Research and best practice have demonstrated the importance of mentoring new teachers, but it’s more than just connecting two individuals. NJEA believes that mentoring must be only one part of a larger systematic, comprehensive induction program that invites teachers new to the practice to sustained professional learning. It should be a differentiated process based on the professional and life experiences of new teachers.
New Jersey has an opportunity to reinvigorate its mentoring program. In June, the N.J. Department of Education (NJDOE) is expected to introduce new regulations on the mentoring of new teachers. The decision to change the mentoring code was borne from last summer’s passage of the TEACHNJ Act. The law requires that experienced teachers new to a district be mentored, as well as those new to the profession.
NJDOE officials reached out to NJEA for assistance with the regulations governing mentoring. NJEA made the following recommendations:
- Mentoring is best achieved in a culture where the confidentiality between mentor and mentee is valued and respected. Therefore, mentors must have a non-evaluative role.
- A mentor should be assigned to the mentee and actively involved with the mentee from the first day of assignment, including any orientation days. The mentor should provide observation and feedback, opportunities for modeling, and confidential support and guidance.
- Because mentoring is important work, mentors should be compensated with funds provided by the school district and/or the state. They should receive their stipend check from the employing district, not from the mentee. Mentoring should be subject to collective bargaining.
- To ensure the integrity of the program, mentors require substantial training and support in adult learning models and school and district mission and policies. Mentors must be rated effective or highly effective, and have a minimum of have five years of experience in the district.
- Mentoring requires teachers to work together in the course of the school day. Adequate release time must be provided to allow for this collaboration. The amount of time allotted for this purpose should be based on whether the mentee holds a standard certificate, has completed a teacher education program, or is entering the profession through the alternate route.
As you may know, previous state mentoring programs have been undermined by a lack of funds and commitment. NJEA is doing its part to support teachers new to the profession. Let’s hope that this time, the state builds a quality mentoring initiative and has the fortitude to see it through.