By Tom Manning
Many of us have been lucky enough in our lives that we can identify someone we’d call a mentor, someone who taught us how things work and helped us navigate through the difficulties we face trying to establish ourselves. For some of us, our mentor may very well have been a teacher, but what about for teachers themselves?
Mentoring is the process by which a trusted and experienced person takes a personal and direct interest in the development and education of a less experienced individual. And new teachers facing new challenges absolutely need that type of support.
Research tells us that strong teacher preparation, which includes extensive practice under an expert mentor, has a positive impact on student learning. With many new educators reporting that they feel ill-equipped to lead their students to success from day one, there is a critical need for effective mentoring for new teachers across the county.
One state has a plan to address this issue. The Louisiana Department of Education is changing the way it prepares teachers by identifying and supporting mentor teachers in every parish in the state to work with new teachers and aspiring teachers participating in a yearlong residency.
Learning Forward is providing that mentor teacher support and helping the Department of Education achieve its vision of creating a cadre of talented educators who have the knowledge and skills to mentor and support other teachers within their schools and districts.
Last year, more than 350 mentors went through Learning Forward’s nine-day program to prepare them for mentoring new and resident teachers. Last month, we kicked off the second year of our mentor work at the department’s Teacher Leader Summit in New Orleans. We’ll work with more than 600 mentors this year.
The mentor work focuses on four key goals for mentor participants:
- Building strong relationships with mentees.
- Diagnosing and prioritizing mentee’s strengths and areas for growth based on quantitative data (i.e. student achievement results from summative and formative assessments) and qualitative data (i.e. student work and feedback, classroom observations, peer and supervisor feedback).
- Designing and implementing a coaching support plan to develop mentee knowledge and skills in content, content-specific pedagogy, and classroom management and facilitate self-reflection skills. This includes:
- Setting short- and long-term professional growth goals based on competencies and student results.
- Creating a logical sequence of coaching supports to develop mentee skill over time to reach goals.
- Identifying and leverage high-quality, evidence-based resources to support mentee-specific needs.
- Facilitating effective coaching interactions grounded in student evidence, including difficult conversations.
- Tracking mentee progress.
- Assessing and deepening mentor content knowledge and content-specific pedagogy to support continued development of mentor and mentee competencies in their respective content areas.
Mentors’ learning is grounded in the Standards for Professional Learning and a mentoring cycle with three core components: diagnosing mentee needs, coaching mentees to improve their practice, and measuring their progress. Mentors work in cohorts throughout the year based on their subject areas and grade levels, and mentors who complete the program and successfully complete an assessment series receive a Mentor Teacher distinction from the Department of Education.
As we deploy members of our consulting team across Louisiana to facilitate these mentoring sessions (so far we’ve hosted cohorts in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Ruston, Lafayette, and Alexandria), I’m always struck by the scope and potential impact of this work, and the role we’re playing in developing a new generation of learning leaders in Louisiana schools.
You can learn more about the Louisiana mentor teacher work at //www.louisianabelieves.com/teaching/louisiana-mentor-teachers.
Tom Manning ([email protected]) is Learning Forward’s associate director of consulting and networks.