Many incoming teachers struggle their first few years on the job. Whether it be via hectic day-to-day operations or through changing lesson plans or criteria: novice teachers are often cast adrift without an anchor.
This has been a problem for a long time. The last two years, however, have made it harder than ever. That’s why mentorship for new teachers is more important now than ever before.
Fostering mentor relationships could help bridge the gap between incoming teachers and the roles they are meant to play. School districts that aim to curb attrition should focus on structured mentoring programs that can help new teachers acclimatize to the current scholastic climate.
New Challenges in a Post-Covid Classroom
Pre-pandemic, mentoring programs focused on conceptual education and classroom success. Many of these sessions were intended to help alleviate lesson-plan stress, identify and assist troubled students, and offer enriching career advice.
Post-pandemic, the stressors are up-front and in person. The rise of online learning, budget cuts, Covid health guidelines, and bureaucracy have all taken their toll on well-meaning educators desperate for a break. Mentorship could still be the answer to these troubles moving forward. However, it must operate on a separate playing field altogether.
New teachers need strategies for coping with stress, burnout, and declining mental health. They need senior coworkers to help navigate increasingly complex work environments, families in need, and students who are also struggling with many of the same issues.
We have to adapt to the present challenges, rather than be overwhelmed by them. Helping mentees set small, attainable goals for prioritizing tasks, offering extensive coaching, and encouraging healthy boundaries can all help bridge the mentoring gap in a very real way.
Mentor-Mentee Relationships Critical to Retention
Teachers, no matter their career level, are expected to perform at the highest possible levels at all times. To implement a successful mentoring model, pairing new teachers with seasoned veterans is always a wise move.
Regardless of the pandemic, veteran teachers have weathered many changes over their years as educators. Pairing practiced teachers with novices can be mutually beneficial in many ways, as it can provide necessary guidance for the incoming educators while exposing veterans to new ideas and teaching techniques. For their efforts, mentors can and should be paid commensurate with their time and care.
Districts that prioritize teacher retention and well-being through mentorship and other progressive programs tend to form strong educational foundations. These relationships benefit any community of which they are a part. While no one could have foreseen or prevented COVID-19, professional educators can and should come together to meet the demands of the post-pandemic landscape.
Happy teachers mean happy kids, and that is worth its weight in gold. However, ensuring long-term success for young teachers demands pairing them with experienced educators capable of sharing their skills and expertise.