Mentoring: Key Aspects for a Successful School Mentoring Program

Mentoring is essential to a school’s success. After leading seminars for 6 years on mentoring, we have identified some key aspects that will help everyone:

1. Assign a person to coordinate the mentoring work in the school.
Like in any activity in the organization, without a person leading and coordinating it, it has a slim chance of being effective or successful. Choose someone who has successful teaching experience, some experience with mentoring, and leadership skills.
2. Get clear about the difference between mentoring, peer support and evaluation.
Mentoring is a professional relationship where an experienced teacher coaches a less experienced teacher to help them improve their teaching, collegial and parent work.
3. Make sure that you give mentors some opportunity to develop their mentoring skills.
Many mentoring situations are complicated and require specific skills in the mentor. And many mentoring relationships cruise or sink based on the skill of the mentor. Find a way to give mentors some professional development.
4. Have the whole faculty set goals for and support the mentoring work for the year.
Goals are important. They allow you to think into the future and they give you a context for reviewing the past.
5. Allocate sufficient resources to make it work.
Creating time for a mentor to visit a mentees classroom is essential to successful mentoring. It may mean flipping a schedule, finding a sub, or combining a class, but it is an investment that is key to success.

There are lots of other questions related to mentoring review and evaluation and good resources to help. The articles in this month’s newsletter are a good place to start.

Defining Terms is a clear and concise paper describing basic differences between Mentoring, Peer Support and Evaluation and is an essential starting place to help schools avoid confusion and create unnecessary problems when building a Mentoring program.

A Mentoring Program Assessment Form was developed through our seminar and is a good checklist for identifying what is needed for a successful mentoring program and areas to improve.

Mentoring vs. Training is a short article about the challenge of helping a new untrained teacher to be successful.

More Mentoring Resources is a collection of the best resources for developing your mentoring program.

Next Month: Mentoring is a big topic. Next month our focus will be on the Art of Being a Mentor – What qualities are needed for a mentor to be successful, How to observe a teacher, The Art of Mentoring Conversations and more.

Michael Soule

Mentoring an Untrained Teacher

In a recent conversation about mentoring with my long-time colleague Nettie Fabrie from Sound Circle Center who is the Pedagogical Dean of the Seattle Waldorf School, I posed a question about mentoring a new and untrained teacher and she shared with me an important thought about mentoring new teachers in general.

She asked me, “Has this teacher gone through a teacher training or preparation course?  If not then one needs to take a different route in mentoring this teacher. One needs to develop a support program for the teacher that looks more like training than mentoring.”

“You see”, she said, “you can certainly help the teacher in their teaching, but without the foundations that are provided in a good Waldorf teacher preparation program most of what an individual will absorb will be just techniques. That will serve them for a little while. But when the children meet difficulties the inexperienced teacher will have a hard time discerning what the proper response would be and that is when we often see crises and conflicts developing between the teacher, students and parents alike.”

There are four important things that one develops in a teacher preparation course that are essential to their success in a school:

  1. A refined inner practice that is active and aligned with the stream of anthroposophy.
  2. A greater capacity for social interaction, group work and community and organizational development.
  3. A deeper understanding of the Waldorf curriculum, human development, teaching and student support.
  4. An active and diverse artistic life.

These are not things that a teacher can or will easily develop through online courses, weekend seminars or one-week summer intensives. These training opportunities often work on one or another of the areas, but not all. To develop these capacities above, it ia most helpful to have a guide and a group to work with over time.

When a school hires an untrained teacher, it is faced with the question of how to provide the needed support to the teacher in their inner, social, artistic and pedagogical work. Some of this can be supported through the ongoing work and study of the faculty. Some of this can be supported by requiring the teacher to enter into a training program. This requirement, however, often creates challenges as the carrying of a class and training at the same time is more than many people can manage. Without proper training the teacher often falls behind to the point of not serving the school well and the school compromises the quality of their educational offering. There are things a school can do to avoid this pitfall.

