The Art of Being A Mentor by M Soule

A good mentor is one who can help his/her advisee develop as a teacher and to find his/her way to manage and master the tasks of teaching, including working with the students, parents, curriculum and school. Because all development is self-development, a successful mentor also needs to help his/her advisee develop the capacity for self-reflection and self-discipline. To do this, a mentor must continually work on his/her own self-reflection and self-discipline, while continuing to practice the art of turning experience into wisdom. Finally, a mentor has the opportunity to learn and grow through the mentoring relationship.

The three essential tasks and tools of the mentor are observation, contemplation and conversation.

Being able to observe the dynamics, principles and wholeness of a situation while keeping the parts in focus is the first essential task of a good mentor. In the article by Craig Holdrege on “Seeing the World Whole”, we can gain keen insights into the mindfulness needed to find the principles and meaning in what we observe.

Being able to work with one’s observations with an open mind and to practice withholding judgment are two parts of the second essential task – contemplation. The excerpt from More Precious Than Light, a book on community building by Margreet Van Den Brink, provides a good description of the relationship between mindfulness and what Rudolf Steiner described as the three higher soul capacities. While things are not always what we think they are, when one thinks about one’s observations, what we have observed begins to show us more of its true nature. The article, “From Observation to Conversation,” shares insights gathered from the participants in the NW Mentoring Seminars held in Seattle by Sound Circle Center.

Being able to enter into conversation with one’s advisee in a creative way that meets his/her soul character is the third essential tool. Here there are many resources available, from Marjorie Spock’s essay on Goethean Conversation in Group Moral Artistry (in our resource library) to the suggestions in articles above. The article, “Conversational Wisdom,” explores five aspects of conversation applied to mentoring outlined in the book, Winning Wisdom, by Robert Aubrey.




Mentor in Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Mentor was the son of Heracles and Asopis. In his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus, who had placed Mentor and Odysseus' foster-brother Eumaeus in charge of his son Telemachus, and of Odysseus' palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War.
When Athena visited Telemachus she took the disguise of Mentor to hide herself from the suitors of Telemachus's mother Penelope. As Mentor, the goddess encouraged Telemachus to stand up against the suitors and go abroad to find out what happened to his father. When Odysseus returned to Ithaca, Athena appeared briefly in the form of Mentor again at Odysseus' palace.
Because of Mentor's relationship with Telemachus, and the disguised Athena's encouragement and practical plans for dealing with personal dilemmas, the personal name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.
The first recorded modern usage of the term can be traced to a 1699 book entitled Les Aventures de Télémaque, by the French writer François Fénelon. In the book the lead character is that of Mentor. This book was very popular during the 18th century and the modern application of the term can be traced to this publication.


from the internet

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

Working Together: An Introduction to Pedagogical Mentoring


Table of Contents

Foreword .     .     .                7

Introduction .     .     .     .                       11

Considerations for Schools .     .     .           15

An Example of Mentoring Practice in the

Elementary Grades .     .     .        15

Working Together Towards Excellence in

Waldorf Education   .     .     .             15

One School’s Experience with Mentoring .     .   16

Effective Mentoring .     .     .     .              17

Examples of Mentoring Styles

or Approaches .     .     .     .       .18

Implementing In-House Mentoring .     .           20

The Difference between Mentoring

and Evaluation .     .     .     .     .              20

Considerations for the Individual Mentor   .     .    .      22

The Mentor .     .     .    .     .     .                    22

Why Become a Mentor? .     .     .     . .              24

Basic Criteria for Mentoring .     .     . .           24

Taking the First Steps Towards Establishing the Mentor/Mentee Relationship .              25

Preparing for a Visit:

Before Entering the Classroom .     .              26

The Visit: Entering the Classroom .                 27

The Visit: In the Classroom .     .                  28

Two Essential Questions for the Mentor .            29

Interventions and Demonstrations:

When and How .     .     .              29

The Post-Observation Conversation .     .                   30

Why the Socratic Method?   .        31

For Further Information   .     .             35


Bibliography .     .     .     .                       36


A . Criteria for Healthy Waldorf Classrooms .     .     .     39

B . Seven Questions .     .     .                  43

C . Capacities, Skills and Support .     .      .         45


Rudolf Steiner had a strong vision for the future of humanity .   His every indication was for us as students of anthroposophy to continually strive to create cultural institutions where true individual freedom and diversity can live . Waldorf schools are a testimony to Steiner’s picture of an ever-alive and developing cultural community . Waldorf schools do not have the usual checks and balances found in educational institutions where school principals, headmasters/mistresses or department heads oversee the quality of the teaching .   Instead, each Waldorf teacher strives individually in the classroom and works with colleagues in a learning, educational community . This is done in accordance with his or her conscience and will . We Waldorf teachers are grateful to be able to work in freedom, a freedom where our own initiative and capacities allow us to be humanly creative .

What does this mean? Beginning with a thorough study of the Waldorf curriculum and then embracing the principal of “working out of anthroposophy,” a path of self development, the Waldorf teacher realizes one can never fully reach the ultimate or top level in one’s work . There is always more to learn . Each child, class or even decade changes previously known ‘ways’ of teaching . The Waldorf teacher continually strives to “read the moment” and create a lively class atmosphere for the students, where they feel known and challenged . Inherent in Waldorf teaching is working with the unfolding child in a conscious, open mode allowing the rigors and excellence of the class curriculum to develop capacities . With the help of working with the anthroposophical picture of the unfolding human being, Waldorf teachers try consciously to teach not for immediate results, but for the future, where lasting capacities and skills will serve the student for life .

Rudolf Steiner described teaching as an art . Waldorf schools respect and encourage differences in “styles” of each teacher . But, as with all fine artists, basic skills must be mastered and understandings become “second nature” before interpretation and inspiration take hold .

This sounds good in the ideal, but given the Waldorf school community without a hierarchical structure, where individual “freedom” in the classroom reigns, many questions arise .

  • How can we be assured in our school that the quality of the teaching and the depth of understanding of Waldorf education grow stronger each year?
  • How do we know what our colleagues are doing in the classroom?
  • What is the best way to support a new teacher?
  • Where can we go with our questions and inevitable struggles as teachers?
  • Are there agreements we can reach as an Association on best principles of mentoring and basic benchmarks for each grade?

It was out of this thinking that the regional leaders of the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America back in 2002 recognized the need to bring together, from all over the continent, experienced teachers who mentor for collaboration on professionalism in teaching in Waldorf schools .   There were then, and are now, schools with excellent mentoring and evaluation programs . There were and are schools that are struggling to exist . The Pedagogical Advisors’ Colloquium was founded to raise the awareness for the need for networking in strengthening mentoring and evaluation in all schools . In keeping with Steiner’s indications, mentoring, like teaching, is an art requiring certain basic understandings for a foundation .

It is our hope that the regional seminars and workshops on mentoring and evaluation that have grown out of the Pedagogical Advisors’ Colloquium will provide new enthusiasm for supporting and expanding programs in every school . Such programs assure parents and colleagues that a level of professionalism lives in the school .

We hope this booklet, written from our findings, will serve mentors and school faculties in “raising the bar” and deepening the support for Waldorf teaching .

– Virginia Flynn

find the whole booklet here: WorkingTogetherMentoringAWSNA

Mentor Qualifications and Scheduling, AWSNA Effective Practices

Mentor Qualifications and Scheduling
From AWSNA Effective Practices at

Mentoring and Renewal – Section 2
1. How are mentors assigned? In what way does our school match the needs of a teacher or staff member with the skills possessed by a mentor?

2. How does your school ensure that the mentor has sufficient experience to guide his or her colleague?

3. In what way does your school ensure that the mentor is committed to the success of his/her colleague?

4. How does your school help train or prepare mentors for the work that they will be doing with colleagues?

5. Describe the way in which your school’s mentoring program is grounded in an Anthroposophical perspective. Is classroom mentoring based on an understanding of Waldorf education and an Anthroposophic understanding of child development? Is the mentoring of staff members rooted in a threefold perspective of social activity?

6. Are time and space allowed for in the weekly schedule to ensure adequate time for visits and meetings? Are mentoring responsibilities considered when other responsibilities such as committee work are assigned?

