The Mentoring Year: A Step-by-Step Program for Professional Development


Susan Udelhofen & Kathy Larson

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    To my husband John, for his unconditional love and constant support and children Brian and Katie who make me proud and continually show me the true meaning of teaching and learning.

    Susan Udelhofen

    To my son, Jeremy, who illuminates my world with his wisdom, wit and many talents. May the strength of your spirit influence the world in peaceful and profound ways.

    Kathy Larson

    To the teachers who influence our children to become better citizens, with knowledge, skills and dispositions to bring peace, principles and prosperity to our world.

    Susan Udelhofen and Kathy Larson

    Corwin Press Gratefully Acknowledges

    Corwin Press gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    Marie Archibee, Ph.D

    Supervisor, Professional Development

    Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Technology

    Nassau Board of Cooperative Educational Services

    Massapequa Park, New York

    Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Ed.D.

    President, Curriculum Designs, Inc.

    Adjunct Associate Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University

    New York, New York

    Bena Kallick, Ph.D.

    Director, Technology Pathways International

    Guilford, Connecticut

    Dr. Joe Novak

    Principal, Mill Valley High School

    Shawnee, Kansas


    Abundant gratitude is given to the following people for their support, confidence and contributions to our work:

    Rick du Four, Superintendent at Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, who eloquently expressed the essence of our work in the Foreword;

    Mark Knicklebine, our editor and loyal servant who made two voices one;

    Mary Ann Evans Patrick for “opening the door” for this project;

    Jean Ward, editor of Corwin Press, for noticing the possibilities and potential of our work for building mentoring communities that focus on professional growth for all educators;

    Dr. M. Robin Warden, friend and chair of the special education department at UW-Whitewater, who validated the conceptual framework of this book during many walks and talks in the woods;

    Connie Salveson who used her “literary wizardry” to help us with rewriting. We are most grateful for her suggestions and most importantly her support and friendship;

    Sue Grady at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, for sharing her standards expertise and planting the “mentoring” seed;

    Robert Garmston, from Facilitation Associates, who generously contributed to our ideas and was pleased we extended his work in this context;

    Dr. Kathryn Lind at the Wisconsin Department of Public Education, who is instrumental in educational licensing reform in Wisconsin. May the flame of your passion for mentoring stay forever ignited;

    Michelle Ruhe, an elementary teacher and friend, who prompted students to respond to what they thought was a good teacher and shared their wise words so we could use it in our work;

    Dr. Jane Meyer, friend and teacher who believed our project was worthwhile and helped us keep the true lives of teachers at the forefront;

    Dr. David Noskin, graduate school friend and teacher who arranged a visit to his high school to see real professional learning communities in action;

    Carol Ross, respected teacher and lifelong friend who gave up a rainy Saturday afternoon to help identify the month-by-month realities of classroom teachers.

    Prior students, for making us reflect, change and learn how to be better teachers so they could succeed;

    Other friends and family, for asking about our work, encouraging us to continue in spite of barriers and inquiring when we will get our lives back!


    My colleague, Bob Eaker, and I have devoted a good deal of our professional lives in recent years to persuading educators that building the results-oriented, collaborative culture of a professional learning community offers the best hope for transforming schools and energizing the adults within them. One of the activities we have used on occasion to make the case for a learning community presents a scenario describing the experience of two teachers entering the profession in two different schools.

    A Tale of Two Teachers

    The first teacher, Beth, is assigned to teach the most difficult remedial classes in the school. Her orientation takes place on the morning before school starts, and is directed by her principal. It consists of a brief review of the faculty manual, distribution of her class list, and presentation of her keys. Most of the session deals with an explanation of how to handle specific issues, with an admonition from the principal that the new teachers must learn how to manage their own classrooms and refrain from sending their problems to the office to be solved. She struggles mightily to solve the myriad of problems that she faces as she confronts 135 apathetic students each day, and then spends three days each week and every weekend supervising the cheerleaders – one of the prerequisites for taking her job. Thrust into this sink-or-swim environment, Beth sinks, and another caring individual is lost to the teaching profession – forever.

    The second teacher, Connie, has a much different experience. She is assigned a trained mentor who contacts her before the school year starts to see what questions she has about her assignment, launching a relationship that will last at least two years. Her mentor, Jim, is there every step of the way. The new teachers arrive at school a full week before the students, and Jim assists with her orientation to the school. The entire school is organized into collaborative teams based on teaching assignments, and she and Jim are assigned to the same team. He facilitates her transition onto the team and provides her with course outlines, pacing guides, rubrics, team files, common assessments, and analysis of student performance in their course for the preceding three years. He introduces her to the school's teacher evaluation system. He conducts pre-observation conferences, observes her at work in the classroom, and helps her to analyze and assess her performance based on the notes that he generated. He explains that peer coaching is valued in the school, and he asks her to observe him in the classroom and to give him feedback on some of the strategies he is using.

    Jim helps Connie become familiar with the many support systems that are available to students and teachers and offers her advice as to how she can use those systems. He periodically asks her questions about her thought process in teaching the course. What does she hope students will know and be able to do as a result of today's lesson? Are prerequisite skills required to master this lesson? Do the students have those skills? How does she know? What instructional strategies will she use? How and when will she check for understanding? How will she know when students have mastered the material? What criteria will she use in judging the quality of student work? How will she respond if a student fails to accomplish the intended outcomes of the lesson or of the unit? In short, he asks her questions that help her become a reflective practitioner.