  • Make a commitment to hiring only trained teachers
  • If an untrained teacher is hired, commit to supporting him or her by providing funding and/or giving them a lighter teaching load so they may enter a training program immediately
  • Set up a collegial support system so that they can have the coaching needed from an experienced teacher as they complete their training. The support framework is best when it involves an overall plan for professional development and collegial support in the areas most needed – parent work, classroom management, lesson planning, artistic development.
  • If you don’t have a mentoring program established, then it may be wise to find a professional mentor outside the school who can help.

For more ideas about how to transition a new teacher into the school, see the Transition Handbook developed by the Teacher Education Network of AWSNA and other resources listed on this site.

Michael Soule 12/2014

School Mentoring Program Assessment Form, Sound Circle Mentoring Seminar 2008

School Mentoring Program Assessment Form (see pdf chart here)

This form is intended to help schools develop their capacity for assessing the mentorship program in their school and identify strengths and areas where improvements are needed. This form is a tool in development.

1. The Mentoring Program + - +/- Successes & Areas Needing Improvement
a. The mentoring program at the school is one part of a complete professional development plan, which includes mentorship, peer mentorship and evaluation.

b. The program provides mentoring for new teachers.

c. The program provides mentoring for all teachers, appropriate to their level of experience.

d. The teachers, board and administration recognize the need for and support the program.

e. The mentoring program is supported financially.

f. The mentoring program is supported in the school calendar and policies.

g. Professional development support is available to help each teacher gain skills they need.

h. The school identifies when the mentoring needs exceed the capacity and experience of the faculty and seeks outside support for mentorship.

i. The program covers all the areas of a teacher’s work, including inner work, parent relations, colleagueship, administrative tasks and work in the classroom.

j. It is clear who oversees and is responsible for the program.

k. Every faculty member is aware of the assessment process and results.

l. The mentoring program assessment results in an action plan that is implemented.

2. Program Orientation
+ - +/- Successes & Areas Needing Improvement
a. A handbook outlines the goals, processes, expectations, roles and responsibilities in the program. The Handbook includes the document “Criteria for a Healthy Classroom”.

b. All new teachers are oriented to the program and handbook.

3. Mentor Qualifications and Training
+ - +/- Successes & Areas Needing Improvement
a. The mentor has sufficient teaching experience in order to guide teachers.

b. Mentors are committed to the success of their teachers.

c. The mentor has some training and experience with mentoring.

d. Mentors have skills in the areas where the teacher needs help.

e. Mentors are successful in their own teaching.

f. The mentor is grounded in an Anthroposophical understanding of child development and Waldorf education.

g. Mentors have completed full teacher training in a Waldorf affiliated institute.

4. Program Implementation
+ - +/- Successes & Areas Needing Improvement
a. Mentors are assigned through a process that matches needs and talents.

b. Mentorship responsibilities are taken into account when non-teaching tasks are distributed among faculty.

c. Time and space is provided in the weekly schedule for classroom visits and mentoring meetings.

d. Written expectations of mentors and teachers are clear.

e. Roles for mentor and teacher are clear and have been agreed to by both.

f. Confidentiality is expected and practiced.

5. Program Oversight and Review
+ - +/- Successes & Areas Needing Improvement
a. The program is reviewed annually – with input from both mentor and teacher.

b. The work of the mentor is reviewed annually. This review includes a self-assessment and reflections from the teacher being mentored.

c. The group responsible for the program has set up means of checking in with mentors and teachers.

e. The process is documented – mentor and teacher keep records of meetings and take notes of their conversations and it is clear what happens to the documentation.

f. The process for dealing with situations where things do not go well is clearly laid out, supported and practiced.

g. There is a clear process for what to do when there are concerns by either.

h. Mentors in a school meet occasionally support and learn from each other.

6. Teacher Evaluation
+ - +/- Successes & Areas Needing Improvement
a. The school has an evaluation process in place separate from the mentoring program.

b. The distinctions between mentorship and evaluation are clear to all teachers.

c. Mentors do not evaluate teachers in their own school.

d. Results of any evaluation are shared with teacher and mentor.

e. There is a process and timeline for follow-up on evaluations.

