Magazine article Techniques

Is the Doctor Really In?

Magazine article Techniques

Is the Doctor Really In?

Article excerpt

Examining the Ailments of Mentoring Relationships for New CTE Teachers

RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT MENTORSHIP IS an effective tool for supporting beginning educators, yet it is equally important to examine the strategies for developing, tracking and nurturing these mentoring partnerships. A collaborative study conducted through the University of Arizona's Department of Agricultural Education may offer new perspectives for improving mentoring relationships for beginning teachers.

Each year, beginning career and technical education (CTE) teachers are handed the reins to finally teach on their own. As part of an initiative to identify what resources new teachers may need as they transition from the university or professional setting into their own classrooms, researchers focused on the experiences of secondary CTE teachers who were in their second year of teaching during the 2003-2004 academic year. This national study gathered information about the experiences of beginning teachers, such as the demographic characteristics of the beginning teacher and the perceived likelihood of teaching secondary CTE in the future.

A critical aspect of the study focused on the probability of new teachers electing to continue teaching after their first year of "flying solo" in the classroom. When asked to report on how likely they would be to continue teaching, nearly two-thirds responded that they were "not highly likely" to continue to teach over the next five years, and only 15 percent reported they were "highly likely" to do so 20 years from the time of the survey. When asked to report on resources most needed to improve the chances of continuing their careers as CTE educators, the roles of mentorship and support networks were the most crucial elements for maintaining a lifeline for new teachers.

Instrumental to teaching is learning to manage one's professional and personal time. When new CTE teachers were asked to share their opinions on the benefits of having a mentor as part of their teacher induction program, their responses included statements such as, "It was massively important. My head was spinning when I started. She helped ground and focus me and helped build the curriculum, and taught me a lot about methodology. It was the most important aspect of my survival thus far," and, "I'm very sure if I didn't have a mentor teacher I would still not be in the profession. This person was a lifeline, and we have become very close friends."

Ways to Help

As mentors, teachers with many years of teaching experience may show young teachers how to prioritize activities and responsibilities. When asked to report on how their mentors were helpful, new teachers commented on the ways in which their time management had improved through the coaching of a mentor, with responses such as, "They can give you the right answer . . . and help you avoid a lot of wasted time by steering you away from things that gobble up your time."

Young teachers may make mistakes when there are many choices and no clear direction. Having an experienced mentor to help navigate these choices is crucial. New teachers frequently shared that simply "having someone to offer advice from a more experienced viewpoint" was imperative.

This essential resource for their survival in the classroom is recognized in the following statement: "Asking advice of an experienced teacher is very important in being able to make the right choices throughout difficult situations."

In many instances, new teachers may find themselves as the single CTE teacher in the school. CTE programs often involve additional responsibilities, including the supervision of experiential learning activities and advising career and technical student organizations (CTSOs). Having multiple resources and mentors has also proven useful for new teachers.

As one new teacher says, "I had several mentors. One was an ag teacher in the district who was assigned to me, and that was nice because he helped me with what was going on FFA-wise and also was a good person to vent problems to and someone who would understand what was going on. …

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