Can Mentorship Solve Teacher Turnover?

Starting a new job is always daunting, no matter what the field. Starting a new job can be especially daunting when it means facing a room full of expectant faces – and then a district full of expectant administrators. Stepping into a position as a new teacher is no small feat. It’s nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing, and not something that professionals who haven’t experienced it directly can quite understand. That combination of factors is what makes mentors so vital to new teachers. Mentors have stood in your shoes and know what you’re going through – and they’ve been around long enough to know what the solutions to all those problems look like, too. Without good mentors, new teachers are likely to fray more easily and more quickly, contributing to the current absurd rate of new teacher turnover.

To put it simply, providing mentoring to new teachers helps teacher retention. Teacher mentoring programs pair new teachers with experienced colleagues. The mentor supports and encourages the new teacher in navigating and understanding the challenges of the first few years of teaching. Mentors also help their mentees hone their teaching skills and impart valuable lessons from their own teaching experiences.

Ample evidence suggests that such teacher induction programs bring down high teacher turnover rates. For example, school districts in North Carolina, Connecticut, New York, and California have drastically reduced teacher attrition rates among teachers by implementing induction programs as well as other retention methods. Apart from simply retaining teachers, these teachers are also likely to become more confident of their teaching skills and competence in the long run, as experienced teachers are available to coach them and provide guidance in challenging situations. Yet another example is California’s Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program (BTSA), which reduced teacher attrition rates by almost two thirds. This program, with the cooperation of local school districts and colleges, reduced attrition rates and reported a 96% retention rate for first-year teachers. Over a period of 5 years, this program reduced attrition rates to a mere 9%, when compared with 37% of those new teachers who did not participate in such programs.

Another excellent example of new teacher mentoring is Connecticut’s Beginning Educator Support and Training (BEST) program, in which every new teacher is provided with a state-trained mentor for the first 2 years of teaching. In all mentoring situations, it’s important to ensure that the mentor has enough time to spend with the new teacher to make such mentoring strategies work.

If you’re interviewing for a new teacher placement, ask your prospective site what their teacher mentorship looks like. Are you a long-time teacher? Ask your administrators how you can step up as a mentor for new hires. Good mentorship will lead to good teachers and good classrooms, making the workplace better for everyone.

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