Ideas for a new mentor teacher

My principal asked me to be a mentor for a new science teacher. I received a checklist of high school policies to review, but how can I help him in other ways? – T., New Jersey

In my experience, a good mentor can be a role model, a good listener, a source of suggestions and resources, a critical friend, and a shoulder to cry on. New teachers are often overwhelmed, so it’s important to initially focus on a few essentials. Let him know that it’s okay to learn from mistakes (and we all make them).

You’ll want to be helpful, but not overbearing. For example, as a beginning teacher I struggled with classroom management and how to deal with difficult students. (I came to realize that the two were connected—establishing expectations and routines provided a structure that many students needed.). We did not have a formal mentoring program, but another teacher took me under her wing. One day, she mentioned she was having problems with students X and Y. I also had these students, and she asked if I had any suggestions. I was astounded! She (a legend in the community) was asking me for advice! Whether she really needed my advice or not, her approach made me feel like a colleague, not just a rookie. I also realized that veteran teachers also have challenges and student misbehavior was not necessarily a personal attack.

In addition to your checklist, discuss effective safety practices in science; the NSTA safety portal has many resources. New teachers should understand that if an activity or demonstration cannot be done safely, it should not be done at all, no matter how interesting or engaging or how mature students may seem.

NSTA’s position statement, Induction Programs for the Support and Development of Beginning Teachers of Science has a good description of the roles and responsibilities of mentors and mentees.

For more ideas, see

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