7. What is working particularly well at your school with regard to mentoring qualifications and scheduling?

8. Is there anything that you would like to see changed regarding the qualifications of mentors and their scheduling at your school?

1. How are mentors assigned? In what way does a school match the needs of a teacher or staff member with the skills possessed by a mentor?
When selecting people to serve as mentors we look for people with a number of years of teaching experience and who have had good evaluations of their work. We expect mentors to understand the anthroposophic principles behind Waldorf education and to have good communication skills. It is important that the gesture of mentoring work is understood by the individual, and he or she is able to act in a non-judgmental way that is intended to provide support, protection and advocacy when needed. Many schools report that their mentors have participated in the pedagogical advisor’s colloquium or in other regional training sessions for mentors.

Mentors are matched with advisees from the same section of the school whenever possible. A high school teacher will be paired with another high school teacher or two early childhood teachers would work together. Schools try to match the personalities of the mentor and his advisee. In other cases a school will try to match a mentor with particular strength in an area where a young teacher needs support. For example, a mentor who has had real success in his middle school teaching might be paired with a newer teacher who is just entering this stage of teaching for the first time.

Schools noted that it seems that foreign language and music teachers often need more mentoring support than other teachers. It is thought that this is because they often come to the Waldorf school through their technical expertise, rather than through a commitment to Waldorf education and an understanding of child development from an anthroposophic perspective. Schools need to be creative to find the best ways to support these teachers. One school mentioned that it pulled a teacher with previous experience teaching foreign language off of one of her committee assignments and asked her to serve instead as a mentor to a young teacher who needed this extra level of support.

2. How does your school ensure that the mentor has sufficient experience to guide his or her colleague?
In the case of internal mentors the school is well aware of the mentor’s strengths as a teacher and as a colleague, making it fairly easy to match a mentor with the needs of an advisee. In the case of outside mentors the school must be careful to get good referrals from those it is connected with in the movement. Schools typically select their most experienced teachers to serve as mentors, and then support them in this work by allowing them to attend the pedagogical advisors’ colloquium or other training sessions on the topic of mentoring.

3. In what way does your school ensure that the mentor is committed to the success of his/her colleague?
Schools have a variety of methods to ensure that the mentor is committed to the success of his advisee:
The pedagogical chair and the personnel committee (or leadership team) follow up on the effectiveness of each mentoring relationship early in the school year and at regular intervals thereafter.

Often the pedagogical chair has scheduled observational rounds when he observes teachers in the classroom. He will check in with the teacher and the mentor prior to the visit, and this helps to ensure that the mentoring relationship is on track.

Schools have learned to be careful about who is asked to serve as a mentor, and generally will not allow anyone who is teaching 1st or 8th grade to serve as a mentor due to the special burdens experienced in those years.
At the end of the year each advisee is asked to complete a self-evaluation that includes comments about the quality of the mentoring support received. If a particular mentor receives negative feedback in a few cases then he will be excused from future mentoring work.

4. How does your school help train or prepare mentors for the work that they will be doing with colleagues?
Many schools have found that attendance at the pedagogical advisors’ colloquium has been very helpful to their mentors. One school mentioned that after attending the pedagogical advisors’ colloquium the information was brought back to the local adult education program. A mentoring training program was developed that has been very helpful to teachers in their mentoring work, and which has the added convenience of being offered close to home so that the maximum number of mentors from a school can participate in the training. Oftentimes presentations are made at faculty meetings about the role of the mentor and what is needed or expected from individuals in this role.

5. Describe the way in which your school’s mentoring program is grounded in an anthroposophic perspective. Is classroom mentoring based on an understanding of Waldorf education and an Anthroposophic understanding of child development? Is the mentoring of staff members rooted in a threefold perspective of social activity?
The anthroposophic deepening of a teacher’s work is one of the key elements that is hoped for in a mentoring relationship. This aspect of the work is built up over time as the young teacher feels safe and confident in his mentoring relationship. The questions come naturally when the relationship has been built up. Of course schools would never select someone to serve as a mentor who is not a trained Waldorf teacher so mentors are well qualified to answer the various questions that may come up. In general schools expect that any teacher hired who has not yet completed the Waldorf teacher training will continue on this path, so questions about child development from an anthroposophic understanding will come up as a matter of course.

