Paying Big Dividends
Research indicates that 30 percent of new teachers leave the profession during their first three years of service. Citing studies that demonstrate mentoring can foster a successful first year for a teacher, the New York State Education Department requires each school district to have a mentoring program in place. South Colonie was one of the early pioneers of this initiative establishing an active teacher mentoring program many years ago.
Why? Let’s face it…making it as a successful teacher today takes a lot of ambition, strength and determination. And for new teachers, no college education or student teaching experience can ever truly prepare them for that day when all eyes are on them at the front of the classroom. That’s where the district’s Beginning Teacher Mentoring Program pays big dividends. Each year, new probationary teachers are paired with experienced teachers who serve as mentors on a variety of issues ranging from where to get supplies to dealing with parental issues.
How Does the Program Work?
Think of the program as sort of a security blanket for teachers as they begin their careers at South Colonie. New teachers need to feel connected instead of isolated in their new environment. The program has been very successful in achieving this goal.
South Colonie’s more experienced teachers participate in training through the district, Teacher Center or New York State United Teachers-sponsored programs before becoming a mentor. They also receive inservice credit for the training.
New teachers also participate in training in the essential elements of instituting classroom management, data analysis as well as other timely topics. The district has coordinators in place who oversee the mentoring program. Before the beginning of each school year these coordinators meet with the new teachers to discuss the program. Then, new teachers are assigned a veteran teacher as a mentor before they ever enter the classroom. Pairing teachers early gives the new employees the opportunity to see a familiar face, ask a colleague for assistance and learn about district procedures, among other things.
The basic role of a mentor is to provide guidance and support to new teachers to ease their transition into the practice of teaching and enhance their skills to improve student achievement. This may include:
Familiarizing new teachers with district goals and expectations
Sharing instructional and classroom management techniques
Observing and modeling instruction
Providing help with planning
Facilitating interaction with colleagues
Helping new teachers engage in self-evaluation
Interpersonal relationship qualities
Willingness to be mentors
Demonstration of outstanding teaching skills
Creativity and mastery of the subject they teach
Leadership qualities and enthusiasm for teaching
Having a Friend to Turn To
During the school year, mentors are available to meet with new teachers to observe in the classroom, provide curriculum support or serve as a “sounding board” about issues new teachers experience. Mentors can also: offer a safe place for new teachers to vent frustrations, help new teachers learn new perspectives and mediate resolutions to problems, ensure that new teachers have a voice in the life of the school.
Some of the more common issues dealt with during the first year of the mentor/ mentee partnership include managing behavior in the classroom, designing classroom space, organizing time, managing stress, interacting with parents, assessing student work, setting student expectations and more. To learn more about the Beginning Teacher Mentoring Program contact the South Colonie Department of Human Resources at 869-3576.