The New Teacher Mentoring Process

by Barry Sweeny, 1996

The chart provided below presents a "working model" of the phases and transitions which the mentoring process seems to take. This chart has been constructed and refined from the feed back and experiences of dozens of new teacher mentors since 1988. It is offered here as a guide for new mentors.

The phases shown on the chart usually require about two school years to occur. During those two years the mentor and protege meet on a regular basis, usually daily during the week just before and the week school starts, 3-4 times a week until the end of September, 1-2 times a week during the rest of the year, and about 4-6 times a month during the second year.

It is interesting to note that the personal style of the mentor & protege may impact how the mentoring process and relationship evolve. In some cases the mentor & protege may be very social and outgoing and so may quickly build their personal relationship early and more gradually develop their professional dialogue. In other cases the demands of the tasks of teaching and mentoring may be the initial priority of more task-oriented mentors & proteges. In the later case the mentoring pair may first build a professional relationship and then, through their professional work, continue to deepen and strengthen their mutual trust and personal relationship. Experience has shown that as long as the mentor and protege are aware of the transitions they must make and of the overall mentoring process, either approach seems to be effective.

A tougher challenge occurs when the mentor and protege are not of a similar style and one person wants to emphasize building their relationship while the other is more task-focused. In this situation the best solution is NOT to match for styles as this seems to reduce the mentor & proteges learning from each other. Mentors must adapt their style to be appropriate to the needs of the protege. Usually that means that the mentor is more directive early in the year when there is lots to learn and much of it is "one right answer" kinds of information. Later in year, as the relationship grows and the protege develops skills and some professional maturity, the mentor can become more a "explainer" and later a "supporter and encourager" and less a directive leader.

In addition to working with the assigned mentor, the protege also is led to connect (by the mentor) with other teachers who are effective models of continuous professional growth, of effective teaching, and of collaborative and collegial staff relationships. In this way mentoring becomes a "team effort" that promotes interdependence and collaboration, not isolated teaching and trial & error professional growth. This mentoring process facilitates professional growth of new teachers and mentors alike and promotes the more collaborative school culture we seek.

 PROCESS STAGES  MENTORING ACTIVITIES  THE PURPOSE
INTRODUCTION Introductions, sharing of backgrounds, interests & personal information. CREATE A CONNECTION
FOUNDATION Explain mentor-protege roles, relationship & the mentoring process. Explain expectations. CLARITY OF PURPOSE
ORIENTATION

Orientation to the school, grade, department, staff, district & community.

Orientation to new job responsibilities, curriculum & expectations

REDUCE THE STRESS & INCREASE THE TEAM FEELING
COLLABORATION

Work together to prepare classroom for start of school.

Mutual sharing of ideas, discovering how room layout, management plan, and good instructional environment support each other & promote learning.

GOOD START, BUILD TEAM, MENTOR SEEN AS A CARING HELPER
PROBLEM SOLVING

Joint analysis of issues and problems

Development of options, strategies & plans to implement & evaluate results

DEVELOPMENT OF THINKING & KNOWLEDGE
PERSONAL FRAMEWORK

Building a strong mentor-protege relationship

Reinforce protege self-esteem & confidence

Explore each others dreams for teaching, views & strengths as teachers & as persons

MENTOR IS SEEN AS TRUSTWORTHY & AN OPENNESS IS CREATED
PROFESSIONAL FRAMEWORK

Discovering the "big picture" such as:

1. planning activities as a sequence

2. assessing learning and adjusting instruction

3. worrying less about following lesson plans & more about accomplishing a lesson's purpose

MENTOR SEEN AS A MODEL & PROTEGE IS INCREASING SKILL, INSIGHT
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Building a 2-way coaching relationship where mutual feedback and support for learning is the norm. PROMOTE MENTOR & PROTEGE GROWTH
 TRANSITION

Building a peer relationship, promoting the protege's ability to work independently, but maintaining support for each other's growth.

Promoting learning & support links with other staff, creating a broader team concept

PROMOTING MENTOR & PROTEGE INTER-DEPENDENCE