How Does Mentoring Actually Help New Education Leaders?
Stepping into a new position with its host of new responsibilities and expectations is a daunting task no matter which position it is. For education leaders (principals, superintendents, curriculum developers, etc.) this feeling is magnified when they are the ones in charge of the direction, vision, and growth of a school that will affect hundreds of lives. Helping give new education leaders the support system they need to be successful is pivotal in the short-term and long-term. A growing shift towards mentorship programs for education leaders is thankfully becoming more common.
What Does Mentorship Look Like?
Mentorship within the education profession is already commonplace as new teachers to a district are frequently paired with a veteran teacher to be their mentor throughout the first year or two at the new school. These pairings have a host of benefits such as lower attrition rates, improvement of teaching practices, and the building of a stronger community. The mentor teacher also gains from the relationship due to closely working with a colleague who may have new ideas or approaches to content.
This same approach is beginning to be mirrored in educational leadership roles because many of the benefits teachers gain in mentorship programs listed above are identical or run parallel to educational leaders. The struggle with creating education leader mentorship programs is the lower number of professionals who are in these positions. This means that sometimes a school might need to pursue outside third-party consultation for a mentorship program which typically will have increased costs associated with it.
The Need For High-Quality Education Leaders
There can be no doubt the connection between high-quality education leaders, high-quality schools, and high student performance. The inverse is just as true with low-quality leadership being more likely to create lower-quality schools and in turn lower student performance. The expectations are exceedingly high for new leaders of a school and are expected to take the reins and “learn on the job” which is a detrimental approach to such an influential position.
Providing systems of support, such as mentorship, for these leaders can only serve to benefit them, their school, staff, and students. The sad reality is that, just as criticisms are made about teacher preparation programs, typically graduate programs for education leadership are too grounded in theory and are out of touch with the reality of today’s school districts. This further places new leaders into a disadvantageous spot and creates a bigger need for high-quality support.
The new leaders of a school need to be supported just as new teachers do. While there are not as many readily available opportunities for these leaders sometimes all it takes is a simple phone call to a fellow administrator for advice or talk with the superintendent to begin the implementation of such programs.
While this is easier said than done amid all the other responsibilities and duties, it can provide benefits that affect the lives of thousands over the course of a few short years.