Action Plan Date

Action Due by Person(s) responsible

Assessment form completed by: Date:

For a PDF of this assessment form as a chart, click here.
Copyright: Sound Circle Center, 2008

Mentoring and Evaluating Terms: Definitions and Clarifications, D Gerwin, M Soule AWSNA

The following descriptions attempt to clarify the uses of the terms relating to mentors and evaluators of individual teachers, as well as terms referring to the mentoring and evaluation of schools as a whole.



In-house Mentor – appointed by the school

In-house mentors are experienced teachers assigned by their schools to support a colleague (often a new teacher) in the improvement of his or her teaching. It is necessary for mentors to visit regularly to observe the students and teacher in the classroom, to meet with the teacher regularly, be available for questions and provide support to the teacher. These relationships are confidential and non-evaluative.

Outside Mentor – appointed by the school

Outside mentors are experienced teachers assigned by a school to visit one or more of its teachers when no suitable or appropriate mentor is available within the school. The relationship is the same as with in-house mentors.


Peer Support (also called “buddy” or “talking partner”) – chosen by the teacher

A peer support position usually is an experienced colleague in the same school as the teacher seeking help. He or she is a person with whom the teacher can speak in confidence as a way of gaining perspective and insight and share materials.


School Mentor – appointed by the school

This term generally refers to those who advise and provide guidance and oversee the mentoring. If they are from outside the school, their periodic visits may include observing individual teachers and offering suggestions in follow-up.


School Mentoring Team – appointed by AWSNA’s regional delegates in the school’s region

            As a “developing member” of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) the regional delegates designates a team of 2-3 experienced teachers, usually from the delegates group and member schools, that provides ongoing support to the school as it progresses towards candidacy. Members of this team may make visits to the developing school to observe and assess progress, and provide support and resources to help the school in its development. These visits are usually focused more on the overall development of the school and while they are not intended to include individual pedagogical mentoring or evaluation to teachers, they may include drop-in visits to classes and conversations with individual teachers.



Teacher Evaluator – appointed by the school

Evaluators are experienced teachers invited into a school to observe one or more teachers as part of the school’s periodic review program. Evaluators write reports based on their visits, identifying strengths and areas for growth. Usually evaluators discuss their findings with the teachers they have evaluated before submitting their report to the school.


School Evaluators – appointed by the school

From time to time a school may opt to invite one or more colleagues to visit the school to offer outside perspectives. These school evaluators may come in response to a crisis or in the context of a chronic or systemic problem.


School Evaluation Team – appointed by AWSNA

            As a “candidacy member” of AWSNA, a school will be visited by a team of evaluators whose task it is to determine whether the school is moving successfully towards full membership in the Association. These visits are largely focused on the overall development of the school but will include drop-in visits to classes and possibly conversations with individual teachers.

Schools undergoing AWSNA accreditation receive similar visiting teams.

AWSNA member schools commit to periodic self-study and peer review, which may include a site visit by an AWSNA-appointed team. (See AWSNA membership guidelines for details.)


- - -   Other Forms of Mentoring and Teachers Support   - - -

Supervising Teacher – designated by a teacher education institute

A supervising teacher is a colleague working in a school who agrees to accept a student teacher into his or her classroom as part of an internship of observation and practice teaching. This teacher supervises the work of the student teacher using guidelines set by the student’s teacher education institute. Often this colleague is designated as “cooperating teacher” or “on-site teacher”.


Internship/Practicum Supervisor – designated by a teacher education institute

Students enrolled in a Waldorf teacher education program generally undertake an internship or practicum in a Waldorf school as part of their training. In this context a faculty member of the program may visit the school to observe the student who is interning in the school under the guidance of a supervising teacher (see above)


Pedagogical Mentorship Network (formerly Pedagogical Advisors Colloquium)

This group of teachers has been working together for several years to deepen its understanding of supportive mentoring practices and the overall role of mentoring in schools. The purpose of this group is not to train or prepare mentors but to build a body of experience and resources that can be helpful to schools in developing their mentoring programs. Participants in the colloquium have taken active roles in offering regional mentoring seminars based on the experience of the colloquium.


