International School Tegucigalpa (IST) is an American standard based K-12 school operating in the capital of Honduras. It is currently under dual accreditation from Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) who serve under AdvanceED. IST was founded in August 1993 with the vision of being a leader school, delivering quality education. Among its core values, it emphasizes experience and expertise. Traditionally the school has hired a high percentage of international staff and it has been this staff that has given the school its competitive advantage and character. Recruiting efforts have traditionally focused on hiring certified North American teachers, resulting today, in the largest North American teacher school staff in the Central American region.
IST has 139 full time staff members and out of the 139 members, 105 are full time teachers, serving only students. School data reflects that in last 5 years, the school has experienced a turnover of around 19 staff members per year. Although the data would reflect a 13% turnover, the percentage may be misleading as to the students’ reality. Since 105 teachers give about 90% of the instruction, students really experience an average closer to 20% turnover. Furthermore, data looked into more specifically, finds that some departments of the school experience a higher turnover than others. Elementary School (ES) hires an average of 10 new teachers every year that accounts to 24% of its teaching staff. Middle School (MS) hires an average of 5 new teachers every year, which accounts for 21% of their teaching staff. High School (HS) on average hires 2 teachers who account for 10% of its teachers while Pre School (PS) hires 2 new teachers every year on average, which account for 10% of its teaching staff. Looking into more longitudinal data IST experiences a turnover of around 55% percent every 4 years out of which 80% percent of this turnover rate are new teachers.
Currently, IST has a human resource policy manual that only addresses induction and not mentoring. Grade teacher leaders, in PS and ES, work together with the curriculum office in a buddy system style. Work primarily is in groups and although time is allocated, no formal training or extra time is given for leaders to prepare. The quality of the program is not measured and there is no assessment. The program lacks formal structure and there is no teacher feedback, data, and it is not systematic. In MS and HS levels department heads exist instead of grade leaders; however this role is supervisory and hierarchical. Furthermore the Ministry of Education in Honduras does not require a specific mentoring program for private schools. According to a study conducted by Ingersoll & Strong on the effect of support, guidance, and orientation programs concluded that providing such support had a positive impact on three sets of outcomes: teacher commitment and retention, teacher classroom instructional practices, and student achievement (2011).
A study conducted by Smith and Ingersoll examining whether mentoring programs had positive effects on the retention of new teachers concluded that novice teachers who planned with other teachers, collaborated with others, and were assigned mentors from the same subject area “were less likely to move to other schools and also less likely to leave the teaching profession after the first years of teaching” (2004). A meaningful mentoring program should have the following elements (Johnson et al., 2004; Saphier, Freedman, & Aschheim, 2001): Mentors that are carefully selected and matched with their mentees and mentors are given training in effective communication and peer coaching techniques. Attention is given to the concerns of beginning teachers. Special consideration is given to the beginning of the school year, when novice teachers will feel initially exhausted and overwhelmed. Regular contacts and meetings between mentors and mentees are scheduled throughout the school year. Assistance in acclimatizing beginning teachers to the school community is provided.
In my paper, I will present a mentoring plan to be implemented with a systematic approach that supports teachers for the long run. I will first discuss the structure of the proposed mentoring program, which will include a detailed action plan that will take into account its design, responsibilities, timeframes and resources. I will then discus some of the potential barriers the program may face. Then I will offer a conclusion. The plan will be based on IST ethical beliefs and will align to the schools mission statement.
Structure of the Mentoring Program & Action Plan
I. Needs Assessment and Data Collection
To structure a mentoring program, we will first have to do a needs-assessment on the needs of new teachers. The purpose is to develop professional communities for beginning teachers for the 2013-2014 school year. A mentoring survey and interview protocol will be conducted to identify specific needs of new teachers at IST. The results gathered will be used to plan the next term and the school year. Questionnaires will be addressed to teachers that work at IST and ideally to all teachers that have worked at IST over the past 5 years. Building principals, department heads, human resource director, and the curriculum coordinator will also participate. An interview process will be established to provide a deeper understanding of the perceptions and allow interview participants to elaborate more completely on their thoughts and observations.
According to Gay and Airasian (2003),“interviews can produce in-depth data not possible with a questionnaire, and are most appropriate for asking questions that cannot effectively be structured into a multiple-choice format, such as those that require lengthy responses” (pp. 290-291). They further emphasized that “the interviewer can often obtain data that respondents would not give on a questionnaire, which may result in more accurate and honest responses since the interview can explain and clarify both the purpose of the research and individual questions” (p. 291). Summaries of findings and recommendations of planning, development, and delivery shall be prepared by the school Teacher Head. The results shall be presented to the school board for the discussion of possible future programs and improve upon what the school is currently doing.
