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Teacher Mentoring Defined: Uses, Advantages and Limitations

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For many professionals, such as those involved in education and academics, mentoring is an important resource, particularly because it helps encourage new learnings and improve on established ones.  Mentoring is a highly valued practice and it is a recognized method used by many educators for sharing information and knowledge.  It is also a way for more senior members of the academe to train beginners, allowing protégés to be sponsored both professionally and organizationally.

The purpose of teacher mentoring

Teacher mentoring involves the pairing of a beginning teacher with a teacher who has more experience.  Sometimes, the pairing can involve one or more new teachers or a group of more experienced teachers, depending on the perceived need of the beginning teacher/s and the goals of the organization.  

The purpose of teacher mentoring is not only to build a mentor-protégé relationship between two or more individuals but also to provide support for the new teacher.  This will help establish the teacher's confidence, allow them to settle into the organization immediately and maximize their effectiveness as instructors.  

Mentoring can also help establish an educational system's quality standard, allowing a school to ensure compliance with prevailing benchmarks.  It is also helpful in the recruitment and retention of new staff.

As a process, teacher mentoring may be used formally, such as when a school wishes to implement particular programs or informally, where no programs are in place.  Either way, it can benefit a system if the program is implemented correctly.

Benefits of teacher mentoring in education

Teacher mentoring is one of the best interactive systems that mentors, mentees and the educational system can actively participate in.  It helps create a quantitative program to help train new teachers, develop more experienced educators and improve the techniques and methods used in instruction.  It also helps build a sense of community within the school and help it comply with existing standards.

Limitations of teacher mentoring

Teacher mentoring has its benefits and has been acknowledged as very advantageous especially for beginners.  However, it has its list of disadvantages.  In 1996, teacher mentoring was criticized as a means with which to promote practices and norms that are deemed too conventional.  Critics say that most teacher mentoring programs encourage participants to learn and implement outdated practices.  Teacher mentoring participants may also risk picking up bad habits as demonstrated by their mentors.  

The lack of trust and follow-up can also spell a huge difference in teacher mentoring programs.  If the system cannot be assessed or evaluated properly, it is easy for the program to fail.  An ineffective evaluation system can also frustrate the mentor, especially if the system is too saddled with details and other unnecessary activities.  

Implementing an effective teacher mentoring program

The most important consideration when implementing a teacher mentoring program for an educational institution is determining its match to the goals and objectives of the school system.  Choosing the type of mentoring programs that are appropriate to the grade level of the teacher mentee is also essential.  If there is a fit, it is easier for the program to be designed and put into practice.  It is also important that the processes and methods are clear and specific, something that can be quantified and measured, to allow administrators to determine whether the program works or not.

It is also important that the teacher mentoring program receives sufficient support from the school management and that sufficient resources are provided for the participants.  Without support from the administration, a mentoring program will be difficult to sustain if it is run independently of the institution.  Appropriate methods for assessment of the program is also important, to allow the organization to determine if it is effective or if there is a need to improve certain aspects.

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