Feature

Mentoring New Teachers

Kathy Clarke and Kelly Hayes

DATA FROM THE ONTARIO TEACHERS' PENSION PLAN INDICATES THAT 18 PERCENT OF NEW TEACHERS ARE AT RISK OF LEAVING THE PROFESSION.

These teachers expressed dissatisfaction with their teaching experience; many expressed a loss of confidence in their own teaching skills. They also expressed a sense of "hurt" about what they saw as a lack of respect and recognition for their efforts, both within the profession and in the general public.

This loss of new teachers is damaging both to our education system and to the individuals themselves. To become confident and effective members of their new profession, beginning teachers need the support and guidance of master, or mentor, teachers.

The first years of teaching are stressful and challenging. New teachers must plan lessons, organize paperwork, manage classroom behaviour, teach an unfamiliar curriculum, interact with students, staff and parents, and yet remain energetic, positive and dynamic. Often they feel isolated and disillusioned. A formal induction and mentorship program could "open the doors" and provide educational, personal, and emotional support for these protégés.

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board's Induction and Mentorship program promotes the personal and professional well-being of beginning teachers through formal induction workshops and a comprehensive mentorship program.

Each pair of teachers (mentor and protégé) receives eight days of Learning Team Time (LTT) to build a mentoring contract that meets the needs of the new teacher. Mentors are invited to training sessions that focus on the stages of mentoring, active listening, problem solving, building effective mentoring relationships, and planning for professional growth.

To confirm the value of this program, E-BEST, the school board's new research service, is collaborating with Brock University, the Ministry of Education and the Ontario College of Teachers to conduct formal evaluations. Mentors and proteges offer insights through their electronic learning journals. They also complete questionnaires at the beginning, mid-point and end of the school year.

Each team builds a professional work folder to celebrate accomplishments within the Standards of Professional Practice's five domains. Reflection, research and rewards are part of this unique program, with participants enjoying the interaction as well as the professional growth.

ETFO Hamilton-Wentworth sits on the program's steering committee. An excellent working relationship has developed between management and union. The respect shown for the collective agreement and union policy and positions has allowed the local to move from simply monitoring the program to becoming more involved with it. Members have greatly appreciated the role ETFO Hamilton- Wentworth has taken in this regard.

Hamilton-Wentworth's Induction and Mentorship program respects our experienced teachers and supports our beginning teachers. We have high hopes that over the long term, it will influence teacher retention. In the meantime, the immediate benefit is that we are building professional relationships and creating a marvellous learning community!

Kathy Clarke is the principal of the Ham i 1 ton -Wen tworth DSB's Teach er Induction and Mentorship Program. Kelly Hayes is the president of ETFO Hamilton-Wentworth.

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