II. Establishing the Vision and Goals
The vision of the Program will be to provide professional and emotional support for the new teacher, resulting in increased professional
collegiality among all staff and enhancing student learning. The questions will focus on the program’s effectiveness, and target the following goals: •Retaining quality teachers
•Improving teacher performance
•Supporting teacher morale
•Communicating and providing confidential and collaborative support
•Offering guidance to novice teachers
•Delivering easier transition in the first year of teaching
Questions will be developed in three separate versions with each version asking the same question with slightly different wording based on the role of the respondent.
III. Mentor Character, Attitude & Selection
IST mentors will be full time mentors and to become a mentor must first selected or invited by the area principals as candidates. To become a mentor, a teacher will need to have 5 years of classroom teaching experience and must be certified in the subject area or grade level he/she wishes to mentor. For a teacher to be presented into mentor selection, the teacher must be committed to the goals of the mentoring plan including respect for the confidential nature of the mentor/new teacher relationship. Knowledge on content and methodology must be demonstrated and there must be an ability to articulate it. Upon approval by the Head Master the candidate must successfully complete a three stage-training program for readiness before beginning their new role.
Proposed mentors three stage-training program:
•First stage of the training program will be based on effective communication and peer coaching techniques. •Second stage of the training program will train mentors in the use of technology including (Blackboard, Active Inspire, Power School, and Discovery Education Streaming). •Third stage of the program will be a self-study where mentors will create Christ centered integration into lesson building that will be presented and revised by the school board and Head Master.
Proposed IST mentors will exhibit the following characteristics, attitudes and Character:
•Willing to be a role model for other teachers
•Exhibits strong commitment to the teaching profession
•Believes mentoring improves instructional practice
•Willing to advocate on behalf of colleagues
•Willing to receive training to improve mentoring skills
•Demonstrates a commitment to lifelong learning
•Is reflective and able to learn from mistakes
•Is eager to share information and ideas with colleagues
•Is resilient, flexible, persistent, and open-minded
•Exhibits good humor and resourcefulness
•Enjoys new challenges and solving problems
Professional Competence and Experience:
•Is regarded by colleagues as an outstanding teacher
•Has excellent knowledge of pedagogy and subject matter
•Has confidence in his/her own instructional skills
•Demonstrates excellent classroom-management skills
•Feels comfortable being observed by other teachers
•Maintains a network of professional contacts
•Understands the policies and procedures of IST & Ministry of Education
•Is a meticulous observer of classroom practice
•Collaborates well with other teachers and administrators
•Is willing to learn new teaching strategies from protégés
•Is able to articulate effective instructional strategies
•Asks questions that prompt reflection and understanding
•Offers critiques in positive and productive ways
•Uses technology effectively
•Is efficient with the use of time
•Conveys enthusiasm and passion for teaching
•Is discreet and maintains confidentiality
•Is able to maintain a trusting professional relationship
•Knows how to express care for a protégé’s emotional and professional needs
•Is attentive to sensitive political issues
•Works well with individuals from different cultures
•Is approachable; easily establishes rapport with others and is patient
IV. Responsibilities and Roles
Mentors will be carefully selected and always looked for firstly from within the school. Mentor’s will share accountability with the mentored in teacher’s formal and informal supervisory reviews. Depending on the results of teacher evaluations, mentors will be graded. Mentors will be strongly encouraged to develop close relationships with their teachers and the school will make efforts to provide adequate resources necessary for social gatherings, icebreakers and team building events and opportunities. All mentors will be required to sign a minimum contract commitment of 4 years from the day they start their role. Because mentors will be full time mentors, they must work with at least 4 teachers of which 3 must have less than 3 year teaching experience. MS and HS department head roles will no longer exist and subject mentors will be the new role. Such a structural change will eliminate the current hierarchical format in the current school system. The new structure will allow greater trust, communication, and team atmosphere. Mentors shall focus on classroom activities, including instructional techniques and curriculum, classroom management and teacher performance.
A mentor will accomplish the following in his/her role:
•Facilitates a compatible working relationship with new teachers by discussing expectations and arriving at a mutual understanding about how best to work together. •Assesses the background of the new teacher and provides the type and amount of support indicated by this background. •Orient the new teacher to the school policies, procedures, and expectations •Visits the provisional teacher’s classroom and provides feedback, coaching and support. •Models effective teaching techniques.
•Is accessible for informal support and consultation.
•She/He may not formally evaluate the provisional teacher. All observations and feedback provided by the mentor are for the purpose of professional development and support and should be considered confidential. •May share responsibility for a first-year teacher with one or more mentors.
According to Cohen and Fuller, teachers who participated in a program for new teachers, of which mentoring was a large part stayed with the profession at higher percentages then teachers who did not participate in a program (2006). Research also shows that mentoring not only benefits the mentored but the mentor as well. Smithey and Evertson in a study state that teachers who had trained mentors had better classroom organization and management as well as student engagement than those who did not have mentors (2003).
