Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Mentoring New Teachers

BEAVERTON, Oregon (AP) -- States from Oregon to Georgia are considering pouring millions of dollars into mentoring programs for new teachers, aiming to stop educators from spending just a few years in the classroom before leaving the field.

Researchers estimate as many as 50 percent of teachers nationwide will leave the profession within their first five years on the job, fed up and frustrated.

So says

California is mentioned positively for its mentor program, known mostly as BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support something). When done well, I guess BTSA could be a big help to people. When I was a rookie, I team-taught with an English teacher, a social studies teacher, and a fellow rookie science teacher. There was no formal mentoring, but I got all the help I needed from those teachers around me. Sometimes I see what BTSA mentors want their "charges" to do, and it seems like so much extraneous paperwork to me. I had enough to do without all the extra writing, "reflecting", discussing, etc.

I help the rookies--or anyone else, for that matter--whenever they ask, or whenever their stories indicate that I might have something to offer them. Informal collaboration is part of professionalism, and it's part of being a good, helpful person as well. If BTSA-like programs can help keep people in the profession, people who might otherwise leave for correctable reasons, then I'll give them two thumbs up. It's too bad we have to do something formal, though; it's too bad that all teachers can't start in the collaborative, helpful, mentoring environment like that in which I started.

And before you think that I started teaching at some suburban middle-class school, I assure you it was not. There were some exceptional professionals teaching there, though.


Ellen K said...

"Mentoring" is only as good as the people involved. My mentor teacher was so removed from teaching and so unknowledgable of my subject that she was virtually ignorant. The only assistance she ever gave me was regarding due dates for paperwork. My first supervising teacher ended up on extended leave my third day when her daughter came down with measles. I was basically thrown into the mix without lesson plans, direction or resources. So when they discuss mentoring as a program I hope they have some way of evaluating the Mentors first.

Darren said...

I'm sure every district/school *thinks* they have excellent mentors, just like they think they have excellent administrators and teachers....

Anonymous said...

My district used to have a program where certain teachers were given the label "master teachers". One had to apply for this position and be observed by a panel of administrators and teachers. These teachers also had to keep a binder with documentation of "x" number of hours of inservices/continuing ed that made them more qualified to work with student teachers and to mentor "newbies". There was a stipend that accompanied this position and it lasted for two years.
This program was replaced by the BTSA program, which pulled experienced classroom teachers out of their classrooms to work full time with new teachers. A friend took this on for a couple of years. She had to travel between 8 schools and mentor over 12 new teachers. I went through the BTSA program about 14 years ago. Some of it was worthwhile and much of it was busy work/jump through the hoops. Just what a new teacher needs. Anyway, I don't even know if we have the BTSA program anymore--never hear about it if we do.
At my school, if the university wants us to take student teachers, the principal puts out an email and anyone who wants him/her can have him/her. Qualified or not. When a new teacher comes on board, it is up to the subject areas and other teachers on his/her team to help out if needed. Teachers, unfortunately, are not always willing to share ideas and/or resources. No wonder 50% + leave in the first 5 years.