New Principal Mentoring Made Easy
By Torace Team published on May 17, 2022
min read
Summary: New principals, no matter how well suited for the role, often find that their previous experience as teacher leaders or assistant principals have not adequately prepared them for their first years in the role. Support typically comes from a manager (Deputy Superintendent or Network Lead) or a POSA (Principal On Special Assignment) with a case load. But less formal help from peers can make a big difference for the new principal and in turn for everyone at their site. These simple steps can help program directors launch an easy and effective mentoring program.
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With Spring Breaks wrapping up across the country, schools are preparing for the end-of-year sprint. Though it may seem a bit on the early side, now is a perfect time to lay the groundwork for school year 2022-2023 professional development interventions.

When it comes to low-lift, high-impact interventions, few professional development offerings provide more bang-for-the-buck than mentoring initiatives. Not only does the mentee gain knowledge and support that improves effectiveness and retention, but mentors benefit as well through increased engagement and leadership development. And while everyone can benefit from a mentor, perhaps no group of school leaders benefit more than new principals. In fact, in this interview with Sue Park in Edweek, getting a mentor is the headline advice for new leaders!

Though something that critical should not be left up to the strength of a new leader's personal network, creating a mentorship program can seem daunting to district staff – we all know how expensive it can be to engage 3rd party consultants and mentoring organizations – but it doesn’t need to be. Chances are you have a terrific bench of potential mentors – whether they are seasoned school leaders or central office staff – that could support new mentors. With a little structure and guidance, a simple mentorship program can go a long way toward making their first year a successful one.

When planning a mentorship initiative, here are a few tips:

  1. Take an inventory of the topics your potential mentors would feel comfortable giving advice about and use that information to think about how best to pair mentors and mentees. We suggest asking mentors and mentees about strengths and growth areas. You can use a list of competencies from your leadership rubric or the PSEL (Professional Standards for Educational Leaders), or a custom list of focus areas that are important to your district.

  2. A little structure goes a long way – provide a one-page conversation guidance document that outlines expectations and conversation flow so both sides know what to expect and can prepare. Check out our Micro-Mentoring Resources page for links to basic conversation guides that can be used by participants.

  3. Consider breaking the year into 4 or 6 mini-mentoring periods, each with its own focus. Mentor and mentee pairings could change throughout the year based on the needs that surface or what is most likely to be relevant. For instance, the mentoring periods could be focused on particular skills and tasks required during specific parts of the annual cycle (e.g. onboarding staff, budgeting, hiring, staff development) or around topics that are in particular focus district wide (e.g. SEL, community engagement, etc.).

If you have further questions let us know! We’re happy to chat.

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