Experience Speaks: The Impact of Mentoring in the Classroom and Beyond

Dec. 28, 2007

Source: The Avi Chai Foundation


This study captures and makes explicit some of the tacit knowledge being accumulated by a group of eight experienced teacher mentors serving in the Jewish New Teacher Project, a project funded by The Avi Chai Foundation, which applies a fully integrated and formative interactive model of teacher support to recruit and retain quality teachers in Jewish day schools. In the project, new teachers have weekly on-site contact with a mentor, who is an exemplary veteran teacher. Mentors observe and coach, offer emotional support, assist with short and long-term planning, design classroom management strategies, teach demonstration lessons, provide curriculum resources, and facilitate communication with the principal.

The stories gathered from the project mentors demonstrated that mentoring:

  • Provides moral support through the highly challenging first two years of teaching;
  • Establishes a framework for new teachers to help them think about their roles and purposes, concrete tasks such as lesson planning, and student assessment;
  • Leads to enhanced instruction, particularly through the use of data and non-evaluative observation;
  • Helps new teachers see the broader picture in terms of student development and appropriate learning goals;
  • Teaches new teachers how to be reflective about their own practice, a skill that stays with them long after the mentoring ends;
  • Facilitates connections to the broader school community and school-wide philosophy, mission and goals;
  • Helps new teachers handle interactions with parents in productive ways; and
  • Gives new teachers confidence to contribute more broadly within their schools.

    Beyond their positive influence on individual new teachers, mentors are developing important educational leadership skills and putting them into practice in their own classrooms and beyond. At times, mentors facilitate exchanges among new teachers, veteran teachers, and administrators. Their work can spark conversations about curriculum, instruction, and learning within and across grades and disciplines while they develop themselves professionally in the process. Mentors report that the JNTP training provides them with a framework for deepening their own understanding of instruction, even after years of teaching, and as such, it further professionalizes their work.

    Through a set of interviews and focus groups, the researcher collected stories from the mentors’ experience with new teachers to shed light on the following question:
    As a veteran teacher and mentor, what am I learning that could help my school overall?
    It was found that the mentors are developing tangible and practical insights about how to address critical school challenges. This study highlights three general areas which are informed by reports provided by the mentors:

    • Attracting and retaining excellent teachers;
    • Ensuring a consistently good educational experience for all students; and
    • Fostering professional growth and development for teachers.

    The author invites school administrators and teachers to use the mentors’ reflections as a contribution to their own efforts at addressing the challenges facing them in these three important areas.

    Reviewed by JTEC Portal Team

Updated: Jun. 16, 2008