The Good Mentor

Notes from “The Good Mentor”¬† Educational Leadership, by James B. Rowley

May 1999 | Volume 56 | Number 8 | Supporting New Teachers Pages 20-22


The good mentor is committed to the role of mentoring.

  1. First, good programs require formal mentor training as a prerequisite to mentoring. Veteran teachers unwilling to participate in a quality training program are often indicating their lack of dedication to the role.
  2. Second, because it is unreasonable to expect a teacher to commit to a role that has not been clearly defined, the best mentoring programs provide specific descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of mentor teachers.
  3. Third, good mentoring programs require mentors to maintain simple logs or journals that document conferences and other professional development activities involving the mentor and mentee. But such record-keeping devices should keep paperwork to a minimum and protect the confidentiality of the mentor-mentee relationship.

The good mentor is accepting of the beginning teacher.

A training program that engages prospective mentors in reflecting on the qualities of effective helpers is an excellent place to begin.

The good mentor is skilled at providing instructional support.

Lacking opportunities for shared experience, mentors often limit instructional support to workroom conversations. Although such dialogue can be helpful, discussions based on shared experience are more powerful. Such shared experiences can take different forms: mentors and mentees can engage in team teaching or team planning, mentees can observe mentors, mentors can observe mentees, or both can observe other teachers.

The mentor training program should equip mentors with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions prerequisite to effective coaching.

Finally, we need to give mentors and mentees time and opportunity to participate in the preconferences, classroom observations, and postconferences that lead to quality clinical support.

The good mentor is effective in different interpersonal contexts.

Just as good teachers adjust their teaching behaviors and communications to meet the needs of individual students, good mentors adjust their mentoring communications to meet the needs of individual mentees. To make such adjustments, good mentors must possess deep understanding of their own communication styles and a willingness to objectively observe the behavior of the mentee.

To read:

The Supervisory Beliefs Inventory (Glickman, 1985)

The Leadership Adaptability and Style Inventory (Hersey & Blanchard, 1974)

The good mentor is a model of a continuous learner.

Beginning teachers rarely appreciate mentors who have right answers to every question and best solutions for every problem. Good mentor teachers are transparent about their own search for better answers and more effective solutions to their own problems.

The good mentor communicates hope and optimism.

Good mentors share their own struggles and frustrations and how they overcame them. And always, they do so in a genuine and caring way that engenders trust.