Informal Mentoring: The Art of Giving Back

Most new teachers leave the profession within five years. I’ve been hearing this stat and others like it for what seems like forever. The next logical question for me is, “Why?” The answers is multi-tiered. At the core of this mass exodus are inadequate, irrelevant, and ineffective pre-service experiences, as well as a lack of mentoring for new teachers during their first three to five years in the classroom.

I think that when “mentoring” is brought up, our minds tend to venture to images of a very formally structured relationship where one person is the expert and the other person is the novice who is gleaning all that he/she can from their more experienced counterpart.

Today, I’m proposing that those of us who consider ourselves to be teacher-leaders step up and mentor a new teacher who crosses your path. What does that look like? Share a lesson plan. Explain how to write an Understanding by Design unit plan, Wiggins and Tighe style. Accompany a new teacher to the UFT meeting. Smile at a new teacher who you can see is having a trying time. These educational and professional random acts of kindness can go a long way towards mentoring a new teacher in ways that a college classroom setting simply can not.

What I’m proposing in terms of the importance of and need for authentic mentorship experience is really not anything new, nor is it a best practice that’s exclusive to educators. Management Mentors aptly underscores that “informal mentoring” is initiated by either a mentor or mentoree, may last a long time, and is more of an emotional commitment. It focuses exclusively on a mentoree’s goals.  Most often, this kind of relationship begins when two people meet and discover they have common interests.  Out of this discussion, a relationship develops and out of this relationship, one person begins to take on the role of listening and providing advice to the other.  In essence, the mentoring relationship is born. The mentor can be one’s boss, a teacher, a neighbor, a relative, a religious person, a colleague, etc.

Mentoring derives from a sincere desire to help another person out. We teach our students that this is an important quality for one to possess, but how often do we demonstrate this characteristic in our daily observable interactions with our colleagues?

I think I’m just at that stage in my career where I see the need to give back. We need great teachers and we hire a lot of great teachers every year. Informal mentoring gives the profession and the students we educate the sustainable edge that’s needed to stay afloat and, perhaps, lessen the attrition rate of teachers.


What do you think?

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