First-Year Teachers: 4 Reasons You Need a Mentor Right Now
Finding your way as a first-year teacher can feel overwhelming, and even isolating, at times. There is so much responsibility that lands on you all at once, and even though you’ve trained for it, some days it can be too much to handle. Just remember that you are not the first person to walk the new teacher path, and that the support you need to make it through the year, and following ones, may be right around you.
That’s why you might want to consider finding a mentor teacher—or if you already have one, making the most of the one you have. Mentors are experienced, patient, knowledgeable veteran teachers who are selected to guide new teachers.
Here are just a few reasons you will find them an asset to your career:
- Mentor teachers can provide invaluable help to new teachers. These mentors assist new teachers to adapt to the school culture and norms, which include official and non-official ones, and school or district-specific ones. They will also guide the new teachers with curriculum, teaching strategies, successful scheduling and communication skills.
- Mentors can help you become a better teacher, faster. Perhaps the greatest benefit of having a mentor teacher is that they are able to supervise you and provide you with suggestions on improvements that can be made. New teachers can turn to their mentors for support when times are tough, and seek advice. In many programs, mentors are responsible for new teacher assessments and mentors can suggest training for teachers to improve performance. Successful mentorship programs do not end there as they also guide new teachers in choosing professional workshop opportunities.
- Mentors know all the best-kept secrets. As for the specifics, mentors can help you with recognizing which files from the Principal get the highest priority, which administrator has the most power in evaluation and all the secret spots (i.e. the room where the best projector is located).
- Mentors will help you stay on track for your entire career. In surveys, 67 percent of teachers who had mentors say that the mentorship program was beneficial for their teaching careers. Unfortunately, only 47 percent of public school teachers have had mentors.
Not all schools have in-person mentorship programs, but some do offer “tele-mentor” and “e-mentor” support programs over the Internet. If neither type of official mentor program is present at your first school, you can always look for an unofficial one, or find support from several other teachers in the school. It really is worth your time to seek out this help. Research shows that first-year teachers who have had support of a mentor develop better classroom management skills, stay in the teaching profession longer and maintain their initial enthusiasm longer. There is really no reason to shoulder the burden all on your own when there are people around you who understand exactly what you are going through, and can help you.
True mentors are patient listeners and good guides who provide thoughtful advice based on their years of experience. They understand that new teachers need support in adjusting to the fast and challenging environment from the first day of school, until they gradually find their own styles of teaching and start to enjoy every day, teaching and seeing students learn. Make sure you open yourself up to the helpful guidance of a teacher mentor — it will pay off during your early days as a teacher, and for the many successful years that follow.