The most experienced science teacher is retiring this year at the middle school where I am principal. The other five teachers on the science faculty are early in their teaching careers. What are your thoughts on asking an experienced non-science teacher to mentor the new hire? —K., VA
When I started as a teacher we did not have a formal mentor program, and the other two science teachers were almost as new as I was. I struggled with an especially challenging group of students until a veteran English teacher took me under her wing and helped me through the first year.
Years later, I was asked to mentor a new Spanish teacher. My knowledge of Spanish is minimal, but the principal noted many issues faced by new teachers transcend specific subjects. Classroom management, relationships with students, dealing with parents, navigating paperwork—all beginning teachers face these challenges. Even though our subjects were different, my mentee and I worked well together, developing a sense of trust and mutual respect.
In addition, perhaps the retiring teacher would be willing to be “on-call” to answer questions or provide advice. The district safety officer can also help with questions related to safe practices and inventories. Encourage your team of young science teachers to form a “support group” to share ideas and experiences.
The onsite mentor can help the new teacher with school culture and local issues and requirements, even though subject areas are different. Remind your new teacher that he/she has hundreds of potential online science mentors in the NSTA listservs and discussion forums. These experienced colleagues can provide just-in-time answers to questions specific to science instruction.
Having an onsite and online team of mentors can help to make the first year less lonely.