Professional Learning

The Good Mentor: What It Takes To Be Effective

An expert describes the necessary components for a successful districtwide teacher-mentoring program.

September 1, 1999

After nearly a decade of helping school districts design mentor-based entry-year programs, James Rowley knows what it takes to be an effective mentor to new teachers. By identifying the characteristics of a good mentor, Rowley prescribes necessary components for building a successful and effective mentoring program in any district:

The good mentor is committed to the role of mentoring. To increase the odds that mentor teachers possess the commitment fundamental to delivering effective support, good programs can

  • require formal mentor training as a prerequisite to mentoring.
  • provide specific descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of mentor teachers.
  • require mentors to maintain simple logs or journals of the mentorship.
  • provide mentors with some form of compensation.

The good mentor is a model of continuous learning. High-quality entry-year programs can ensure that mentors continue their own professional growth and development by

  • establishing clear criteria for mentor selection that include a commitment to initial and ongoing mentor training.
  • giving veteran mentors frequent opportunities to participate in high-quality professional growth experiences that can enhance their work as mentor teachers.

The good mentor is accepting of the beginning teacher. Programs can encourage mentor teachers to be more accepting of new teachers by

  • engaging prospective mentors in reflecting on the qualities of effective helpers.
  • helping program mentors understand the problems and concerns of beginning teachers as well as the stage and age theories of adult development.

The good mentor communicates hope and optimism. Programs can ensure that beginning teachers are supported by mentors capable of communicating hope and optimism through

  • finding good mentors who capitalize on opportunities to affirm the human potential of their mentee.
  • taking precautions to avoid using veteran teachers who have lost their positive outlook.
This article was reprinted with permission of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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