It’s time for the school year to begin. Where are your novice teachers? Did they return to teaching? What are you doing to support novices to stay in teaching?
If you are a teacher, a mentor, or an administrator, you can help more novice teachers stay in teaching. We have all heard the research that 30% of novice teachers leave the profession in their first three years and in urban districts that percentage is 50%. What the research doesn’t say is what do we do to increase retention rates? How can you be a leader who takes action to support novice teachers?
As I listen to mentors and novice teachers talk about their challenges, I have learned that small shifts in our perspective make a BIG difference. We are all so overwhelmed by the busy automatic routines in our lives that it takes real effort to STOP “doing” things and “be” more of a listener to our own voice.
Shifts in our perspective allow us to move forward with a more intentional and purposeful approach. Paying attention to what is needed, instead of what we think we are supposed “to do” can offer a more realistic and practical approach to induction and mentoring.
Here are three ways to shift your perspective and behavior to become a mindful mentor leader.
Mentors and administrators who listen to novice teachers’ voices discover the novices’ real needs. Their needs vary because they come to teaching from many paths: as career changers, new to district hires, first time in the classroom teachers right out of college, and even teachers who have no experience at all. A “one size fits all” induction program for these varied groups doesn’t work. Effective mentoring programs differentiate mentoring to meet these varied needs. Listening and addressing specific issues for each teacher type works.
Listening also means listening to our intuitive selves to discover how we can support novice teachers. Let’s practice! Yes, right now. To take a “mindful mentoring moment.” All you need to do is stop and breathe. Thirty seconds. Inhale and exhale. Ask yourself, “What could I do to support the novice teachers in my school?” Just listen to what comes up. Action does not always mean “doing something” now. Action can mean reflecting taking to have an insight that leads to a course of action.
Induction and mentoring programs that include surveys, interviews, evaluations, and the voices of novice teachers are more successful. Mentors who stop and listen to their own intuition can guide the novices by providing support that is meaningful and useful.
As a teacher or a mentor of novice teachers you can empower novice teachers to self-mentor. Too often mentoring programs consist of mentors “telling” novice teachers what to do. Share the mentoring curriculum with the novice teachers. Invite them to mentoring meetings. Novice teachers can lead their own “sharing best practices” groups and learn how to collaborate with other teachers. Mentors and other teachers in the building can encourage novice teacher to create support groups.
Watch this video of a novice teacher leading a group. Notice the mentor is the guide on the side.
Induction and mentoring programs encourage novice teachers to be leaders and, by sharing their own practice, teachers are more successful and want to stay in teaching. Mentors who are willing guide novices encourage novices to self-mentor and to become leaders.
Novice teachers need to be talking about effective teaching practices when they meet with their mentors. Whatever mentoring curriculum agendas you use, they need to be aligned to the school and state standards so novices clearly understand what they are trying to achieve. Novice teachers are often unaware of the connection to the standards. They need the district induction program to teach them the common language of standards.
Some novice teachers have said, “I don’t have time to be mentored because I have to focus on my teacher evaluation.” When mentors focus on successful performance in the classroom and the teacher evaluation goals, novice teachers are motivated to participate in mentoring conversations.
I believe that induction and mentoring programs that are mindful to the needs of novice teachers retain more novice teachers. Mentors and district leaders who LISTEN, EMPOWER, and ALIGN make BIG changes to support novice teachers to be successful and stay in teaching.
How you model best mentoring practices and present yourself as a teacher leader or leader of teachers matters!
Remember that your influence begins with you and ripples outward.