A perennial concern of the teaching profession is its high attrition rate of novice teachers. Montgomery Halford (1998) in her article, "Easing the Way for New Teachers," describes teaching as "the profession that eats its young." She states: "Nearly 30 percent of teachers leave in the first five years, and the exodus is even greater in some school districts" (p. 33). Gonzales and Sosa, 1993 (cited in Montgomery Halford, 1998) point out that research indicates that the most talented new educators are often the most likely to leave.
According to Glickman, Gordon, and Ross-Gordon (1998), beginning teachers in many schools are faced with a number of environmental difficulties: inadequate resources, difficult work assignments, unclear expectations, a sink-or-swim mentality, and reality shock. Jones (1994) lists other concerns consistently reported by novice teachers: managing classrooms and disciplining students, conducting parent conferences, working as a member of a teaching team, coping with the frustration of not being successful with every student, motivating students, addressing individual differences, preparing for the school day, and grading student work.
Ultimately, students suffer from the depletion of the most capable and brightest teachers from the teaching profession. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to recommend formal mentorship, a component of an induction program, as a viable solution in decreasing the high attrition rate found among novice teachers.
Rebore (1995) mentions that in 1983, the publication of A Nation At Risk resulted in legislation mandating the inclusion of mentoring as an induction strategy for newly hired teachers.
Mentoring is the "pairing of an experienced teacher with a beginning teacher in order to provide the beginning teacher with support and encouragement. . . . The experienced teacher acts a role model for the beginning teacher and through coaching helps the teacher develop his or her competencies, self-esteem, and sense of professionalism (Rebore, 1995, p. 143). The experienced teacher is called a mentor, and the recipient of the mentor’s influence is called a protégé.
Jones (1994) provides four goals of a formal mentorship program:
To build a strong relationship between the beginning teacher and the mentor.
To give the beginner a knowledge base of essential resources, policies, and procedures.
To help them understand effective classroom techniques.
To make the new teacher aware of expectations.
Since the success of the mentorship program depends heavily on the selection of the mentor, mentors should be chosen carefully. Apart from the willingness to serve as a mentor, Jones (1994) states that the mentor should be an exemplar, a sponsor, and a developer of skills. The chosen person should have demonstrated expertise as an effective classroom teacher and should be competent in demonstrating this expertise to other teachers.
The California Mentor Teacher Program (cited in Jones, 1994, p. 143) provides several selection criteria:
commitment to subject matter,
expertise in subject matter,
ability to convey enthusiasm for the subject to students,
belief in student ability to succeed,
commitment to high expectations for students,
competence to teach various student ability levels,
use of appropriate grading standards,
willingness to give special attention to students requiring help,
success in fostering excellent student performance,
evidence in professional stature,
recognition by those in the same profession,
respect of his or her colleagues.
To facilitate the mentoring process, Jones (1994) recommends: (1) workshops for the mentors on adult development, stress, and coping mechanisms, and active listening,(2) reduced teaching loads for mentor and protégé, and (3) proximity of the mentor’s classroom to that of the protégé’s.
A position taken by the National Education Association protects the protégé from any adverse consequences of a summative evaluation. According to the National Education Association, "The formative assistance provided by such programs must be independent of any summative evaluation. Any documentation that results from the mentor-mentee relationship must be confidential and must not be included in the participants’ personnel files" (Jones, 1994, p. 142).
There is evidence in the literature read that mentorship programs have positive results. Caccia (1996) in an article entitled, "Linguistic Coaching: Helping Beginning Teachers Defeat Discouragement," states: "The beginning teachers I coached achieved better results than new teachers who were not coached. Where their predecessors had struggled just to get through their first year of teaching, the coached novices maintained a positive outlook and, as the year went on, made consistent progress in establishing authority and autonomy" (pp. 19-20).
Montgomery Halford (1998) cites professional payoffs in California. She states that the studies conducted in the State of California indicate that as a result of mentorship programs money was saved on recruitment and rehiring.
Jones (1994) points out that mentorship programs offer the greatest success out of several reform options for restructuring the teaching profession. Studies revealed that teachers and leaders familiar with these programs strongly agree that (1) they help new teachers to improve teaching skills, (2) collegiality and reduced isolation are positive outcomes for new teachers, (3) novice teachers acquire greater understanding in the areas of teaching strategies, curriculum, and district policies, and mastery of classroom competencies.
In addition, mentors benefit themselves from their relationships with protégés. They report gain in the sharing of new ideas and techniques and in having their enthusiasm for teaching stimulated.
Stedman and Stroot (1998) report in an article entitled, "Teachers Helping Teachers," that the PAR Mentoring Program for teachers received an Excellence in Education award from the National Education Association award from the National Education Association. They affirm that the PAR Program is a win-win situation for everyone in the Columbus School District because the district is able to retain talented, enthusiastic, and dedicated teachers.
These positive results far outweigh three negative aspects mentioned by Jones (1994): (1) confusion of beginners about role expectations, (2) insufficient time for their work and the mentoring activities, (3) mentors’ loss of planning and/or teaching time. These negative aspects can be avoided if administrators follow the recommendation of reducing teaching loads for both mentor and protégé, and if the mentor is adept at communicating role expectations.
Future studies will support the writer’s position that mentorship programs included in an induction strategy represent a viable solution for reducing the high attrition rate found among novice teachers. As such they should be carefully planned, implemented, and their results accurately documented.
Caccia, Paul, F. (1996, March). Linguistic coaching: Helping beginning teachers defeat discouragement. Educational Leadership, 53, 17-20.
Glickman, Carl D., Gordon, Stephen P., Ross-Gordon, Jovita M. (1998). Professional development. Supervision of instruction a developmental approach (4th ed.), 346-353. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Jones, James. J., Walters, Donald L. (1994). Human resource management in education. Lancaster, Basel: Technomic Publishing Co.
Montgomery Halford, Joan. (1998, February). Easing the way for new teachers. Educational Leadership, 55, 33-36.
Rebore, Ronald W. (1995). Personnel administration in education: A management approach. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Stedman, Patricia, Stroot, Sandra A. (1998, February). Teachers helping teachers. Educational Leadership, 55, 37-38.