Sunday, February 22, 2015

From Beginner to Master Teacher -- year two-- the importance of mentors
Teachers in their second year are ready to focus more intentionally on their practice. Ideally, they finish their first year with a formal review with their divisional principal. At this meeting the principal should provide the teacher with a set of clear commendations and recommendations for improvement. Directional in nature these recommendations become the basis for the second year teacher's professional goals. At Westtown School teachers gather in their evaluation cycle cohorts in opening of school meetings to write their goals for the year. Second year teachers meet as a group, discuss their plans for the year and share their written plans. Second year teachers' goals must address the recommendations growing out of the first year review.

The best way to insure successful implementation of these goals is to provide second year teachers with a mentor, time and other resources as needed. We work to put the meeting with the mentor in our teacher's schedules. The dedicated time, every other week, signals the importance the school places on teachers realizing their goals.

Mentor selection in the second year is a mix of teacher request and administrative direction. In some cases, teachers want to work with their mentor from the previous year. In other situations, a teacher may request a new mentor based on relationships developed over the first year or a desire to work with a particular colleague. Administrators may also have a specific mentor in mind for a teacher. Usually, this happens when a teacher has a particular area of weakness that needs remediation in order for the teacher to be offered a contract for a third year. However the match is made, both teachers must commit to working together. We do a regular check in with mentors and with second year teachers each month to insure they are meeting and that they are working towards achieving the goals. All of our mentors have attended training sessions of effective peer mentoring and peer coaching. The mentors check in with the mentor program faculty leaders. The mentors need support too!

As in all of our supports for our teachers, we use a mix of requirements and offered supports. Our institutional goal is to provide intentional, sustained support for our faculty over the first four years of their careers. As a school we are investing in our teachers' success and through them serving our students. In the second year, we want to address specific areas in a teacher's practice and continue to foster a growth mindset.