Mentors are aided in this work to bring an anthroposophic perspective to the conversation when the faculty is engaged in study. The Study of Man (Rudolf Steiner) and books about the threefold social order are frequent topics in faculty study. Schools also distribute copies of And Who Shall Teach the Teachers? and Working Together: An Introduction to Pedagogical Mentoring in Waldorf Schools.

All mentors are able to speak with their advisees about the development of the child and the role of the temperaments. The mentors often help the teachers prepare for parent evenings, which include a discussion with the parents about how the curriculum meets the needs of the child at a particular stage of development. Because the mentor is always present at the advisee’s parent nights the mentor can see whether the young teacher is able to communicate this perspective clearly to others or whether additional conversation in the mentoring sessions would be helpful.

In addition to the work of the mentor, some schools have had success by hiring a member of the local anthroposophic community to meet regularly with young, untrained teachers to cover the basic books and anthroposophic leading thoughts.

6. Are time and space allowed for in the weekly schedule to ensure adequate time for visits and meetings? Are mentoring responsibilities considered when other responsibilities such as committee work are assigned?

The schools with strong mentoring programs all reported that a critical part of the effectiveness of a mentoring program is that mentoring meetings must be included on the school schedule during the regular school day. However, any training done by a local member of the anthroposophic community for small groups of new teachers takes place after school to maximize the number of people who are able to attend.

7. What is working particularly well at your school with regard to mentoring qualifications and scheduling? (Editor’s Note: The following comments were provided by schools that participated in our study.)
We are well served in that we have really experienced people who are quite capable at mentoring.

Mentoring time periods are a set part of the schedule, and part of our established protocol. We will not allow a school schedule to be approved until the time for all mentoring meetings has been included.

We do a good job of matching mentors with their advisees. Whenever possible we match people from the same parts of the school (high school, early childhood, foreign language, etc.) We are generally able to find skills in our mentors that match the young teacher’s needs.

The social collegial element of the mentoring partnership leads to productive relationships among colleagues. They help each other with their professional development, and the younger teachers feel as though they are being supported by the most experienced teachers.

The members of the Teacher Development committee have a great deal of experience and know what it takes to be a good mentor. Providing quality mentoring to our new teachers is an important responsibility, and the members of our committee understand and accept that.

8. Is there anything that you would like to see changed regarding the qualifications of mentors and their scheduling at your school?
We should be providing an opportunity for conversation between the mentors so they have an opportunity to speak with each other about this work and how it might be improved.

We can always use more qualified mentors to support the specialty subject teachers.

We have just merged with another Waldorf high school, so we need to provide more intensive support to our growing high school faculty.

The subject teacher area is the most difficult one for us to support well. When we get new teachers from the outside they often do not have an understanding of the developmental stages of the child and what is appropriate. They may have great skills, but don’t understand how our view of child development stands behind everything that we do with the children. To help subject teachers succeed, especially, language and music teachers, they need to observe experienced faculty teaching. They need the ongoing support of the class teachers whose children they teach as well as the mentor’s help. They also need to be observed and to get feedback on what needs improving. This takes a large amount of time and effort. The bottom line, however, is that these teachers need a set of Waldorf skills such as music and singing or storytelling and drama or art and experience that can be employed in their lessons, including other mainstream elements. The children expect to be taught using Waldorf methods.

This chapter is part of Effective Practices : Mentoring

From AWSNA Effective Practices at

The full module includes:


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

Mentoring a New Teacher from Transitions Handbook, Teacher Education Network, AWSNA

Mentoring a New Teacher

Transitions Handbook, Teacher Education Network, AWSNA


The mentoring of a new teacher is essential in supporting a newly trained teacher in the process of moving from being a teacher education institute graduate to a successful and happy teacher. Every new teacher needs to receive strong and attentive mentoring. The following guidelines are designed to help each school shape its own individual mentoring program for new teachers.