    Jim was not the only person helping Connie. She had the benefit of weekly meetings, during the school day, with all the members of her course team. The entire department meets monthly. She also attended a monthly meeting of all new teachers conducted by the principal and veteran teachers. Each meeting had a theme, a reading assignment, and a required journal entry. As participants shared this experience and their thoughts over the two years of the program, they developed a kinship and provided one another with another source of ideas and comfort.

    Connie also had opportunities to explore topics with colleagues through a monthly Lunch and Learn program that brought teachers together to investigate a common concern or interest. She had opportunities to earn credit on the salary schedule by enrolling in courses taught on her own campus by colleagues after school and during the summer. She participated in her team's action research project and common staff development initiative. Jim taught her how to analyze data on the performance of her students and how to identify areas where she needed help from her teammates in raising that performance. She participated in team review of model lessons taught by a member of the team and then analyzed and discussed as a group.

    In a short period of time, Connie was able to identify and embrace the attitudes, expectations, beliefs, and habits that made up the unique culture of her school. She learned that, in this school, being a contributing member of a collaborative team was not optional. She learned that inquiry and reflection were part of the routine fabric of the school. She learned of the school's unrelenting focus on student learning and the tenacity with which it pursued such critical questions as, “If we truly believe all kids can learn, then what do we want them to learn, how will we know when they have learned it, and how will we respond when they don't?”

    Participant Reaction

    At the end of the review of this scenario, members of the audience are asked to work together in small groups to answer the following questions:

    • Was your own introduction to the profession closer to Beth's experience or Connie's experience?
    • Is it desirable to provide new teachers with a system of support similar to Connie's experience?
    • Is it feasible for schools to offer this level of support to new teachers?

    The responses to these questions have been remarkably similar over the years – regardless of the grade level of the school, the age of the respondents, or where in North America I raise the question. Virtually all educators indicate that:

    • Their introduction to the profession resembled the sink-or-swim approach described in Beth's scenario. Many teachers seem to revel in the adversity and obstacles they had to overcome on their own as they began their careers.
    • It would indeed be wonderful if every teacher could have the benefit of the support and nurturing described in Connie's scenario.
    • It is not feasible that schools will offer such support any time in the near future.

    At first, I was profoundly discouraged by this response. It seemed that teachers were saying, “Yes, it was hell entering this profession, and yes, it would be extremely beneficial if every new staff member had a support system as they entered the profession or became a member of a new faculty. It is unlikely, however, that schools will ever provide that support system.”Even when participants were presented with examples of real schools doing everything described in Connie's scenario, participants tended to remain pessimistic about the possibility of this support becoming the rule for new staff rather than the exception.

    When I probed to discover the nature of this pessimism, I found that the multiple elements of the collaborative and nurturing culture described in the scenario seemed to overwhelm the workshop participants. The specific, small, incremental steps necessary to create such a culture were obscured by the immense difference between the culture of a traditional school and the culture of a professional learning community.

    My observation is that virtually no one disputes the pressing need for more effective mentoring, particularly as North America confronts a looming teacher shortage. Many states have mandated that every new teacher have the benefit of a mentor. Educators don't need to be convinced either of the dire need for or the benefits of effective mentoring; however, they would benefit from specific, practical steps regarding how they could create such programs in their schools.

    This much-needed book on mentoring represents a tremendous contribution to the literature on professional learning communities, because it presents the component parts of an effective mentoring program and provides very explicit, step-by-step guidelines to build such a program in the real world of schools. The authors demonstrate great empathy for teachers and administrators who confront the challenges facing public schools. They understand the ebb and flow of a school year, and they respect the demands placed upon contemporary educators. They set out to offer ideas that are relevant and realistic – and they succeed. I also appreciate this book because it addresses the entire culture of the school, rather than limiting itself to the narrow focus of the experience of new staff. Many schools have approached mentoring as independent activity, divorced from the rest of the life of the school. They seem to forget that if a good person is placed in a bad culture, the culture will typically win. The authors understand that an effective mentoring program can reinforce the conditions that foster learning communities, but they also understand that monitoring represents just one part of the whole that comprises a learning community. The themes that resonate through their book – collaboration, reflective practice, shared vision for ongoing, job-embedded professional development, and a constant focus on student learning – must come to typify the entire school, not just the mentoring program. If new staff do not see these conditions as characteristic of their school, if they do not come to understand that these characteristics are valued in their school, they will be unlikely to embrace those characteristics, no matter how much they are encouraged in that direction by a mentor.

    Thus, I recommend this book to you, not only because of the very specific tools it provides in building an effective mentoring program, but also because the authors demonstrate a deep understanding and appreciation of the fact that the qualities they call for in a model mentoring program must become the qualities that characterize the entire school. Their ideas, if put into practice, will benefit not only the newest members of a staff, but also all educators who hope to enhance their professional competence through the power of a professional learning community.

    Richard P. DuFour

    Superintendent of Adlai Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire, Il.

    Co-author of Professional Learning Communities at Work: Best Practices for Enhancing Student Achievement.

