Mentoring/Coaching the New Teacher

It’s that time of year when we welcome students and teachers new to our organizations. We generally feel prepared about how to provide for the needs of new students. We may not always feel as ready to provide for the needs of new teachers.

The sad news is that between 40-50 percent of new teachers leave education within the first five years (Ingersoll, 2012). The good news is that teacher mentoring has been shown to effectively reduce teacher attrition (Lambeth, 2012).

So how do you mentor new teachers? After making sure they are accustomed to their surroundings and are familiar with building procedures and protocols, the obvious answer is to coach them! Offer to plan, reflect, and problem-resolve with them! You can also choose to provide the other support functions (collaborate, consult, and evaluate) when needed. The key phrase here is when needed. When someone asks your advice, it can be so very tempting to move straight to consulting and to tell them what to do. Granted, you have an amazing repertoire and have been quite successful in your work, but you likely gained your skills and knowledge through experience. Experience is marvelous, especially when someone skilled (like you) serves as a coach for the new teacher as they set big goals, consider options, make comparisons, chew over data, and wrestle with challenges.

For the times when a new teacher asks you to tell them what to do, a “go to” response is to honor their current thinking and say, “I’d love to hear your thinking first and then if you still need my ideas, I’d be happy to offer some.” This automatic response indicates that you believe that they have the capacity to be self-directed and to make good decisions. Most times they won’t need your ideas!

As you mentor the new teacher, how do you make decisions about when to coach them and when to move out of coaching into another support function?

Next week we’ll consider how to mentor the veteran.

Ingersoll, R. (2012). Beginning teacher induction WHAT THE DATA TELL US. Phi Delta Kappan, 93(8), 47-51.
Lambeth, D. (2012). Effective practices and resources for support of beginning teachers. Academic Leadership 10(1), 1–13.