Why teachers need mentors

Why teachers need mentors

Educational professionals are continually evolving and learning in their roles. But just as they provide guidance and support for the students who are learning under their supervision, teachers can also benefit from a similar relationship with a mentor. The most effective type of mentoring relationship...

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Educational professionals are continually evolving and learning in their roles. But just as they provide guidance and support for the students who are learning under their supervision, teachers can also benefit from a similar relationship with a mentor.

The most effective type of mentoring relationship is a considered, supportive and collaborative approach which supports teachers in developing their professional skills, improving their teaching practice, and building their emotional resilience to cope with the challenges of a teaching career.

Let’s have a look at how both new and more experienced teachers can benefit from mentoring, and the positive impacts for the school community overall.

How new teachers can benefit from mentoring

There are some startling statistics around new teachers leaving education. One in six teachers quit after just a year in the classroom – and almost a third of new teachers leave the education sector within five years of qualifying. In international schools, staff turnover rate is high for additional reasons, such as staff moving back to their home countries after a few years abroad.

This has implications for overall levels of experience among school staff. A higher teacher turnover rate inevitably has an impact on teaching standards. So, what can school leaders do to address this problem? Well, a mentoring programme could make a difference. Research shows that teachers who benefit from a mentoring programme are more likely to stay in the job.

Mentors can help new teachers with classroom management solutions, offer feedback on their teaching practice, suggest practical improvements and share hard-gleaned advice on working more efficiently. More simply, they can provide new teachers with a sense of connection and a level of one-to-one support that department heads struggle to provide on an individual basis.

How experienced teachers can benefit from mentoring

Even mid-career teachers who have years of experience under their belts can find the mentoring experience useful in a few specific ways.

Pedagogical theory is ever-evolving, with new concepts and approaches being developed and implemented in schools. Mentoring can be a useful way to encourage experienced teachers to try out new teaching approaches and develop their teaching practice. A mentor can be a sounding board – where you can bounce ideas off and later reflect on what worked, and analyse where there’s room for improvement.

As well as new pedagogical approaches, a lot of different technology has been introduced to classrooms in the last few years. So for mid-career teachers who aren’t digital natives – i.e. over the age of 40 – additional, ongoing support from a mentor can make a huge difference to the successful implementation of new classroom technology.

Why should your school set up a mentoring programme?

There are some broad ways in which a mentoring programme can benefit your school staff. Let’s take a look at why your school should set up a mentoring programme for teachers:

1. To support teacher wellbeing

Teachers spend their days communicating with students – but despite that, teaching can be quite an isolated job. After all, most teachers are on their own in their classrooms for the majority of their working hours, and don’t want to spend precious downtime in the staff room talking about work.

The mentoring relationship offers teachers someone they can come to with problems or issues. This is crucial in a profession where 72% of teachers say that they are stressed, and 85% don’t feel well-supported by their organisations. The support of an experienced mentor can have an enormous impact when it comes to work-related stress and feelings of isolation. Mentoring programmes have been shown to have a demonstrable impact on teacher wellbeing. And teachers who are well-supported, happier and less stressed contribute to a more positive school environment for colleagues and students.

It can boost confidence in their teaching abilities, and have a positive impact on feelings of stress or isolation.

2. To boost teacher retention

We’ve already seen that retention is a big issue among new teachers. But it’s also a concern when considering more experienced staff. 54% of all education staff considered leaving the education sector in 2021, and among senior leaders this rose to 63%.

Unnecessary paperwork and workload were two of the most cited reasons for teachers considering a career change. However, there were other factors such as not feeling valued, a rapid pace of organisational change, and mental health concerns – and the mentor relationship can support teachers with all these concerns.

3. To promote professional development and improve teacher performance

Continuous professional development is another factor which improves staff retention. More than that, it also builds teachers’ confidence in their professional abilities. But it can be hard for school leaders to find the time and resources to invest in professional development opportunities.

Mentoring is a powerful strategy for boosting teacher development

The guidance of an educational expert can help teachers to enhance their instructional skills and encourage them to try out new approaches. In this way, having a mentor has a positive impact on teachers’ skillsets, subject expertise and professional knowledge.

A natural consequence of professional development for educational staff is improved professional performance. Teachers who are constantly developing their skillset and growing in confidence are more able to create engaging, accessible lessons for students. They are more empowered to go “off book”, relying less on worksheets and textbooks. The positive impact on teaching and learning is reflected in student achievement.

With all these benefits for both new and more experienced teachers, it’s clear that mentoring programmes can have a big impact in schools.

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