    About the Authors

    Susan Udelhofen is an experienced classroom teacher and national staff development provider to school districts, education agencies, universities and colleges across the country. Her mentoring work focuses on developing internal learning communities that move mentoring beyond the ordinary into an extraordinary effort to improve professional practice. In addition to her mentoring work, Dr. Udelhofen provides support to several school districts that are working on issues and practices related to curriculum mapping, assessment and standards. She has taught classes in mentoring, assessment, reading, children's literature and gifted and talented education. Susan has two children and resides with her husband in Madison, Wisconsin. She can be contactedπ at

    Kathy Larson spent 18 years teaching middle school students and the last 10 years working exclusively in the field of professional development, concentrating her efforts on community building and continuous growth cycles for individuals, teams, and systems. Currently she is a consultant for the Cooperative Educational Service Agency #2 in Wisconsin, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and an associate member of Consensus Associates in Terrebonne, Colorado. She has presented at national and state conferences on mentoring, has published several articles in education journals, and serves on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction task force to reform education licensing. Kathy lives in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and can be contacted at


    We need other people to show us, to accompany us, to hold the hope and steady our faith that we will make it. And we also need people with whom to practice: parents, friends, children, teachers. For in relationships, we both form and heal what we come again and again to name our self. This is why mentors and mentoring environments play such a key role. Without adequate support many learners …may decide to stay where they are.

    Laurent Daloz

    This book begins with our passion for teacher and student learning and our shared vision for teaching excellence. We know what it is like to begin teaching without on-going support and guidance. We understand the overwhelming feelings of uncertainty and isolation new teachers have. We experienced these challenges ourselves; yet, in spite of the obstacles, we remained in the profession because of our strong desire to teach. Statistics show that today we are the exception, not the rule.

    New teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. Thirty percent of beginning teachers leave the profession after the first two years; within seven years, as many as half are no longer teaching. Mentor teachers can play an important role in reversing this trend by giving new teachers the skills and role models they need to survive and thrive in the profession. Promoting the personal and professional growth and well being of new teachers greatly improves the likelihood that they will remain in the teaching profession (Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2001). A good mentoring program provides the kind of support that can reduce teacher attrition dramatically.

    As mentor trainers for a number of years, we hoped and believed we were making a difference. Our mentor training primarily focused on the characteristics of good mentors, the needs of new teachers, and ways to promote reflection and collaboration. While we provided successful learning experiences for mentors, we felt our training lacked two important elements: the focus on student learning that is at the heart of all good teaching, and strategies for ongoing program support. We also wanted to ground our work in standards for good teaching as well as the latest research on effective schools.

    This book presents a framework for a mentor program built on the reciprocal relationships between mentors and mentees as they create professional learning communities. This program provides a coherent learning environment for beginning teachers and those new to a grade level, building or district. It also offers a forum for our most admired teachers to pass on their accumulated wisdom about teaching practice to new generations of teachers (Darling-Hammond, 1998).

    The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) standards provide the guidelines for the knowledge, skills and professionalism of quality teaching reflected throughout the book. To further guide our research, we looked to Peter Senge's Schools That Learn, Robert Garmston's The Adaptive School, Rick DuFour's Professional Learning Communities at Work, and Tom Guskey's Evaluating Professional Development. Building on their ideas we structured a mentor program consisting of four themes that are embedded throughout our book.

    • Collaboration
    • Reflective practice
    • Shared vision for professional growth
    • Student learning

    These guiding principles provide the framework within which mentors and mentees can develop partnerships in a professional learning community.


    If I want to teach well, it is essential that I explore my inner terrain. But I can get lost in there, practicing self-delusion and running in self-serving circles. So I need the guidance that a community of collegial discourse provides – to say nothing of the support such a community can offer to sustain me in the trials of teaching and the cumulative and collective wisdom about this craft that can be found in every faculty worth its salt.

    Parker Palmer

    Meaningful collaboration doesn't just happen as a result of suggestion or chance. It is an ongoing process that needs to be structured, planned, and learned. There must be many opportunities for mentors and mentees to share ideas, perspectives, and expertise about teaching and learning. Teachers must work together as collaborators and colleagues to better understand both their own school experience and that of their students. This type of collaboration changes the mentor/mentee relationship from a hierarchical relationship to a reciprocal relationship based on mutual respect and learning. This effort combines the abilities and energies of beginning teachers with the experience of veteran teachers, and enables both to simultaneously contribute to the process of improved learning for teachers and students (Middleton, 2000). The activities presented in this book encourage mentors and mentees to collaborate as they explore issues related to learning. Whether they are completed independently, in mentor/mentee pairs, or in small groups, all activities promote a spirit of mutual sharing and collegiality.

    Reflective Practice

    [Reflection] emancipates us from merely impulsive and merely routine activity. Put in positive terms, thinking enables us to direct our activities with foresight and to plan according to ends-in-view, or purposes of which we are aware. It enables us to act in deliberate and intentional fashion to attain future objects or to come into command of what is now distant and lacking.

    John Dewey

    Thoughtful, reflective dialogue helps us see each other's point of view, become sensitive to each other's strengths and weaknesses, and act in each other's best interests. In practice, however, reflection can be difficult to integrate into our daily teaching routine in a sustained, meaningful way. We believe that if we want teachers to reflect, we must offer them a wide range of ongoing opportunities to think and talk about their teaching practice. The mentoring program we outline in this book provides ample occasion for mentor and mentee to practice the art of reflection and develop a culture of reflective thought.

    Even when conditions are conducive for reflective dialogue, it can be difficult for teachers to think and talk openly about their work in meaningful ways. For the most part, teachers function in the isolation of their classrooms with little opportunity or encouragement to engage in any type of reflective activity with other educators. Even when opportunities to reflect on practice are presented and supported, many teachers have little understanding of what reflection really means and how it is accomplished. To help with this process, we include structured activities that involve posing questions and teaching dilemmas, discussing possible solutions or procedures, implementing strategies, analyzing student work products, and evaluating results in a collaborative manner.