August 2006



More Mentoring Resources

More Resources for Mentoring in Waldorf Schools

In 2005, after participating in a national mentoring colloquium sponsored by AWSNA, Nettie Fabrie and Michael Soule initiated a symposium for experienced teachers in Waldorf schools in the NW. The training was three years long (six weekend sessions) and involved 25 experienced teacher from 10 NW schools. After completing two three-year seminars with different participants, Nettie, Holly Koteen and Michael gathered their experience into a collection of resources to help teachers become more effective in school mentors.    Here are a few of the resources we found helpful. (Just click on the title to find the resource in our library.)

Mentoring in Waldorf Early Childhood Education, a compilation of essays published by WECAN. Edited by Nancy Foster

Compiled from the work of the WECAN Mentoring Task force, this book contains chapters on the essentials of Waldorf early childhood work, the pats of self education and adult learning, the "nuts and bolts" of mentoring, and the nature of a fruitful mentoring conversation. Contents: Self-Education as the Basis for the Art of Mentoring • The Role of Mentoring Early Childhood Teachers and Caregivers: Context and Purpose • Laying the Basis for the Mentoring Visit • The Essentials of Waldorf Early Childhood Education • The Mentoring Observation: What Do We Look For? • The Art of Fruitful Conversation • Pearls of Wisdom: The Role of Advice in Mentoring • Accountability: Written Records • Meeting at the Eye of the Needle: Mentoring on the Path of Adult Learning

Working Together: An Introduction to Pedagogical Mentoring with articles by Virginia Flynn, Ann Mathews, Else Gottkins, AWSNA

Recommendations from the findings of the AWSNA Pedagogical Advisors' Colloquium. Included are: Examples of Mentoring Practice in the Elementary Grades; Working Together Towards Excellence in Waldorf Education; Effective Mentoring; Examples of Mentoring Styles among other articles.

 Professional Review and Evaluation In Waldorf Early Childhood Education by Holly Koteen with a contribution by Patricia Rubano, published by WECAN.

A companion volume to Mentoring in Waldorf Early Childhood Education, full of time-tested advice and encouragement for schools wishing to implement or strengthen their professional evaluation process. Chapters include Why Review? Cultivating Review, The Self-Evaluation, The Role of the Evaluator, The Role of the Institution, and Obstacles and Hindrances. Appendixes include Susan Howard’s “The Essentials of Waldorf Early Childhood Education”

Effective Practices Module

A survey of effective practices in Waldorf schools including sections on:

Mentoring: an Introduction        1. The Mentoring Program           2. Mentoring Qualifications and Scheduling          3. Oversight and Review of the Mentoring Program                  4. Evaluations and Mentoring     5. Personal Development and Enrichment

These modules are available as resources on this site and through AWSNA.

If work in an AWSNA affiliated school you can get a copy of this study from their website Why Waldorf Works under school resources using the password 4AWSNA. These modules are intended for people only in AWSNA affiliated schools.

Navigating the Transition: A Handbook for Schools Welcoming a New Teacher from A Teacher Education Institute

This handbook was developed by the Teacher Education Network of AWSNA to help schools integrate and support new teachers in cooperation with the training program from which they graduated. The section on Mentoring is most helpful here. This handbook is available here in our resource section in short and long form. The handbook includes: Introduction

  1. The Teacher Education Program – What your new teacher has studied
  2. The Teacher Education Program – Teaching Practicum
  3. Orienting a new teacher to your school policies and practices
  4. Supporting a new teacher in the summer before they take up a class
  5. Mentoring a new teacher
  6. Supporting a new teacher with his or her class parents
  7. Collegial expectations of a new teacher
  8. Evaluating a new teacher
  9. Continuing Education for a new teacher
  10. Individual suggestions for your new teacher