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Mentors Can Make a Difference for New Teachers

9/16/2013 1:11 pm

Teaching Mentor

For those starting a career in teaching, whether they are fresh out of school or embarking on a new career path, entering the classroom for the first time as the sole educator in charge can be daunting. While student teaching can help one prepare for the experience, without a mentor, the transition can be tricky.

Mentors are experienced classroom teachers who act as a resource for new teachers. They walk a fine line between offering constructive criticism and praise and nurture new educators as they navigate their first year of work after earning their teaching degrees.

Some schools offer mentorship programs, while others have had faculty take it upon themselves to begin an initiative of their own. While the structure of these programs varies greatly, new teachers can generally rely upon their mentors as a resource for everything from assistance writing lesson plans to observing their classrooms and offering valuable feedback.

"How wonderful it is to have someone help you as a new teacher," Cherry Shim-Baisden, who recently left her career in business to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher, told The Tampa Tribune.

Of course, mentorship can begin even before becoming a full-fledged teacher. Former education students have noted that when taking on an internship or student teaching assignment, working with an experienced teacher who is also willing to act as a mentor can be hugely beneficial.

Angela Riggs, a new full-time teacher in Portland, Ore., said working with a mentor who encouraged her to seriously evaluate her approach helped her become a better teacher.

"She made sure to ask me what I thought before sharing her opinion," Riggs explained in Education Week. "This was critical. Over time, I learned to review my teaching realistically, be aware of what worked and what didn't, and understand how to tweak and modify for the next lesson."


Western Governors University is a nonprofit, accredited, online university. WGU's Teachers College offers multiple online degree programs for current teachers or those looking to become teachers. Find out more about WGU's Teachers College!

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