All teachers need a mentor as well as academic support.

All teachers need a mentor

They can act as someone to vent to when you get angry or upset, as well as someone with whom you can share your achievements and accomplishments. However, knowing what to look for in a mentor and where to find one can often prove confusing and daunting.

All teachers need mentoring strategies and a checklist:
  • Teacher as a mentor to students
  • Successful teacher mentoring programs
  • Benefits of mentoring new teachers
  • Mentoring a first year teacher
  • Mentoring teachers resources

Firstly, what are the typical benefits of a mentor?

As well as being someone with whom to share the good times and the bad there are many benefits of a having a mentor.

Here are the sorts of ways in which a good mentor can benefit you:
  • They can help you develop your own voice and rhythm of teaching
  • They can assist you by bouncing off new ideas and strategies for your classroom
  • They can share their years of experience with you
  • They can become an everyday model that you would look to emulate
  • They can pass on their vast wealth of practical teaching knowledge

In many schools, the mentor-ship program is one whereby you are assigned a mentor and told to meet with them at strict periods throughout the year. However, though this may be beneficial in many ways, it rarely allows you to achieve the deepest levels of the teacher-mentor relationship. In so many ways, a mentor becomes more than a guiding voice and more than a friend.

They are there to share the journey with you and to act as support when times get tough; but also to share in the deepest sense of elation when things go well and your career advances. As such, finding a mentor on your own is oftentimes far more worthwhile as you have worked hard and independently to find someone who matches your personality and can give you exactly what you need.

What makes a good mentor?

Well, this can differ greatly depending on where you are in your career and what you are looking to achieve. However, what you tend to find is that solid mentors all possess a few key traits across the board. It can often be hard to identify such traits immediately, but it’s good to be aware of them when seeking out a mentor.

What a teacher should look for:
  • Knows how to listen and when to interrupt you
  • Offers up unique perspectives when trying to solve challenging problems
  • Is truly happy to share in your successes
  • Is fully appreciative of individual teaching styles
  • Understands the fundamental best practices that make a good teacher
  • Is happy to hear your thoughts and learn from you as well
  • Provides an environment where you feel comfortable complaining and venting

How experienced should a good mentor be?

After reading all of the qualities listed above, it’s easy to think that your perfect mentor will have to be a veteran teacher with decades of teaching experience. Well, yes, those that have spent years and years in the field are more likely to have a stronger base of practical experience to draw upon. They may also be more calm mannered and centered in their approach.

However, this is not always the case. In fact, you should never seek out experience as a defining factor when choosing your mentor. Many teachers with just a few years of training can be very well grounded and well placed to help you on your own journey. They benefit from being much closer to where you are now so can relate more easily to the difficulties you might be facing.

Finding the right mentor

Oftentimes, it can be hard to find the right mentor on your own campus. Instead, there’s a good chance you may have to go elsewhere in finding someone to fit your needs. There is no strict guide on how to find a mentor, but it’s good to attend regular teacher conferences and seminars where you’d expect to find like-minded individuals.

Which leads nicely onto another crucial point… Can you have more than one mentor? Well, yes and no. If you have a special connection with one mentor and feel you are making solid headway in your career as a result of their support, then you may not want to overwhelm yourself with more at this time.

But then again, you never know what additional support is out there. If you feel you could juggle another mentor, then you create a better support network for yourself and have a broader talent base upon which to bounce ideas and increase your learning.

Ongoing mentor-ship: giving back as well as receiving

Once you start to gain experience as a teacher, be aware that others may soon look to you to become their mentor and to offer them the same support you once received. This is a natural cycle and one that is incredibly beneficial to teaching as a sector.

Helping to fuel this cycle of mentor-ship can…
  • Help all teachers grow together
  • Help create a more well-rounded set of mentors
  • Help retain good teachers in the field
  • Help more teachers stay focused on their profession

As such, the field of mentor-ship is all about giving and receiving. Yes, it is natural to expect help and support from those with more experience, but you should also be looking to step up when you spot another teacher looking for assistance. Being a mentor and mentee at the same time is the best way to advance your own career and become a well-rounded professional in your field.