Updated: Sep 2, 2022
While many will point to teacher training or continuing education as the most critical factors in teacher success, this view overlooks one of the most effective tools to help teachers succeed and grow - mentorship. Mentorship can be a crucial tool that schools use to support and nurture both new and experienced teachers alike.
What characteristics do great mentor teachers have? Instinctively, many will point to years of experience or advanced degrees. Yet, teachers who have had a positive experience with influential mentors will recall that credentials have little to do with a mentor’s effectiveness. Instead, they may name some of the following attributes as the most noteworthy:
A Willingness to Give their Time. Being a mentor teacher takes both time and effort. A mentor teacher needs to understand that mentoring will add some additional work to their load and be willing to put in the effort. There are no shortcuts to listening to another teacher and helping them walk through the challenges they encounter.
The Ability to Listen and Question. Any good teacher knows that authentic learning only occurs when the student can find the solution rather than being told. The same holds for mentees. They need a mentor who will listen to them and ask them the right clarifying questions to help them solve issues.
Unconditional Support. Sometimes a new teacher needs to vent in a safe space and hear that they aren’t the only ones who have faced these challenges. A good mentor knows when to give advice and when to listen and sympathize. An effective mentor teacher is more concerned with helping their mentee than appearing to be an expert or authority figure.
Enthusiasm. An excellent mentor is enthusiastic about teaching, their students, and the change they are making in their students’ lives. They model proper teaching techniques like handling challenging situations and work/life balance for their mentee. They are also enthusiastic about sharing these lessons with the next generation of teachers. Since enthusiasm is contagious, their positive attitude usually motivates and inspires their mentee.
A good mentor teacher can make the difference between a challenging and discouraging first year in the classroom and one that is a learning and growing opportunity.
Mentors matter just as much for administrators. That's why the CLE Leaders to Watch Academy was formed...to help new site leaders navigate a complex role as they build momentum for positive change while supporting staff, students, and families. The mostly-online academy experience features mentors, coaches, peer support, tours of outstanding schools, and a capstone project.