Goals of Mentoring:

Mentoring is designed to help support the following:


  1. Deepen insights into Waldorf pedagogy, festivals, and grade level curriculum.
  2. Support the development of effective relationships with the children, including order and discipline.
  3. Create healthy social dynamics within the class.
  4. Apply age appropriate curriculum methods to support healthy child development.
  5. Foster collegial relationships.
  6. Facilitate better communication and partnering with parents.
  7. Promote personal well being and balance in relation to teaching.


Choosing a Mentor:

A mentor should have most or all of the following characteristics:


  1. Experienced, trained Waldorf Teacher, ideally having completed

an eight-year cycle, but at least well grounded in the year the new teacher will be teaching.

  1. Familiar with the school – able to convey all necessary information and

support in school wide areas such as expectations, policies and procedures.

  1. Available for meetings and consultations – open and generous with his

or her time and attention. Teachers who are already carrying large parts of school administration or in challenging years and situations themselves do not often make good mentors.

  1. Strong communicators with a history of good parent and colleague


  1. Confident about classroom practices and about giving advice and

guidance to the young teacher.

  1. Able to work well with the individual teacher being mentored – this is a

matter of temperament and approach and needs to be considered for each pairing.

  1. Knows how to ask questions and see that there are many approaches to

teaching, not just his or her own.




Sometimes it is impossible to find all these characteristics in one mentor and

in that situation some schools have two people working with one teacher – an outside person doing classroom observation visits and an in-house teacher doing weekly meetings with the new teacher. In this situation, it is still essential that both mentors make early and frequent visits to the classroom.


A Mentoring Schedule:


Mentoring should include classroom visits and observation and weekly meetings for planning, consulting and addressing issues.


Schedule for classroom visits and observation:


In the first year a new teacher should have at least a three-day classroom

visit and observation within the first two weeks of the school year, followed by a two-to-three day visit around the winter break (December through February) and a final two-day visit in the spring.   It is essential that each visit be longer than a single day since the teacher’s work with the rhythm of the days is a critical part of the observation. This is the time habits are built for better or worse.


In coming years a two-day visit, once or preferably twice, during the school year is usually sufficient as long as there are no significant concerns about the teacher’s classroom performance.


Scheduling these visits can be challenging. Some schools arrange it so

that on a particular day subject teachers teach the main lesson in the mentor’s class to allow the mentor to observe the new teacher’s main lesson. In other schools the main lesson and the first two subject lessons are exchanged in the day occasionally, so the children start with the subject lessons and the mentor teaches his or her main lesson later in the day, after observing the new teacher. Other schools, especially when the upper-grade teachers have heavy mentoring loads, set a permanent schedule for the upper grades which starts the day with subject lessons, one or more days a week, allowing the main lesson teacher to observe regularly in lower grade classrooms. Finally, some other schools have a ninth main lesson teacher or permanent substitute who regularly steps in to allow the mentor time to observe in the new teacher’s classroom or does much of the mentoring.


Schedule for mentoring meetings:


Each teacher should have a weekly mentoring meeting of at least one

subject class period in length. For new teachers, especially those with lower grades, it is often best to schedule this meeting for the end or after the school day, as they are with their classes for more subject periods than higher grade teachers.


In some situations some of these meetings can be held by telephone, but

ideally the meeting is direct and long enough for issues to surface. It is also important that the mentor ensure that the meeting is directed to mentoring and not to personal conversation, even when supportive.


Topics for Mentoring:


The following are suggestions for what mentoring conversations should include:


  1. Focus on a small number of central areas that the new teacher has identified as needing improvement and/or development.
  2. Overview of the year’s curriculum, including goal-setting as well as the why for each subject. Review available resource materials. Discuss general organization of the year.
  3. Review block schedule for the year.
  4. Review the block plan a good two weeks before each block begins, including resources for songs, flute or recorder pieces, poems and verses, and movement.
  5. Regularly review circle or opening exercises, rhythm of the main lesson, transitions, and discipline.
  6. Advise on report writing; share copies of other reports for that grade in our school; preview and review reports.
  7. Discuss and advise on particular children. This would include observing that child during recess, etc. Review assessments, past reports, etc.
  8. Preview parent/teacher conferences, format, children with difficulties, etc. Review after conferences.
  9. Review content of parent evenings. Plan to visit a parent evening in the fall and follow up in the spring if necessary.
  10. Be available to review correspondence that goes out to parents.
  11. Review the yearly festivals and events; help to gather resources. Inform the teacher of how things have been done at this school. Discuss any changes before they are implemented.