    Shared Vision for Professional Growth

    Mentors can guide a mentee's sense of the possible. The mentor's vision inspires and informs. Sharing stories, modeling behaviors and holding up a mirror empower the mentee. By fostering continuous reflection and assessing learning outcomes, movement is encouraging during and after completion of the relationship.

    Lois Zachary

    A solid mentoring program presents opportunities for mentors and mentees to explore their value and belief systems in order to create the best possible learning environment for students. As Nancy Hoffman observes in Schools That Learn (2000), “When teachers begin their careers it is based on something to be gotten or had rather than something engaged, constructed and connected to the participants. These practices shape the beginning teacher's identity as one who implements rather than produces knowledge.”

    A mentoring program must provide opportunities for teachers to construct their own teaching identity, a vision based on teaching standards and research, as well as on their own experiences and reflection and those of other teachers. As teachers engage in meaningful conversations about teaching and learning, work through teaching dilemmas and think deeply about challenging educational issues in a safe environment, a beginning teacher's identity begins to emerge. In this environment, new ideas can be explored and teaching practices can be examined without fear of recrimination. The activities presented in this book provide many opportunities for self-reflection, group reflection, and analysis of one's own beliefs, history and practice.

    Student Learning

    The focus of traditional schools is teaching; the focus of the professional learning community is student learning. The difference is much more than semantics. It represents a fundamental shift in the teacher-student relationship. This new relationship would not allow for the familiar teacher lament, “I taught it – they just did not learn it.

    Rick DuFour

    A mentoring program must not lose touch with the real purpose of teaching: keeping students at the center of our practice. Professional growth leads to better teaching and, ultimately, to improved student learning. The activities in this book provide opportunities to use real student data and feedback for meaningful discussion after methods and activities are implemented in the classroom. This guided, interactive dialogue will address teaching standards and methods, student characteristics and learning styles, curriculum, and assessment. Participants will examine their own student learning history, explore assessment strategies, investigate curriculum issues, analyze national, state and local standards, and consider various teaching methods – all focused on the goal of fostering student learning.

    Organization of the Book

    This book is designed to guide both mentees and mentors through a cycle of learning based on teaching standards. The mentors and mentees will collect information, discuss teaching experiences in a variety of settings, apply what they have learned, and assess the outcomes. This cycle focuses on what is at the heart of good teaching by emphasizing and modeling teacher and student learning. Understanding the time constraints experienced by teachers, we knew it would be important to create a book that is easy to use. To that end, we've laid out a step-by-step process that calls for one two-hour mentor/mentee gathering each month, along with informal mentor/mentee interactions throughout the month. For each month of either a nine-month or year-round school program, we present a set of desired outcomes grounded in teaching standards, followed by a repertoire of ready-to-use activities that promote collaboration and reflection. Each month builds on the previous month's focus and activities. A central focus of the program is a Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal that helps teachers collect information and observations related to their classroom practice as well as each month's specific topic. At the end of the cycle the learning partners will analyze the information they have collected in order to set meaningful goals as part of an ongoing professional development plan.

    The monthly format includes the following components:

    • Overview or Focus of the Chapter

      Each chapter begins with a brief discussion of the focus for this month's mentee/mentor work.

    • Learning Targets

      The learning objectives of each of the suggested activities are outlined at the beginning of each chapter.

    • Resources

      We include a list of resources that can be used to enhance and enrich the presented activities. This is especially useful for future reference.

    • Activities

      Each chapter includes activities that assist mentors and mentees in collaborating and reflecting on a given topic. Each activity is accompanied with an overview, suggestions for implementation, and a time estimate.

    • Required Forms Section

      Forms that are to be completed each month can be found in the required forms section at the end of each month's activities. This section includes the Monthly Seminar Planning Form, the Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal Form, the Monthly Reflection Journal Summary Form, and the Monthly Support Seminar Evaluation Form.

    Monthly Support Seminars

    The theme for each month is reflected in the agenda for the monthly support seminars. Here all participants gather to discuss their observations and share the learning process as colleagues. The following is an overview of the topics addressed throughout the year.

    Month One: Introducing the Mentoring Partners to the Reflective Process

    We begin with activities and tools designed to assist the mentee and mentor to get to know each other. The framework of the mentor program is described, and a timeline is established for both weekly meetings and monthly support seminars. The Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal and Monthly Reflection Journal Summary are introduced and will be the focus of reflection and dialogue throughout the mentor/mentee relationship. Mentors and mentees begin the process of paired learning using the Norms of Collaboration (Garmston, 1999). The norms describe the approach mentors and mentees will use to discuss and analyze each other's teaching performance in the following months.

    Month Two: Exploring Our Current Reality

    The activities in Month Two are designed to help participants gather information about the school, district and the community. The mentor and mentee assess their learning needs and complete a plan to meet those needs in the coming months.

    Month Three: Analyzing Professional Practice

    The mentoring partners discuss the knowledge, skills and professional standards represented in the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Through dialogue and reflection about the teaching standards, the partners will create a “big picture”survey of their own professional practice. The activities focus on collecting examples, resources, and other useful information that demonstrate how quality teaching standards are represented in their school and classrooms. The Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal for this month will focus on the partners' reflections on how the standards are applied in their everyday teaching, and the effect of quality teaching on student learning.

    Month Four: Analyzing Classroom Environment

    This month's activities are centered on how each teacher's classroom environment is structured to meet diverse student needs and to maximize learning. The effect of various classroom environments on student learning is explored through reading, classroom observation and teacher interviews. Participants record their explorations in the Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal and discuss them during the partners' meeting. The partners then discuss how they are currently structuring their classroom environment and how students are reacting to it. They compare this to the best practices reflected in the professional teaching standards and note further changes that would help students learn more effectively in their own classroom.

