If you are the Director of an early childhood program, I’ll bet you have asked yourself the same question I asked myself years ago – how could we retain our fabulous teachers while keeping them in teaching positions? So often teachers had to become supervisors and directors in order to grow in our field. But, many wonderful teachers didn’t want to move into leadership and management. They were fabulous teachers!!!! So, how could we retain them – and yet, offer them growth and professional development doing what they loved, and were very good at?
At our John Hancock Child Care Center in Boston, we created a mentoring program to answer these very questions. It was, for us, a promising strategy – and in my next post, I will share the “how” of our process.
The “big picture” was this –
Our Mentor Teacher Program provided an opportunity for staff to share, learn, and build bridges to enhance personal and professional development. The program provided a career step for experienced and skilled teachers chosen as mentors. Mentors were given the opportunity to develop leadership and peer coaching skills through training and working with a protégé for a period of one year. Protégés were teachers new to the field and looking for support, or, more experienced teachers who wished to increase their skills in specific areas of early child care and education. Initially, our mentors earned graduate credits through training courses at Wheelock College in Boston. We wanted to begin our Mentor Teacher Program in the best way possible – and we built a solid foundation that would last for many years. Protégés participated in a variety of training sessions with their mentors – and together, during their discussions, observations, and activities, they met the objectives and goals they had originally set. Feedback from both mentors and protégés at the end of the year was always consistent. Though mentors were in the “teaching” positions, they had learned equally as much as their protégés – and sometimes more! It was always a positive experience for both.
Mentoring derives its name from Greek mythology. Mentor was the advisor of the legendary Odysseus. When Odysseus went off to war, he put Mentor in charge of teaching his son to be a warrior and a king.
Mentoring, then, is the act of sharing information, usually between two people, in the context of a long-term relationship for the purpose of growth and development.
And, as we initially discussed creating such a relationship at our child care center, we asked ourselves numerous questions – and then sought out resources to help us answer them:
- What would be the goals of our mentoring program?
- How would our mentoring program be designed?
- Who would be the key players?
- What would be our planning process and timeline?
- What could we learn from other exemplary programs, and from the literature on mentoring – and where could we find this information?
- What would the mentoring program budget contain?
- What would be the roles and responsibilities of the participants in our mentoring program?
- What would be the criteria and procedures for selecting mentors and protégés, and for matching them up?
- What would the training component contain, and would we offer it for college credit?
- How would our program be evaluated?
There was much to think about – and, yes, it did take us a while to put things in place. The results of our Mentor Teacher Program were every bit worth the effort expended! So, I invite you to consider adding this rung to the career ladder at your early childhood program.
To that end, I would be pleased to share everything we designed, used, and perfected along the way. If you are considering adding a Mentor Teacher Program, don’t re-invent the wheel, contact me – and let’s talk.
My work now – as consultant, coach, support, resource, strategist, problem-solver, designer, planner, observer, organizer, trainer, and workshop presenter – is about sharing everything I learned during my 30+ years in the early childhood world, and passing the torch from one generation of professionals to the next! I would be honored to partner with, and “mentor” you.