Mentoring is Vital for First Year Teachers

Adam Fragale
Curriculum Specialist
Blog on October 19 2022

For first year teachers, maybe now more than ever, schools should have a structured mentoring support system in place. Not just to make a new teacher feel comfortable in their new role, but to offer professional expertise and make a commitment to work alongside new teachers, so they can build upon their skills and goals.

The first-year teaching cycle

The first year can become overwhelming for any new teacher, but being a first year teacher post-pandemic will undoubtedly be a monumental undertaking. Most first year teachers will go through five different attitude phases about being a teacher over the course of the year: 

  1. Anticipation: “Yay! I can’t wait to get into my classroom and inspire young minds!”
  2. Survival: “Nothing is working! These kids are out of control! What am I going to do?”
  3. Disillusionment:  “Why did I choose this profession? I am not cut out for this!”
  4. Rejuvenation: “Ok world, I can do this!”
  5. Reflection: “Whew, I made it! What can I do better next time?”

The mentee

As teachers, we have all experienced one or all of these phases in our careers, and many may have not survived that first year without the guidance of a mentor along the way. A mentor provides the foundation for their mentee to become successful. As a first year teacher, you will greatly benefit from the expertise of a mentor by setting goals for yourself, frequently connecting with your mentor, asking for feedback, and applying what you learn. When in the anticipation phase, you will probably set some pretty lofty goals for yourself. Once the school year starts, you quickly realize that you may not be able to achieve those goals, which can be discouraging. A mentor will be able to assist you in narrowing down the specific goals you would like to achieve. For example, if you would like feedback on how you are presenting in class, invite your mentor to sit in on a class of yours. They can provide you with open-ended questions, observations, and perhaps helpful tips that you can use to improve for your next lesson. A successful mentor/mentee relationship will allow for both educators to grow professionally through reciprocal learning.

The mentor

If you take on the role of mentor, your main goal should be to maintain professionalism throughout your mentee’s first year. You should also plan to provide guidance and coaching even past their inaugural year. As a mentor, you have the potential to not only positively impact your mentee’s confidence and aspirations, but also help them adjust to a new school and community environment.

For the mentor/mentee relationship to be successful, both sides must come into it with an open mind, willing to learn from each other. In my first year teaching, my mentor was a year away from retirement and I was a little hesitant to be paired up with her. I did not think that she could bring anything relevant to the modern day, technology-infused classroom. However, what she lacked in technological know-how, she more than made up for in behavioral management of students! She showed me how to deal with disengaged students, navigate parent-teacher nights, and manage all things school activity related. I was, in turn, able to teach her a few tech tips that made her life a little easier. We continued that relationship another two years (yes, she stayed on for an additional year) until retirement.  

The great thing about a successful mentorship is that if it works well, you have gained a friend and trusted colleague for life. Even though we are both now out of the classroom, we still keep in touch and check in, just as if we were still working side-by-side in the classroom again.


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