    Month Five: Understanding Assessment

    This month's activities will help teachers gain a better understanding of assessment and explore their own assessment experiences. Various assessment strategies will be introduced. The learning partners will analyze student work, discuss issues related to grading, create an assessment plan and participate in a type of performance assessment. Each activity is designed to promote reflective thought and discussion of the complexities of meaningful student assessment. The Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal will focus on the effectiveness of current assessment practices and how assessment relates to student learning and achievement.

    Month Six: Content Standards and Curriculum

    In Month Six, the partners will analyze the content of teaching and learning. Collaborative activities will promote discussion of curriculum and academic standards for teaching. Partners will explore their current curriculum and determine what additional curriculum information is needed for effective teaching. They will also analyze national, state and local academic standards and examine the connection between curriculum and standards. The Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal will focus on this analysis.

    Month Seven: Instructional Methods

    Teaching is more than a series of activities. It must include instructional strategies based on curriculum, standards, and student needs; these instructional strategies are the focus of Month Seven. Partners will analyze student behavior, participate in classroom visits, examine how various teaching methods meet the needs of a diverse student population, and develop learning goals based on current practice. The Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal will focus on teaching methods, instructional strategies and documentation related to the classroom visits.

    Month Eight: Setting Goals

    This month, partners will analyze the data collected as a result of the activities throughout the first six months, including all Monthly Reflection Journal Summary forms and other artifacts collected throughout the year. By responding to such statements as “What I most need help with is…”and “What I most need to work on in my practice is…,”partners will set measurable learning goals that lead to professional growth and maximized student learning outcomes.

    Month Nine: Writing the Professional Development Plan

    In Month Nine, partners will create a professional development plan based on the learning goals set the previous month. Goals, a plan of action, and a timeline are the essential components of the professional development plan. Both mentor and mentee will collaborate on the plan; optionally, the mentor may complete a plan as well as the mentee.

    Month Ten and Beyond: The Cycle Continues: Sustaining the Momentum

    The final section explores next steps to continue the collaboration and support as the professional development plan is implemented. Suggestions for future work that addresses the ongoing needs of mentor and mentee to continue the learning partnership are addressed.

    Tools and Checklists: Appendix

    This section includes tools and monthly checklists to assist all mentees, mentors, administrators, and program coordinators to implement the mentor program. The tools and checklists include:

    • Monthly checklists outlining key classroom and district responsibilities for mentors and mentees, as well as school occurrences throughout the year that can affect teaching and student learning;
    • Monthly administrator duties that are necessary to support and encourage the mentor program;
    • The monthly organization and implementation responsibilities of the mentor program coordinator.

    Readers who are familiar with the requirements for National Board teacher certification will recognize the linkages to our mentoring program. Just as we have integrated NBPTS standards as expressions of quality teaching, many of our activities consist of documenting evidence of how those standards are actualized in the classroom. This practice of collecting documentary evidence of standards in practice is an important part of attaining National Board Certification – and a part that many teachers struggle with. Educators who wish to apply for certification will find this program an excellent way to prepare.

    Our mentoring program, then, seeks to achieve more than creating a nurturing environment for new teachers, as important as that objective is. Ideally, the program we outline becomes a way for the entire faculty to gain a practical familiarity with the highest standards of the teaching profession, and to prepare to gain recognition for mastering these standards. Our program seeks ultimately to create a community of educators who learn from their practice and who share their insights with their colleagues as they create an ever-improving, ever-renewing learning environment for children.

    Daloz, Laurent (1999). Mentor: Guiding the journey of adult learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    Darling-Hammond, Linda (1998). Teacher learning that supports student learning. Educational Leadership, 55(5), 6–11.
    Dewey, John (1904/64). Why reflective thinking must be an educational aim. In John Dewey on Education, ed. R.D.Archambault, 313–38. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
    DuFour, Rick & Eaker, Robert (1998). Professional learning communities at work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement. Alexandria: VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Garmston, Robert, Wellman, Bruce. (1999). The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Norwood MA: Christopher-Gordon.
    Guskey, Thomas (2000). Evaluating professional development. Thousand Oaks CA: Corwin Press
    Hoffman, Nancy (2000). Learning to teach. In Schools That Learn, ed. P.Senge, 406–8. New York: Doubleday.
    Middleton, Valerie (2000). A community of learners. Educational Leadership, 57 (8) 51–53.
    National Staff Development Council. (2001). Tools for growing the NSDC standards. Oxford, OH: National Staff Development Council.
    Palmer, P. (1990). The active life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    Richardson, J. (August/September, 2001). Learning teams: When teachers work together, knowledge and rapport grow. Tools for Schools. Oxford, OH: National Staff Development Council.
    Richardson, J. (August/September, 2002). Think outside the clock: Create time for professional learning. Tools for Schools. Oxford, OH: National Staff Development Council.
    Senge, Peter, (2000). Schools that learn. New York: Doubleday.
    Stansbury, Kendyll & Zimmerman, Joy (2001). Lifelines to the Classroom: Designing support for beginning teachers. West Ed. Knowledge BriefSan Francisco CA: West Ed

    An Overview

    The Mentoring Year: An Overview

    This book presents a model for a teacher mentoring program that promotes individual, paired, and small group learning in order to create a collaborative, professional learning community. The structure of this mentor program strongly encourages a team-building approach in which both mentee and mentor complete designated tasks as they work together to improve student learning.

