Quality and quantity are sometimes framed as being “in tension”—you don’t want to have a “low bar” to get “enough” participants. We believe this tension can be resolved by thinking about the pipeline into mentoring in a more nuanced way. Just as a teacher can develop their skills as a teacher, a mentor can also grow in their mentoring. This growth can occur through practice, reflection, feedback, and other explicit supports and training. What it means to be “ready” to mentor in one program may not be the same as what is required in another.
Here is a rather obvious example for illustrative purposes. If novice teachers are assigned two mentors, a primary mentor from a central team and a secondary mentor, a teacher from a different site framed as a “buddy,” the requirements of those two mentors may be different. The central team mentor will have had to meet specific minimum requirements, applied for the role, and been through a rigorous selection process. In addition to specific training, the central mentoring team may workshop problems of practice and the mentor may be evaluated based on the 360 feedback from their manager, their cohort of mentees, and the principals at the sites they support. The primary mentor will be much more involved, perform classroom observations, and give specific support and suggestions around problems of practice, whereas the “buddy” may mostly provide support through active listening and directing the teacher towards appropriate district resources. This doesn’t mean that “buddies” shouldn’t be high-quality mentors, but the requirements are different. The selection process may simply include creating a profile and getting principal approval and watching a video training guide.
A mentor pipeline in a particular PK-12 organization might have some of the following roles with different requirements:
“buddy” mentors for new teachers or new hires
curriculum- or focus-specific mentors
student teacher hosts (sometimes called cooperating teachers, mentors, or master teachers)
novice teacher mentors
peer mentors for experienced teachers
aspiring leader mentors
even mentors for new mentors!
This is not an exhaustive list—levels, combinations, and objectives of programs can vary widely. The required minimum experience, performance metrics, training, and methods for feedback and evaluation may be different across the groups. Someone ready to host a practicum placement may not need to meet the same requirements as to host a student teacher. Moreover, feedback on practicum hosts from their students, the principal, and the students’ EPP (Educator Preparation Program) coordinator can potentially inform their approval in a subsequent year to host a student teacher.
An institution doesn’t need a rigid formal pathway into and through mentoring roles to successfully develop staff as mentors over time. However, having a clear theory of action, a coherent set of descriptions for each role, and an articulated set of requirements for various roles can go a long way toward supporting that progression. Moreover, codifying these roles also provides clear leadership and development opportunities to engage staff.
Torace can help create these pathways for institutions to engage, monitor, and empower developing mentors. Learn more by scheduling a demo today!