New Teacher Mentoring Programs Don’t Need to Be Complicated to be Helpful

AASPA Blog ,

As we shift into “Back to School” mode, Team Torace can support planning initiatives. This series offers tips and insight from our years helping school systems to attract, develop, and retain teachers and school leaders. For more articles in this series, visit Torace’s website from now through September.

The start of a new school year brings optimism, energy, and countless new teachers to the profession.  To set those teachers up for success we know new teachers will need: 1) Onboarding, 2) Community, 3) Mentoring, and 4) Continuous touchpoints. 

Starting a program from scratch or expanding an existing program to support all new teachers can seem daunting – particularly in these challenging times.  But it doesn’t have to be, and Torace can help! If you’re resource-constrained, looking to launch a pilot, or simply trying something new, it’s ok to start with the simple goal of creating a space for people to connect and learn from one another.  Here are a few steps to get you going: 

Program Design

  • Start Small:
    • Though it would be great for everyone to have a mentor, start with a smaller subset of your group: For instance, focus on a subset of schools (like a geographic region, or a high needs) or a subset of teachers (lower elementary, or secondary STEM).
  • Start Light:
    • Think about your mentoring program as a series of sessions and make your first session timebound in a way that will seem reasonable and attractive to teachers who may never have served as a mentor before. For instance, 4-8 weeks, October-November, or Labor Day through Thanksgiving. 
  • Start Focused:
    • Identify a goal or a theme that anchors the program rather than a giant umbrella that includes all aspects of teaching: For instance, “Strong Start,” Classroom Management, Navigating the School District as a New Employee, etc.

 Manage Logistics Efficiently

  • Identify your potential “mentors “– if you do not have a formal mentor training program that is ok! Identifying who wants to mentor can be as simple as asking “who would like to serve as a resource?” It may be helpful to remind people that “mentors” don’t need to be experts in everything or specifically trained—they just need to be able to help a colleague professionally.
  • Ask your prospects: 1) what they’d be willing to do, 2) the areas they feel they are best positioned to support, 3) the kind of mentors they think they would benefit the most from, and 4) the areas of support that they are looking for.
  • Build a bench of potential mentors, and based on your numbers and topics, sketch out the expected commitment (number of mentees each, number of meetings, etc.)
  • Set and communicate reasonable expectations (e.g. a goal of 3 touchpoints and the mentor does the first scheduling)

Match with Intention

  • Use the information at your disposal to match your mentors and mentees intentionally.
  • Where possible, try to match mentors and mentees in areas of alignment – for instance, pair a mentor who is excited to talk about classroom management with a mentee who is looking for classroom management support.

We know that managing the logistics can sometimes get tricky quickly. Torace makes identifying prospective mentors easier and already has questions and data collection functions built and ready for you to use so you can easily digest the information and act on it. And when it comes to making the best matches you can, Torace allows you to see all this information on one page and make matches live. The matching process can be made even easier and faster with Torace.

Program Support

  • A little structure goes a long way – provide a one-page conversation guide that outlines expectations and conversation flow so both sides know what to expect and can prepare. For an example of a guide for light programs, visit our Micro-Mentoring Resources

Continuous Learning

  • Plan for simple touchpoints (for instance, a 3 question Google form survey) to see how the program is going. When it’s over, ask everyone how it went and gauge their interest in being part of it again. Use the learning to make the second session better than the first.

Above all else, recognize that your job in running or launching a mentoring program is to create a space and structure for a mentor and mentee to develop a relationship and learn from one another. Embrace your inner matchmaker with Torace.