The Mentor As An Agent Of Change

(posted Jun, 2001)

Original Member Request:

To what extent does the mentor-in-the-street see himself/herself as an agent of change in the culture of the school they work in? I have a somewhat stilted perspective in that regard-- since I am jointly responsible along with my partner for 40 first-year and second year teachers in a large urban high school

Cranston Dize -

MLRN Responses:

I am not certain that I understand your question. I don't see how mentoring and changing the culture of your school are related. In addition, if you and your partner are responsible for mentoring 40 teachers, then what you are doing is most certainly not mentoring. Even if you did nothing but mentor, you could not possibly create, for 40 teachers, apprenticeships where these novices are learning from you as the master teachers. Mentors have four functions: relating, assessing, coaching, and guiding. Why would you think that the culture of your school needs to be changed and what is a "mentor-in-the street?" Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

Barbara Lapetina, Ph.D.

I am a Coach 2 Coach Teacher-in-Residence at the University of NCGreensboro. I work with mentors across the state. I do not believe that most mentors have the broader view concerning their role as school leaders and agents of change. I strongly believe that this role as teacher as leader needs to be developed.

Judy Gilliam

I believe most mentors see themselves as agents of change for the the person/persons they are mentoring.

Letty Bridges,

We have a Lead Teacher program in Boston. Our Lead Teacher/Mentors are experienced teachers and veterans tend to be conservators rather than innovators. We strive in our training and guidelines to project the program as a vehicle of transforming schools into cultures that value collaboration, inquiry, and reflective practice for all teachers.

In my experience, the culture issue is often a generational issue. For this reason, we are targeting highly accomplished teachers with 5-15 years experience as prospective mentors. While they have mastered their craft, they also tend to be more open to innovation.

Also, beginning teachers are more vocal in their expectations and responsive to shifting school culture. Given the numbers of novices entering our schools, their presence all by itself is forcing positive changes in school culture. As we all know, the transformation of school cultures is very complex and demands sophisticated, targeted approaches, and strategic pushing and pulling.

Richard, I also wanted to thank you for putting my request for information on the network. The response was fantastic. We have finished work on our "second generation" mentor model. It is on our superintendent's desk for his review. When it is approved, I will send it to you for posting if you think it would be of interest to others. Also, it would give me a chance to thank network colleagues for their help.

Many thanks and regards,
Nick Balasalle

I work for a small K-12 district (4 schools total). Last year, I was responsible for supporting the 12 new teachers at the elementary level. I had a counterpart at our high school. I met with the entire group to disseminate general info and met with individuals at least one time per quarter. I was not an agent of change. I was a troubleshooter, sounding board and confidant.

This year California Dept. of Ed. has implemented a new system to deliver support to both new teachers and those identified as having unsatisfactory evaluations. The MAXIMUM number of teachers a consulting teacher can now support in our district is TWO. What a difference. Am I an agent of
change? Absolutely. For more information you might try logging on to the Calif. Dept. of Ed. website ( The program is called Peer Assistance and Review (PAR).

Kathy apRoberts

I think it depends on the leadership within the school in which they work; the building of community within that school, the shared vision, the plan and accountability for accomplishing the vision. Teachers/mentors cannot work effectively in isolation from the larger picture.

Judy Reagan

I don't know how you can truly mentor that many teachers at once! Guide, organize and pray for may be the terms that come to mind more readily. I think that true mentoring would involve numbers in the single digits.

School Principal in Florida

I see myself as a small agent of change in our school with respect to mentoring. I look at it that my job is to help the new ones acclumate into our school setting/culture. New teachers work with several teachers at our school. I provide support and encouragement. I listen and explain. At the end of last school year I asked every teacher/support person/classified staff members at our school what new teachers should know about our school. I took this information and compiled it to present to new teachers. They found it extremely beneficial. It helped them avoid a few pitfalls at our school. The list included; who to ask for what and who not to ask, which paper to use in which copiers to avoid jams and expensive breakdowns, and similar things. I look at mentoring a little differently I think because I want to move into administration. I work in several leadership positions at our school therefore I see myself as a larger change agent. Need clarification or additional info, please feel free to contact me at or


I "supervise" 10 first year teachers for a large urban university. As a recently retired high school teacher I see my role strictly as support and resource for my charges. As for the larger school community I observe (lament a lot), sigh some and wonder how nothing much has changed since I started teaching in the late 60's. I cannot imagine mentoring 40 of any species much less teachers.
Good luck.

Samuel Robinson

I feel I have a pretty big impact. I'm a teacher of the gifted and I work with four new or nearly new teachers. I have worked with very open and responsive teachers and feel our mentoring efforts have benefitted us all.

Sandra Ross

I do agree that mentors could be agents of change, particularly in the culture of the school or in helping to develop a professional learning community. What we've found is that the "culture" is quickly passed along, for better or worse. We're really encouraging our mentors to put some focus on the professional learning area as we want to grow teachers who are continuous learners, who are inquisitive and intellectually curious, who won't be afraid of change. I do think we can help mentor our mentors in this respect. I am responsible for our mentoring program and we have from 30 -75 new teachers each year (and, I wear the Gifted and Talented and Staff Development hats as well). You can make a difference and it's in your leadership with the other mentors. Your job, however, is huge!!! Do other teachers "informally" mentor as well? My other question is, why do this if you don't think you can have influence? Just some thoughts....and good luck to you

Karen Holicky-Michaels