    Both mentoring partners keep reflection journals to record weekly entries and monthly summaries, meet weekly, and attend monthly support seminars where all mentees and mentors gather for joint activities that focus on specific topics. The monthly support seminars provide a designated time for mentees and mentors to interact with other teachers who are new to the profession, those new to the grade level, building or district, and other mentors, in the spirit of collegiality and shared learning. We ask the learning partners to think about each month's experience, to analyze how and what they learned affected their own teaching, to discuss the highs and lows of the month's experience, and to look for emerging patterns, themes, strengths, and growing concerns. This reflective thinking, together with the suggested activities, results in products, information, and observations that partners collect and use to set goals and create a professional development plan for future work. At the end of each support seminar, participants complete an evaluation of the program. We understand that the mentor/mentee partnership may not always be an ideal match. This difficulty can be eased by providing regular opportunities for participants to interact with many supportive teachers in a seminar setting.

    In the following section we share an overview of the essential components of a mentor program based on what we have learned from our mentor training experience and provide a suggested design structure for this mentor program. We believe that the structure is one that many schools will find useful; however, we recognize that each school and district has its own unique culture, climate, resources, and people. Therefore, we encourage you to take the ideas we present and modify them to best fit your needs.

    Mentor Program Components: Teacher Reflection Journals

    Participants are required to keep a Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal to record their reflections each week. These journals are used throughout the program as the basis of discussions between the mentoring partners, and as a way to focus their attention on the critical elements of teaching and student learning. Excerpts from the journals can be discussed during the weekly mentor/mentee meetings as well as during the monthly support seminars. This important resource is the foundation for the mentoring relationship and is a crucial component of this program.

    Participants are also asked to review and summarize their weekly journal entries each month, using the Monthly Reflection Journal Summary form. This summary process helps the partners detect emerging patterns, themes, and concerns that arise from their weekly reflections. Teachers save the forms and use them to develop professional development goals based on their observed strengths and needs. More information about the Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal and the Monthly Reflection Journal Summary is included in Month One.

    Weekly Mentee/Mentor Meetings

    It is crucial that the mentoring partners meet weekly. We suggest that the mentor and mentee agree on an established time to meet each week – say, each Wednesday morning from 7:15 to 7:45, for instance. The next section outlines a number of strategies to establish this meeting schedule. During these meetings, the partners may discuss teaching dilemmas, successes, excerpts from the Weekly Teacher Reflection Journal, and the topic of the upcoming monthly support seminar.

    Monthly Support Seminars

    The monthly support seminars are designed to provide opportunities for mentors and mentees to participate in activities that address specific topics based on teaching standards. The book offers a repertoire of activities for participants to choose from and a variety of ways to implement them. There are activities suitable for individuals to complete on their own, with their partners, or in small groups. Each monthly chapter includes a list of the activities, along with the purpose, the participants and required time for each. This format enables the partners to preview the list, decide which activities each would like to focus on at that particular support seminar, and then complete a feedback form to communicate their choices to the mentor program coordinator (we'll discuss this important position in the next section). The coordinator sets the agenda based on the feedback of the participants. It is not necessary for all participants to engage in the same activity. A sample feedback form and a suggested agenda for the support seminars are included on the following pages.

    Suggested Monthly Seminar Planning Form
    Suggested Monthly Seminar Agenda
    • Introductions
    • This may only be necessary for the first monthly support seminar. After month one this time can be allocated to the monthly topic.
    10 minutes
    • Monthly Reflection Journal Summary
    • Opportunity to self-select groups to discuss the teaching dilemmas, events, successes, etc., based on the Monthly Reflection Journal Summary. The coordinator may decide how the groups are formed, or they can be randomly organized.
    • Be aware that self-selecting groups can use up valuable time.
    25 minutes
    • Monthly Topic
    • Each participant chooses an activity to work on. Groups are formed based on the choices of the mentors and mentees. Mentors and mentees must review the activities prior to coming to the seminar. If materials are needed to complete the activity, participants should bring the necessary materials with them.
    70 minutes
    Wrap-up, Evaluations and Plans for Next Month15 minutes

    In most months, it will not be possible to complete all of the activities we present during the monthly seminar. Therefore, we encourage mentees and mentors to complete additional activities of interest independently now or at a later date. At the end of the cycle, when the mentee and mentor have created learning goals and professional development plans, they may decide to return to specific sections and complete additional activities.

    Monthly Support Seminar Evaluation

    Participants should complete an evaluation of the support seminars each month. This feedback allows the coordinator, administrators, mentors and mentees to gauge the effectiveness of the mentor program, identify difficulties and successes, and to make continual improvements as the year progresses. You may wish to consider an evaluation format like this one:

    Nurturing an Effective Mentoring Program

    Successful mentoring relationships are more likely to happen in the context of a supportive school environment that provides leadership, structure, resources and time. While most of this book focuses on the activities of the mentor and mentee, a solid mentoring program must also become a highly visible and integral part of the academic and administrative culture of the school. To provide this type of learning environment, we suggest the following components be included or addressed before you begin.

    Recruiting Mentors

    Recruiting experienced teachers to serve as mentors will be one of the most crucial initial steps in the program. Some schools will be fortunate to recruit a sufficient number of mentors to provide partners for all new teachers. The fine points of selecting the most qualified mentors or making the proper match with each new faculty member may have to wait until the program is more established. Nonetheless, it is important for mentor program administrators to consider the characteristics of effective mentors as well as strategies for pairing mentors and mentees.

