Mentoring is a powerful and often effective tool in supporting the work of new and experienced teachers. It can also be a means of attracting and retaining talented teachers in schools which face challenges in staffing and turnover. In this article the authors describe and analyze the first 2 years of a mentoring program designed to support teacher retention and growth. The program, planned between a Jewish education agency and university faculty, was implemented in several Orthodox Jewish day schools. Mentoring was provided by university faculty and the relationship between the mentor and teacher was non-evaluative and fully collaborative. Data collected from mentors, teachers, and principals are analyzed and presented, and implications for Jewish day schools are discussed.
This study describes how teachers, mentors, and school administrators perceived the process and impact of a mentoring program in which they participated.
The mentoring program called “TMG”—Teacher Mentoring for Growth (a pseudonym used for this article)—was developed for the purpose of enhancing teachers' professional growth in a Jewish day school system. The TMG program is a collaborative effort between a college of education in a large metropolitan area in the Midwest and an agency which oversees a network of Orthodox Jewish day schools, grades pre-K–12. The program was designed to have experienced supervisors affiliated with the college of education mentor practicing teachers in the day schools in order to provide a sustained period of collaboration and support.
The mentoring program is still ongoing; however, in this article the authors describe and analyze the outcomes of the first 2 years of the program (2008–2009 and 2009–2010).
The focus of this investigation is on the subjective experiences of the individuals who participated in mentoring experience. The authors generated, collected, and interpreted data in order to extrapolate meanings given to the mentoring process by the participants. The results and data from this study are not based on outside empirical measures but rather on participants' narratives. Following the interpretative-qualitative approach, the researchers encapsulated complex meanings into a finite report in order to describe, analyze, and understand the significance or worth of the mentoring experience from the perspective of those involved.
Participating teachers, mentors, and administrative personnel were asked to complete questionnaires regarding their view of the mentoring process, the relationships that were formed, and the impact of program on the teachers' professional practice. The primary sources of data were these naturalistic questionnaires which did not include guidance for comments. Additionally, the open-ended nature of the questions encouraged participants to reflect, interpret, assess, and deepen their understanding of their mentoring experience.
The TMG program has shown that mentoring for teacher growth is a vital component of teacher professional development, while at the same time there are lessons to be learned.
Lesson #1: Mentoring must be built on a foundation of trust and building strong relationships
Lesson #2: The process of mentoring must allow teachers to make mistakes without penalty
Lesson #3: Mentoring must be valued as a common practice in the context of education
Lesson #4: The context for mentoring must include communication and collaboration
Lesson #5: Mentoring takes time to impact teaching and enhance learning
Lesson #6: Diverse needs require a unique approach to mentoring