I began my first year as a literacy coach in multiple elementary buildings in the fastest-growing district in the state of Missouri. That meant we had a large amount of new teachers and it also meant I had to say ‘no’ to coaching more seasoned teachers because I was unable to fit them in my schedule.
One afternoon, I walked out of a new teacher’s classroom and ran into her mentor, who asked, “What can I do to continue helping her in the work you all are trying once your cycle is over?” The answer was not easy. It ended up spanning several conversations and raising more questions on how to assist this phenomenal beginning teacher, as well as how I could support her mentor. The next steps not only became the center of my doctoral research, but also widened the net of my coaching participants.
Why should we support both mentees and mentors in coaching?
Alarming findings surfaced in my research about new teachers and mentors. Most importantly, retaining effective beginning teachers is a huge need in our country. Some key pieces of information that pushed me to focus more on mentees and mentors were:
- Beginning teachers leave the profession because they feel unsupported.
- Approximately half of the new teachers in the United States leave the profession within the first five to seven years, seemingly because they think just were not cut out to do it and struggle with the many stresses. (Boogren, 2015)
- Mentors struggle to help new teachers understand best practices and sustain strong instruction.
- Mentors need strategies that focus on how to give effective feedback to new teachers.
Many schools and districts provide sit-and-get training to new teachers to their schools as part of requirements for beginning teacher certification. Some may provide professional development to mentors, but many lack on including mentor support.
How can partner cycles using student-centered coaching impact new teachers, as well as their mentors?
Since traditionally most beginning teacher induction programs are more teacher-centered, the focus of partner coaching cycles is to promote a student-centered approach with both new teachers and mentors. Think of the new teacher and mentor partner coaching cycles as a two-person cycle using the Student-Centered Coaching Model (Sweeney, 2011).
These key attributes are recommended when implementing new teacher and mentor partner coaching cycles:
- Classroom time is shared in varied ways between the new teacher and mentor.
- Provide choice to mentee/mentor with goals, targets and coaching moves.
- Balance in coaching both the mentee and mentor with strengths-based feedback.
- Incorporate protocols and varied ways to learn from each other that allows for sustainability of next steps.
- Center all conversations around student evidence to drive next steps.
- Flexibility is the key to success!
The new teachers also do not have to be only in their first year of teaching. You can include teachers in their beginning years or even teachers with experience who are new to your school.
What are the benefits of the partner coaching cycles?
I found a positive impact on students and teachers through my recent doctoral research. Partner coaching cycles provide the support for mentors and mentees to build collective teacher efficacy, which in turn maximizes student achievement.
(from Brueggeman, A. C. Mentor and Mentee Collective Efficacy, Professional Development, and Coaching Cycle Effects on Literacy Achievement.)
As I have continued partner coaching cycles, the benefits for beginning teachers and their mentors have surpassed my expectations:
- Instruction improved and student outcomes were reached at the same time!
- The coaching impact doubled with both the mentee’s and mentor’s student achievement growth.
- The triad collaboration with mentor, new teacher and coach added to the beginning teacher induction program.
- Collective teacher efficacy was strengthened and increased the group’s beliefs about making a difference in all students’ learning.
- Encouraged positive pressure with accountability and the push to get out of the learning pit.
- Mentors obtained effective feedback strategies to give to new teachers in an effective manner.
Boogren, T. (2015). Supporting Beginning Teachers. Bloomington, Indiana: Marzano Research.
Brueggeman, A. C. (2018). Mentor and Mentee Collective Efficacy, Professional Development, and Coaching Cycle Effects on Literacy Achievement. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Maryville University, St. Louis, MO.
Sweeney, D. (2011). Student-Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.