Paula Rutherford
Issue XVI

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 The Big Picture

This e-newsletter provides advice, insights, and suggestions helpful to mentors, lead mentors, mentoring and induction program coordinators, directors of professional development, and school-based administrators as they strive to support new teachers. The focus this month is on developing a year-long plan for site-based support of both new teachers and mentors.

Ready or not, here they come! That statement applies to both students and new teachers. What an exciting time of the year! It is no wonder that many of us mark the new year as the start of the school year rather than at the beginning of the calendar year.

Just as we plan classroom instruction with the end in mind, we need to do the same as we plan our support for new teachers and mentors throughout the school year. For new teachers, let’s assume that the outcome we have in mind is a fully-qualified and fully-satisfied teacher in every classroom. Fully-qualified means they demonstrate competency with district teacher performance criteria and fully-satisfied means that they want to continue to work in our schools. Given that, what do mentors need to know and be able to do to ensure that all the necessary information and support needed by new teachers is included in their mentoring work?

Sue Ditmore, Lead Mentor, Cora Kelly School for Math, Science, and Technology in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), Virginia designed a simple but incredibly useful template to use in planning monthly areas of focus for site-based support of new teachers. Sarah Wolfe, Professional Development Specialist, and her colleagues in Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS), Manassas, Virginia used Sue’s planning template in the design of site-based training and support for new teachers and extended that template’s use as a tool for Lead Mentors (or administrators) to use in planning areas of focus in their site-based support of mentors. These templates can be accessed at the end of this newsletter.

Why is the Site-Based New Teacher Training and Support template a valuable tool?

  • It is only one page long. Heaven only knows that we drown in paperwork so we need to minimize the words sent our way.
  • It provides a big picture, full-year lens with which to examine our interactions with new teachers; it can not only help us identify areas of focus but also decide on the best timeframe for addressing each of the identified areas.
  • It forces us to go beyond concentrating only on procedural matters and causes us to give attention to instruction on a regular basis. For far too long, we have spent much of our support, time, and energy on procedural issues and neglected the most important components of our work: designing standards-based lessons and units that are engaging, rigorous, and scaffolded for success, and using formative assessment data to make future instructional decisions.

Chapter V: Mentoring Calendar in The 21st Century Mentor’s Handbook provides month-by-month recommendations for supporting new teachers. You can use the suggestions in that chapter combined with your own district mission and vision statements, calendar, curriculum, and professional development program, plus your school improvement plan to create a comprehensive support plan for the entire year. As we all know, adults like a say in how and what they learn. Chapter IX: Tools for New Teachers in the same book offers a wide array of tools for new teachers to identify their own learning needs. Encouraging new teachers to provide input into the selection of areas of focus increases the likelihood that they will engage enthusiastically.

Why is the Site-Based Mentor Training and Support template a valuable tool?

For starters, it communicates that just as new teachers need support, mentors do as well. When educators become mentors, they take on a huge responsibility for both the individual teachers they are mentoring and for the profession as a whole. New mentors may or may not know or be skillful with the necessary knowledge bases or skill sets. This template can help those charged with providing mentor support to determine which areas need attention and when that attention is needed. Possible areas of focus include:

  • District mission and vision statements and how they play out at the school level
  • New district initiatives
  • The connections between various initiatives
  • New federal mandates
  • The rationale behind decisions
  • Adult learning theory
  • Generational differences
  • What to look for in a standards-based classroom
  • Using data to inform practice
  • Developing common assessments
  • Providing growth-producing feedback
  • Working with a struggling colleague
  • Advocating for new teachers
  • Finding the time to mentor
  • Resources available in the district, at the state level, and online
  • Using technology as a mentoring tool
  • Roles and responsibilities of each member of the school community

Chapter X: Tools for Mentors in The 21st Century Mentor’s Handbook includes several tools mentors can use to identify their learning needs. Included is a self-assessment of mentoring knowledge and skills, a resources assessment, and a template for creating a mentoring professional growth plan.

Even the most successful classroom teachers need new knowledge and skills to successfully mentor. What is obvious to the expert teacher is often invisible to new teachers; it is, therefore, essential that mentors be provided access to the research base on new teacher development and best practice in mentoring. If you are concerned about pulling teachers out of their classrooms or finding funding for substitutes, there are new and exciting ways to

provide training and support for mentors (and new teachers) with little expense and time away from classrooms. For example, e-newsletters, podcasts, blogs, online book clubs and study groups, and after-school networking opportunities are being widely used with great success.

Best wishes for a wildly successful school year during which students learn at high levels that we have not yet imagined! Students of new teachers who are participants in comprehensive induction programs with a mentoring component are making impressive learning gains. Keep up the good work!


Permission is granted for reprinting and distribution of this newsletter for non-commercial use only. Please include the following citation on all copies:
Rutherford, Paula. “The Big Picture” Mentoring in the 21st Century® Issue XVI. Reproduced with permission of Just ASK Publications & Professional Development (Just ASK). © 2008 Just ASK. All rights reserved. Available at