusing on one or two specific skills per lesson to narrow the focus (I.e., questioning or wait time).

Tip #3 – Work-life balance

New teachers come into the field on fire for teaching and learning. But this passion and energy can lead to burnout if new teachers struggle to balance work and personal lives as they are met with consistent systemic demands from their school/district. They may need a self-care plan or advice on how to create a plan for balance.

  • Discuss concepts like building resilience, secondary trauma, and overcommitting to ensure they understand the impacts of teacher burnout and self-care. 
  • Feed them! Invite them to lunch just for fun or bring them healthy (or novel) snacks just because.
  • Go for a walk after school or ask them to come to your favorite workout class so they see you taking care of yourself. 
  • Finally, be sure to engage in conversations that have absolutely nothing to do with work. They want to get to know you, and they want you to know them as humans, not just as new educators.  

Tip #4 – Bring the Joy!

You can assume both of you got into the education field to positively impact learners, so talk about your “why.”

  • Laugh when something is funny, smile at them and your students (modeling)-yes, even before winter break. 
  • Share comical stories or embarrassing moments. Add levity when appropriate. 
  • Of course, teach them to avoid toxic environments, conversations, and people.  
  • And remember to celebrate successes, large and small. Confetti and coffee do wonders for tired new teachers.  

Tip #5 – Listen

New teachers will tell you in words, body language, and sometimes exasperated sighs when they need support and what support they need…especially if you ask them.

  • Set up a weekly check-in. Some days it will be 5 minutes, other days it may be 50…either way, knowing time has purposefully been allocated communicates they are important. And for goodness’ sake—bring chocolate.

But wait! We told you we would share the secret to great teacher mentorship. The secret? YOU! Thanks for showing new teachers the ropes.

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