V. Measuring the Effectiveness of the Mentoring Program
The quality of classroom learning is the bottom line for evaluating a mentoring program. The evaluation of the program must be driven by the goals established. Evaluation should be limited to outcomes related to specific goals. Study improvements in classroom management, teacher’s time on task, parent satisfaction, and the degree to which teachers being mentored use time and resources efficiently. Crafting a set of questions that together, guide the project evaluation to its intended outcome will help monitor the program. Holding mentors accountable and evaluation and careful documentation help both to improve the effectiveness of mentoring and to justify the investment to the school board and education’s stakeholders. Content and evaluation are key components of the long-term viability and success of the program. Some possible instruments to identify and collect data can be surveys, in-depth interviews, focus groups, journal entries, longitudinal studies, and case studies.
Though highly specific evaluation metrics and tools are hard to pinpoint at this stage without the initial needs assessment results, some of the key questions to consider are: •To what extent do the mentor- new teacher relationships result in positive, longer-term, collegial relationships? •How does participating in our project lead into the longer-term professional development plans? •What evidence is there that students who are taught by new teachers who have mentors learn better? •What evidence is there that students who are taught by new teachers who have mentors have a more positive school experience? •What evidence will be used to evaluate and document the effectiveness of the program? •Student achievement data?
•Indicators of teacher satisfaction?
•Teacher retention data?
•Decreased need for teacher remediation?
•Who should be involved in evaluating and documenting the mentoring program?
•An independent program evaluator?
•Assigned parents of the PTO ?
VI. Proposed Timeline for Implementation
Initial Needs AssessmentCompleted by March 30, 2013
Stage One (Questionnaires)Completed by February 15, 2013
Stage Two (Interviews)Completed by March 15, 2013
Based on the needs assessment we will specify mentoring program parameters like subject areas of need, number of mentors, professional development goals, financial resource, and any other concerns.
Development of Specific ParametersCompleted by March 30, 2013 Presentation and Approval by the BoardCompleted by the April 15, 2013 Recruitment and HiringApril 15 through June 15, 2013
Stage OneCompleted by July 15, 2013
Stage TwoCompleted by July 30, 2013 and ongoing
Stage ThreeCompleted by August 10, 2013 and ongoing
Initial Evaluation30 Days from first teaching day
Mid-Year Evaluation4.5 Months into the year (January 2014) Year End Evaluation10 Months into the year (June 2014)
Proposed Changes & RecommendationsCompleted by June 30, 2014 Implementation of ChangesCompleted by July 15, 2014
Recognition EventHeld in September 2014
VII. Recognize the Contribution and Results
Providing recognition for significant contribution and accomplishments is an important component of a healthy, safe and rewarding mentoring environment. Little things like pats on the back or the positive mention of one’s name matter. Both public recognition and private kudos for job well-done boost morale foster team spirit and raise retention rates across the board for mentees, mentors, volunteers and staff alike. Holding at least one event a year to allow mentors and mentees to be recognized not only by their peers in the mentoring group but also by the community at large will go a long way towards rising morale and in communicating the importance of the program to the school.
VIII. Potential Barriers & Remedies
The most obvious barrier to the implementation of such a program would be budgetary in nature. The recruitment and hiring of full time mentors would require a commitment of funds from the school administration. It would be worthwhile to point out that the school currently spends $35,000 to $40,000 on recruiting new teachers every year. Reduction in turnover rates would automatically bring savings in these recruitment expenditures, every year. Once recruited and hired mentors will be committed to a 4-year assignment. It is projected that over the long run, the mentoring program will be able to fund itself from savings obtained from these expenditure reductions. However in the short run, it may be necessary for the school to provide an initial outlay of funds for the program to get up and running. Specific budgetary concerns including a cost analysis can and will be a part of the initial needs assessment undertaken within the school, as a separate addendum, and the results will be part of the presentation made to the board.
Inertia from an established school culture is another potential barrier. The intention of the mentoring program to try and elevate existing teachers to mentorship roles, along with a comprehensive training program, is an attempt to smoothen this change in culture. Moreover mentors from within, would make existing staff immediate stakeholders in the program and thus invested in the sustenance and success of the mentorship program of the school.
Based on these generic principles, a specific mentoring program for IST designed upon the information obtained from the initial needs assessment, will allow the school to reduce its current turnover rate and enhance student performance overall in the long run. School administrators today have diverse tasks that are crucial to the achievement of students and although it can be difficult for administrators to keep new teachers in the profession, mentoring can improve the quality of a teacher, as well as keep teachers in the profession longer, thus improving the success and achievements of students. According to Moir, “Effective induction programs combine high quality mentoring with communities of practice” (2009), but because every school is different there is no exact or no specific design that would meet the needs of every school. However research concludes that some general rules of a good mentoring program include taking into account that the correct time is given for mentors and mentee to work together, that their exists confidentiality among mentor and mentee and that the placement of a correct mentor is given to the mentee, pairing similar colleagues that can share experiences is essential.
Cohen, Ben & Fuller, Edward J (2006, April). Effects of mentoring and induction on beginning teacher retention. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.
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