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How Teacher Mentoring Can Improve Student Learning

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  • 0:01 Teacher Mentoring
  • 1:11 Mentoring to Improve…
  • 2:57 Retention
  • 4:15 Implementing a Good Program
  • 5:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The first year of teaching is expected to be difficult, stressful, and overwhelming. But does it have to be? In this lesson, we are going to check out programs designed to make the first year much more pleasant through the use of teacher mentoring.

Teacher Mentoring

Schools are for students, right? That's who goes to school to learn. So why are we talking about mentoring teachers? Well, in the last decade or so, educators have been looking at ways to improve the school system, and one of the things they realized is that new teachers enter their first years feeling very overwhelmed. No matter how great the university that these teachers got their degrees from, the first years of teaching are hard. It's an adjustment.

To help with this, many schools have implemented teacher mentoring programs in which new teachers are advised or trained by veteran teachers. Now, this is not meant to replace a formal college education. What the mentoring programs do is help build up networks, knowledge and support structures to help new teachers deal with the realities, the logistics and the pragmatics of actually having their own classroom.

As for the results? These programs were once experimental, but now many districts consider them vital necessities. Turns out everybody's got something to learn from school.

Mentoring to Improve Instruction

So, let's look at the goals of mentoring and how we use it. Now, the most obvious goal is to improve classroom instruction. The mentor, an experienced teacher in the school, advises the newcomer on ways to improve his or her teaching. Perhaps the mentor observes the new teacher in action, then gives some tips on how to present information more clearly, or makes the teacher aware of issues they didn't even know were there. This is a highly individualized process, so I can't tell you exactly what everyone's experience will be like, but in general, mentoring helps new teachers expand their resources, skills, knowledge and teaching strategies.

Since these mentoring programs have been instituted, they've been very well received. Teaching can sometimes feel like an isolated profession, working all alone in your classroom, and mentoring helps open up networks of mutual support. New teachers consistently report feeling that their instructional and classroom management skills are greatly enhanced by mentoring, which draws on the experience and knowledge of practiced teachers who know the district, the kids and their parents.

Beyond that, however, mentoring has also been shown to help even experienced teachers refine their instructional skills. They say that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else, and mentors have consistently reported feeling like their role helps them improve their own performance, locate issues and stay connected to new and innovative strategies. So, new teachers benefit, experienced teachers benefit and, at the end of the day, you know who really benefits from having teachers that are better trained and prepared? The students!

Retention

Teacher mentoring programs seek to help new teachers transition into their roles and develop collegial networks to deal with continuing issues throughout the teacher's career. There are several ways we could evaluate the success of these programs, but one of the big ones is retention. Historically, school districts have expected a certain percentage of teachers to quit after their first year or two due to the stress of the job.

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