As a new teacher, your colleagues are valuable sources of support as you navigate lesson planning, classroom management and other responsibilities. It’s important to have a fellow teacher you can trust to answer your questions, demonstrate innovative teaching practices and advise you on practical matters.
If you are a first-year teacher, you should have had an official mentor assigned to you by your principal in the first weeks of the school year. A mentor is an experienced teacher at your school — preferably one who teaches the same grade or subject as you do — who is assigned to provide you with professional support.
Your mentor has been trained extensively in how best to support you. This may include doing demonstration lessons, co-teaching with you, offering suggestions about classroom management and helping you plan your lessons.
“My first year of teaching was very overwhelming, and I’m so grateful that I had my mentor to motivate and support me,” says Amanda Denett, a second-year 4th-grade teacher at PS 33 in Queens Village.
In addition to their relationship at school, Denett and her mentor, fellow 4th-grade teacher Tiffany Vogel, were able to attend monthly meetings with other new teachers and their mentors as part of a mentorship program in District 29. Other districts may have similar programs, so check with your mentor.
Your discussions with your mentor are confidential; your mentor does not report back to your principal. You should feel comfortable asking your mentor for advice or conferring with your mentor about any difficulties you are having.
“I was struggling with the wide range of abilities in my classroom,” says Denett. “Tiffany presented a system for breaking up my students into groups so everyone could learn to their highest potential.”
How can you make the most out of your relationship with your mentor? Keep an open mind — and an open door. Invite your mentor into your classroom and be willing to take advice.
Your mentor is required to log at least 40 hours into the DOE’s electronic mentoring system. That information is sent electronically to the State Education Department. When you apply for your professional teaching certificate — which you have five years to do from the date your initial certificate is issued — you should see the credit you received for mentoring.
If you have no prior full-time teaching experience and you have not yet been assigned a mentor, you should speak to your UFT chapter leader.
If you aren’t eligible for an official mentor assigned by your principal, it’s likely you’ll still benefit from cultivating relationships with experienced colleagues. And if you don’t hit it off with your official mentor, there is no harm in also seeking out the advice and support of other teachers in your school.
It’s helpful to remember that every teacher was in your shoes at one point.