    Successful Mentors Share a Number of Common Characteristics

    The mentor must be able to serve as confidant, anchor and source of support to the new teacher. The trust between the mentor and mentee creates an atmosphere in which the partners feel free to ask for help, expose insecurities, take risks, and celebrate successes. It allows both mentor and mentee to discuss, accept, and work through teaching dilemmas with the ultimate shared goal of improving learning experiences for students.

    Effective Communicator

    Good communication skills are crucial for creating an open, honest relationship between the learning partners. The mentor must be able to listen, ask the right questions, and be open to feedback.

    Competent and Responsible

    A central role of the mentor is to model the traits of effective teachers to new faculty members. These traits include knowledge of and commitment to the teaching profession, integrity, professionalism and teaching competence. More than merely senior faculty members, mentors should be excellent teachers.

    Good Interpersonal Skills

    Most mentees need a mentor who will nurture and guide them along the path to becoming an effective teacher. To fulfill this role the mentor needs to be approachable, positive, caring, and understanding.


    It is important that the mentor teacher be open to sharing ideas and expertise, solving problems, and working as a member of a team in the spirit of collegiality to develop a true learning community.

    Matching Mentors and Mentees

    What are the best criteria for deciding which mentor to pair with which mentee? Is it best to pair teachers in the same grade level, content area or building? Or is it more advantageous to pair teachers whose personality traits seem more compatible? There is no one answer that will work for every pairing; we've seen successes and problems associated with both arrangements. For some, it is beneficial to be paired with a teacher who is nurturing and will provide the type of support that crosses all content areas, grade levels and physical location. For others, a nurturing relationship isn't as important as the grade level or content area expertise and knowledge a mentor with a similar teaching assignment can provide. To further complicate matters, many districts are experiencing a shortage of qualified mentors that limits the pairing possibilities. We believe it is best to receive input and guidance from both mentors and those who are organizing the program to decide what works best given the culture and characteristics of your school and district.

    What if a teacher isn't matched to a mentor who serves his or her needs well? Reassignment may be a luxury that the likely shortage of mentors does not afford. One of the benefits of our program structure, which combines both one-on-one and group experiences, is that participants have many opportunities to interact with a variety of teachers. This interaction can help to alleviate some matching complications. Beyond that, however, one of the central goals of the program is to help all participants develop their abilities to work together as colleagues, taking each others' personalities and communication styles into account as they pursue common learning goals.

    Mentor Program Coordinator

    It is important to assign a program coordinator to oversee the organization of the monthly meetings and to keep mentors and mentees informed about dates, times, locations, agendas and necessary supplies. The coordinator also facilitates communication among the mentors and mentees to determine specific topics for the focus of that particular month's support seminar.

    In most cases the coordinator is a curriculum leader or resource teacher who is appointed by the principal or superintendent. We recommend that the coordinator have good organizational skills as well as some knowledge about mentoring and teaching standards. It is possible that the participating teachers might share some of the responsibilities, but one person should be appointed to oversee the process. In our experience, if there is not a person “in charge”there is a greater likelihood that the monthly support meetings will not happen. We include a list of coordinator responsibilities by month in the Appendix.

    Administrative Support

    Establishing, implementing, and sustaining a sound mentor program requires on-going support from district leadership. The superintendent and building principal play key roles in providing the necessary guidance, acknowledgment and reinforcement to all teachers involved in the mentor program. These support strategies include participating in the monthly support seminars, providing the necessary materials and information about the district as needed, modifying mentor and mentee schedules, and promoting the program to all faculty, parents and community. In the Appendix, we offer monthly checklists and strategies for administrative support and involvement.

    Teacher Union Support

    Another important stakeholder is the local teacher union. Gaining union support may require that the school or district make a number of assurances regarding the mentor program. The teachers' union will want to know that the program is not intended in any way to erode the administration's responsibility to supervise teachers. It is also important to provide reassurance that the communication between mentors and their learning partners is confidential and that mentors will never be expected to give incriminating information in any disciplinary actions that might arise against the new teacher. The union may also want to know if mentors or their learning partners will receive additional compensation for the extra meetings and work involved. Most importantly, the union should be assured that the program shares the union's goals of supporting new teachers, building strong learning communities within the school and the district, and helping teachers new to the system become informed, skilled and caring professionals.

    Finding the Time

    We suggest that the mentor/mentee pair meet informally for 20 to 30 minutes each week to discuss issues that arise from their daily teaching experience. They can also use this time to discuss the topic of the monthly seminar and review the activities for that month. In addition, two hours should be allocated for monthly support seminars for all mentors and mentees. It works best when a set day and time are established for the monthly seminars. For example, the coordinator might designate the second Tuesday of the month from 3:45 to 5:45 for the support seminars.

    Teachers have incredibly busy schedules; the challenge of finding the time to meet on a regular basis is daunting. We posed that concern to a group of our teacher colleagues and asked them to offer suggestions as to where they could “find the time.”Here are some of their ideas:

    Informal Ways for Mentors and Mentees to Schedule 20–30 Minutes Per Week
    • Creative scheduling
      • Common prep time
      • Parallel scheduling – all students going to specials at the same time
    • Sharing students – combining two or more classes for a joint activity, thereby freeing up time for mentor and mentee to meet
    • Teaching assistants or parent volunteers can supervise non-instructional activities
      • Extended lunchtime
      • Videos
      • Field trips
    • Hiring floating substitute teachers to free teachers in 30-minute blocks of time
    • Early morning meetings (for instance, breakfast each Friday morning)
    • After school
    • Lunch time (partners might get together for lunch every Wednesday, for example)
    • Mentors and mentees are released from non-instructional duties, such as early morning supervision or recess duty
    • Principal, assistant principal, or curriculum director take over class supervision
    Formal Strategies to Plan Monthly Support Seminars
    • Banking time – extend the school day by 5–10 minutes per day to enable extra staff development days
    • Adjust start and end time
      • Late starts
      • Early dismissals
    • Use existing staff development days
    • Staff meetings
    • School assemblies – when all teachers do not need to attend
    Suggested Time Commitment


    There are many ways that mentees and mentors can be compensated for their time. Some districts offer stipends or extended contract time for mentees and mentors; others credit mentoring time to professional development or recertification hours, or join efforts with the local college or university to offer the monthly seminars as part of a for-credit course.


