As a part of mentor program evaluations, the new teachers from two school districts were asked to comment on how their first year went and on their opinions of the mentorship program. The following are quotes from their answers:
"When I found out I had a mentor, I thought my mentor would really be 'turned off' by all my questions. Not only has my mentor always successfully answered my questions, but has continuously made me feel as though every question was pertinent to being a good teacher (even when I knew they weren't).
"Having a mentor has been one of the best experiences of being a teacher. I am proud to call my mentor a good friend and I know that it will always be that way as long as we both are teachers."
"My mentor is a wonderful person to confide in. I hope everyone has had as great a "mentor experience" as I did. Thanks to my mentor for making my first year successful."
"Having a mentor has been a very positive experience for me."
"My mentor has helped me both professionally and personally. It's been great having someone with experience who can answer all my questions. More importantly, it's been a real morale boost to have my mentor pop in my room just to say, 'Hello'.".
"My mentor has tried very hard to take the "new" out of being a new teacher."
"I've enjoyed working with my mentor. It has been nice to have somewhere to go with questions. The fact that my mentor is not in my department has helped me to meet more colleagues outside my own area."
"Even though I am not new to the district I am new to the position of Department Head. My mentor has been a good source for me to go to in an informal setting."
"The Mentor program has helped me through some trying times. When I have felt unsuccessful, or that the students hated me, that I wasn't a help to them in any way, or even that I would never be a good teacher, my mentor always had some appropriate student/teacher story with which to cheer me. I feel that I am making progress toward being a 'real teacher'."
"The primary differences between September and May--beginning the school year and coming to the end of it--are in the pace and the change in my feelings of desperation. It's far less hectic now"
"I wish I could have more opportunity to sit in on the classes and to observe teaching by veteran teachers. I was told "if you get a change, you might find it helpful," but tell me how I was supposed to make that happen? I would have loved to do it! I know it could have helped me see management techniques, especially with those very prescribed and formal compositions that are a part of this department."
"My mentor helped me with so many management techniques--that's what new teachers need help with most of all! How do we manage all of this?"
"My greatest satisfaction is making it through the first semester. Now there's time to evaluate what I did, and with the opportunity to teach the courses again, I can refine and improve. I'm in much better shape now, and I feel better about a lot of things. My greatest discovery was 'there's always another day'. Now that I'm doing things a second time I find that I have more time than I thought to improve what I do."
"For a new teacher, the biggest problem is managing 'all the information', getting to know the system, the building, the people, and the curriculum. No one can remember all that we are told in the orientation week at the beginning of the year. It takes time to get acclimated. New teachers simply must be patient with information overload. It all becomes clear over time. What I found was, as my mentor told me, 'As you need it, you can learn it'."
These new teacher's remarks may provide insights for those who coordinate mentoring programs as to what a mentor program could provide that would make the first year an even better experience.
Contributions from Downers Grove District 99, Downers Grove, IL and Naperville Central High School, Naperville, IL.