Resolving Problems with Mentoring:


Each school needs to have a policy and procedure for resolving concerns and

problems with mentoring, making clear who is responsible for overseeing

mentoring throughout the school, and ensuring it is happening regularly.


Supporting a New Teacher with His or Her Class Parents


The very nature of a teacher education institution means that the area that it is hardest to prepare teacher education students for, besides classroom discipline, is his or her work with class parents. At the institutions there are no parents to practice with, and as each class has its own nature and personality, it is hard to provide anything beyond guidelines for parent work. This having been said, much is accomplished in the programs in cultivating right listening and right speech practice, consensus decision-making, and appreciating multiple points of view. Participants are also given an understanding of the parent perspective and point-of-view.


However, the teacher’s relationship with the class parents is a central part of their success or failure as a class teacher. Therefore, it is essential that each new class teacher be consciously mentored and supported in this particular area of responsibility. The following are some suggestions to help with this support:


  1. Support with introductions and first meetings. The more formed and warm the first meeting is the more the relationship can get off to a good start. Schools should arrange for class picnics, teas or other gatherings to introduce the new teacher and allow parents to begin to work together.


  1. Support with home visits if expected. Summer or fall home visits are the standard practice in some schools and not part of the expectations in others. New teachers should be mentored and supported through the home visiting process with an opportunity to discuss appropriate topics and behavior with an experienced school teacher.


  1. Class meetings. New teachers should not be left to plan and carry out their first few class meetings alone. Mentors should provide a good sense of how often meetings are expected, and the general structure and format they should follow. Mentors or college members should also be at the first few meetings to help provide guidance, feedback to the new teacher after the meeting, and support in the meeting. All class meetings in the first year should have an agenda and a planned series of events, which avoids meetings taking turns that the teacher had not anticipated. The mentor should work to ensure that parents with particular concerns and questions that are not related to the class as a whole do not use full parent meeting time to pursue their personal needs, but instead schedule appropriate individual meeting.


  1. Class communication. Letters to parents updating them on classroom events are essential to building strong trust and confidence in parents about the classroom and the teacher. Although many new teachers find writing parent letters to be an additional burden, the lack of communication can lead to parents feeling that they don’t know what is happening in the classroom. Mentors should work with all new teachers to ensure that a letter with regular classroom updates and news is being sent home and that all class parents are kept fully informed about upcoming events and responsibilities.


  1. Conversation with, or questions from, parents. The new teacher should clearly communicate when she can be reached. The mentor should help the new teacher establish healthy boundaries.


  1. Parent/teacher conferences. All new teachers need support around the planning and carrying out of their fall and/or spring parent/teacher conferences. This is especially important around the conferences for students who have specific challenges or classroom issues. Mentors should help new teachers think through and practice their approaches to parents on particularly sensitive issues, such as learning problems and behavioral concerns. There may be cases where the mentor or another colleague should be present at the conference.


  1. Parent complaints and concerns. It is normal and to be expected that during each school year parents will raise concerns, and new teachers need to be prepared for it, ready to respond calmly and productively. A conversation about the inevitable and often healthy process of resolving concerns and issues with parents needs to be part of the ongoing mentoring and support. New teachers should also be fully aware of all school policies and practices for complaint and dispute resolution and mediation.


Collegial Expectations of a New Teacher


It is important that newly hired teachers have a clear sense of the expectations upon them in the following areas:


  1. Work on committees and work groups within the faculty. Number of committees they should be part of and involvement in curriculum groups or planning groups.
  2. Work on community wide committees and work groups. Whether they are expected to take on a community role, beyond their own classrooms, in their first years.
  3. Practices for interaction and cooperation with subject teachers. Curriculum groups or other meetings that take place regularly between teachers.
  4. Faculty meeting expectations. Attendance and participation guidelines, methods of working and decision making (voting, consensus, etc)
  5. Other faculty commitments. Festivals, plays, singing etc.