    The mentoring program we outline here is designed as a guide to get you started. As you gain more experience, you will be able to modify it to meet the unique needs of your district. Adopt the methods and activities that work for you; amend or skip those that don't. The core elements of our program include a commitment to a regular meeting schedule, a focus on standards of quality teaching, the use of the teacher reflection journals, and the goal of creating a collaborative, collegial learning environment. The details may be rearranged to suit your situation. What is important is not strict adherence to these suggestions, but that you strive to implement a program that supports mentoring relationships and builds a professional learning community.

  • Appendix

    Appendix A: Monthly Mentee/Mentor Checklists

    The following checklists are designed to help new teachers research specific details related to school operations, and to be aware of seasonal occurrences throughout the year that impact teaching and learning. Mentees should discuss these with their mentor partners.

    Before School Starts (This Will Vary for Year-Round Schools)

    Monthly Mentee/Mentor Checklists

    Monthly Mentee/Mentor Checklists

    • Weather Related School Cancellation Procedure
    • Review School Cancellation Procedures
    • Budget Requests
    District Winter Holiday Activities/Policies:
    • Gift giving policies
    • Gift receiving policies
    • Decorations
    • Classroom parties
    • Music programs a Staff party
    • Student all-school party/dance
    Winter Sports:
    • Faculty responsibility
    • Schedule
    • Flu Shot
    • Importance of Accurate Enrollment Counts
    • Observation and Feedback

    Other Comments/Suggestions/Helpful Hints:

    Monthly Mentee/Mentor Checklists

    • End of the Semester Procedures
    • Report Cards/Records Days
    • Strategies to Get Through the Winter
    • Final Semester Grading
    • Retention Policies
    • Secondary School Scheduling
    • Plan for Second Semester
    • Quarterly Meeting with Principal (January)
    • Student and Teacher Illness
    • Student Make-Up Work Policy
    Grading Policies:
    • Incomplete grades
    • Changing grades
    Standardized Testing Issues/Policies:
    • Scheduling
    • What grade levels are assessed
    • District
    • State
    • Procedure for collecting tests
    • Begin Talking About Summer and/or Next Year Staff Development Opportunities
    • Contract Renewal/Nonrenewal
    Valentine's Day:
    • Parties
    • School activities
    • Winter Dance
    • Planning Spring Programs/Trips
    • Observation and Feedback

    Other Comments/Suggestions/Helpful Hints:

    Monthly Mentee/Mentor Checklists

    • Review Diagnostic Testing Procedures
    • Contract Signing
    • Year-End Reports
    • Transfer Policies
    • Special Ed. Year-End State Reporting
    • Review IEP Procedures
    • Fall Ordering Films/Kits
    • Quarterly Meeting with Principal (March and June)
    • Additional Records Aside from Cum. Folders
    • Student Awards Policy
    • Spring Break
    • Student Absence Due to Family Vacation
    • Winter Sports Tournaments

    Other Comments/Suggestions/Helpful Hints:

    Monthly Mentee/Mentor Checklists

    • Review Diagnostic Testing Procedures
    • Daylight Savings Time
    • Year-End Activities/Awards
    • Kindergarten Registration/Orientation for Fall Kindergarten Students
    • Year-End Cum. Folder Information
    • Summer School Referrals
    • Portfolio Transfers Policies & Procedures
    • Scheduling for Next Year
    • Class Lists for Next Year
    • Budgeting for Next Year
    • Scholarship Procedures
    • Last Day Check Out Procedures
    • Support for Stresses of Last 2 Weeks of School – Impact on Professional and Personal Life
    Graduation and/or Promotion Activities and Policies:
    • Dates
    • Informal/formal
    • Celebration policies
    End-of-Year Clean-Up and Storage Policies:
    • Classroom inventories
    • Labeling stored items
    • Storage – how and where
    Spring/Year-End Activities:
    • Prom
    • Picnics
    • Field trips
    • Concerts
    • Banquets
    • Awards programs

    Other Comments/Suggestions/Helpful Hints:

    Appendix B: Monthly Administrator Checklists

    The following lists outline specific tasks to be completed by the building administrator to help implement and support the mentor program.

    Monthly Administrator Checklists
    Monthly Administrator Checklists
    Monthly Administrator Checklists
    Monthly Administrator Checklists
    Appendix C: Monthly Coordinator Checklist

    The following chart will assist the coordinator with the responsibilities of organizing the monthly support seminars. Check the appropriate box as each task is completed. The last row lists tasks specific to the topic of the monthly seminar.

    Monthly Coordinator Checklist

    Corwin Press

    The Corwin Press logo—a raven striding across an open book—represents the happy union of courage and learning. We are a professional-level publisher of books and journals for K-12 educators, and we are committed to creating and providing resources that embody these qualities. Corwin's motto is “Success for All Learners.”

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