Welcome to the 2005–06 school year. Like you, all of us at the New Teacher Center look
forward to new accomplishments and challenges as we work to improve teaching and learning in our nation’s classrooms. We hope this issue of Reflections offers you insights into how to help new teachers and their students to achieve their potential.
Too often induction programs focus more on teacher retention than developing high quality teachers. As we have refined our teacher induction model since 1988, a key insight has emerged— comprehensive mentor-based programs can improve teacher retention and teacher practice simultaneously. This issue offers some of our latest thinking
on improving teacher practice through instructional mentoring focused not on survival, but on improved student learning.
Mentoring for instructional excellence is very different from the traditional buddy system that many of us experienced when we first began teaching.
The buddy system pairs a senior teacher with little or no mentor training or release time with a beginning teacher. Since buddy mentors are treated just as new teachers often are—left to sink or swim, relying on intuition and good intentions to stay afloat— they understandably focus on offering emotional support and helping beginning teachers with logistics. Though buddy mentors may introduce new teachers to the norms and expectations of the school district, they aren’t given the training and resources to link mentoring to the norms and expectations inherent in excellent teaching.
The New Teacher Center’s induction model moves beyond the buddy system to link effective mentoring directly to a vision of effective teaching. We believe that successful teachers are highly literate, well versed in content knowledge, and have the pedagogical tools to support student learning. They care deeply about their students and understand that their task is to help all students, regardless of background, socio-economic levels, or learning needs, achieve. Successful teachers are able to link their practice both to student content standards and professional teaching standards. We select exemplary senior teachers who embody this vision of effective teaching to serve as mentors, then train and support them to translate their understanding of instruction into the day-to-day practice of new teachers.
Our instructional mentoring model has four key elements:
Articulation of Best Practice
Mentors learn to articulate to new teachers their own professional knowledge and pedagogical decision-making in ways that new teachers can understand. They help novices co-construct a deep, conceptual understanding of teaching and to have confidence in their pedagogical choices.
Balancing Immediate and Long-Term Needs Instructional mentors balance new teachers’ day-to-day needs with focused plans for their professional growth.
Approach to Teaching as Inquiry Instructional mentors understand their job is to help new teachers analyze and reflect on their practice. Rather than passing on their own expertise, they model how to analyze student work across content areas and to differentiate instruction. Their goal is to develop teachers
committed to a lifetime of professional learning.
Commitment to Collaborative Partnerships Through their work with new teachers, instructional mentors model how to build collaborative, trusting profes- sional relationships. They also help new teachers to build similar relationships with their colleagues to help build strong school communities focused on inquiry.
In this issue of Reflections, you have the opportunity to view specific examples of instructional mentoring across grade levels and content areas. The authors offer a look inside their unique instructional mentoring practices and
share perspectives on supporting the development of meaningful and effective pedagogy in beginning teacher practice.