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Most districts in Texas face an acute shortage of teachers in both public and private schools. As a result, the education system has embraced mentorship as a means of ensuring that teachers stick to their profession thus the increase in teacher mentees. Mentoring entails a sustained relationship for supporting teachers in their early stage of their career.
According to Regins and Kram (2007), mentor is a more experienced individual or rather a colleague with the knowledge of not only the needs, but also the professional context of the other person-the mentee (p.12). Mentorship is usually a time-defined process with significant emphasis on the development of the less experienced teachers’ classroom practices and instructional skills.
Wright (2010) posits that, the role of the teacher mentor is to guide the development of the teacher mentee on effective teaching using several instructional pedagogies (p.16). The increase in teacher mentees is instrumental in the enhancement of the sufficient teaching staff in the region’s educational system.
Factors that have led to the increase teaching mentees
Less experienced teachers face several challenges, which are both personal and professional. These challenges include huge workloads, poor student behaviour as well as improper work planning. Other elemental reasons that discourage less experienced teachers include lack of support from professional bodies or people coupled with deplorable working environments.
Most teachers who find it hard to cope with the seemingly hard working environment opt to quit the profession. This has led to a high teacher turnover in many districts in the region. Rieg and Paquette (2007) rue that, an “alarming and unsustainable number of teachers leave teaching profession during their first three years of working” (p.212).
Teacher attrition, the phenomenon whereby teachers leave teaching for alternative careers, is the largest single factor determining the increase in demand of teachers not only in Texas, but also in all the states of America. According to Rinke, “40% of beginning teachers leave teaching during the initial seven years of their career with two thirds of them leaving within the first four years” (2011, p.650).
Teacher attrition is prevalent in low-income societies as well as private schools. Research has shown that, out of the 63,000 teaching positions that were vacant during the 1998/1999 academic year, 74% of them resulted from teachers leaving their profession prior to retirement (Ozdemir, 2007, p.259). The other factor that has led to the increase in teacher mentees is teacher burnout.
Following the quitting of a significantly high number of teachers from the field, insufficient teachers remain in schools and in their efforts to meet the rising demands of the education system as well as to ensure good performance of their students, the remaining teachers end up handling huge amounts of work (Chang, & Davis, 2009, p.60). As a result, most of them get fatigued thus lowering their efficiency in their work.
The shortage of teachers and the need for academic excellence in schools call for the retention of the available teaching staff (Sass, Seal, & Martin, 2011, p.202). Owing to this, the education system embraced mentorship programs for new teachers, which run through their initial stages of practicing their career.
Mentorship programs are essential in ensuring the sufficiency of educational practitioners who on the other hand ensure that students perform well in their academic work. Teacher mentees receive professional guidance from more experienced teachers. Boe, Cook, and Sunderland (2008), cite mentorship model-the Colleague Model, as the commonest in most educational institutions in the United States (p.22).
This model employs grade level, physical proximity, and grade area in matching mentors and mentees. The model provides that the teacher mentee receive emotional support, assistance in student management and instructional support from the mentor.
Chan points out that, the mentor should also assist the teacher mentee in dealing with logistic concerns and help him/her in understanding the information systems of their school (2008, p.401). Most mentees also require guidance in classroom management activities.
The mentees believe that mentorship help them to develop a high self-esteem besides the development of confidence; essential factors for the success of their career. Teacher mentees should be well equipped in dealing with the issues that pose challenges for most beginning teachers who lack mentors for their career.
In ensuring that teacher mentees receive proper mentorship, their mentors should be experienced and skilled educational practitioners. In addition, the mentors should have good interpersonal skills and demonstrate leadership qualities (Jones, 2011, p.185).
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Mentors need to have a proper understanding of the vital role that they play in the career development of their teacher mentees as well as their duties to support and challenge the mentees. For sufficient mentoring of new qualified teachers, educational institutions should choose mentors based on their knowledge and train them on mentoring skills (Galland, & Philippot, 2007, p.472).
The training should also entail adult learning, incorporated with the ability of the mentors to identify and properly communicate the best teaching practices to the teacher mentees (Perrachione, Rosser, & Petersen, 2008, p.75). Well-trained mentors yield well-equipped teacher mentees. The mentees end up enjoying their teaching, which reduces their chances of leaving the profession.
This translates to lower teacher attrition as well as turnover rates. Smethen (2007) argues that, the reduction of these rates in educational institutions leads to a reduction in the loss to taxpayers, educators, and schools (p.467).
However, the mentoring programs are deficient in that, they do not provide extensive follow up of the teacher mentees to ensure that they become helpful to other teachers in the future. This calls for the devising of extensive follow up programs to ensure that the current teacher mentees exploit their full potential in the field rendering them helpful to upcoming teachers in the field.
Most problems facing most mentoring programs lie in the fact that the education system has been reluctant in formalizing the practice. Teacher mentees perform much better when formally mentored (Muthen, 2007, p.86). For instance, following the start of mentoring programs in Texas, 47% of public school teacher mentees worked with mentors in their field of specialization.
Two-thirds of these teachers underwent formal mentoring by another teacher. These teachers yielded more improvement in their classroom teaching as compared to those who did not receive the formal treatment.
Brown and Schainker (2008) argue that, for effective retention of teachers in most educational institutions, it is inevitable to formalize the mentoring programs in the state (p.13). Such a move will also enhance sufficiency of teaching staff in schools.
In the recent past, Texas has experienced an alarming shortage of teaching staff due to high attrition and turnover rates. Besides the training and the recruitment of new qualified teachers, mentoring of the new teachers is essential to ensure the retention of such teachers in schools.
Teacher mentees, through the mentorship programs, acquire career growth skills thus are able to retain their jobs. As a result, schools attain sufficient teaching staff, which translates to good academic performance of students.
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