From student achievement to teacher attrition, good mentors can make a world of difference in the teaching profession.
A 2017 study found that if new teachers are paired with trained mentors who provide them with regular feedback, “their students may receive the equivalent of up to five months of additional learning.”
In 2021, Education Week Staff Writer Elizabeth Heubeck wrote about the ins and outs of effective mentorship for new teachers. In the article, she cites a 2015 federal study on teacher retention and mobility, which found that a very high percent of first-year teachers who had mentors—more than 9 in 10—returned to the classroom for a second year.
The tricky part? Not all mentorships are created equal. The 2017 study, for example, compared teachers whose mentors had special professional development to those who received business-as-usual supports. Students of teachers in the latter category didn’t improve as much.
We wanted to put the question to you: What key characteristics denote an effective mentor in education?
According to educators on social media, a good mentor:
“Being an active listener and asking good questions.”
“Someone who listens first and someone who can learn from their mentee.”
“Listens. Listen before ‘fixing.’ There is a power in pause. Listen to understand rather than reply.”
Leads with empathy
“My mentor always helps me find the silver lining when things go wrong, while still validating how I feel. My cooperating teacher during student teaching was the same way. Both spectacular human beings. I really got lucky with them.”
“Is respectful and supportive without making it seem like their way is the only way.”
“Being supportive in ALL ways possible. Mentors not only need to share the ‘need to knows’ of teaching the grade/subject(s), but also introduce their mentee to colleagues, listen to their frustrations/complaints, keep a sense of confidentiality, celebrate their successes and help them when they fail. The first year of teaching is exhausting and scary at times. The sense of being overwhelmed is palpable.”
— Rutz Mo