School context factor: Induction programs with mentoring
“Being a new teacher is like trying to fly a plane while building it.”
Imagine a building in which all personnel—administrators, teachers, custodians, assistants, and support staff—believe they play roles in helping beginning teachers be successful in their first three years. Administrators incorporate this into the established culture of learning in the building by providing beginning teachers with not one trained mentor, but several mentors who specialize in specific areas. Schools provide mentor training to all staff, appoint them to specific support roles, and then request that they make contact with the building’s beginning teachers to collaborate in areas such as procedural planning, pedagogical practices, communication with parents, school events, and facility procedures. In addition, administrators appoint a mentor to each beginning teacher to address personal needs and support. Mentors in this capacity are people who have strong relationship building and communication skills to aid beginning teachers in stress reduction and avoidance of isolationism.
In this scenario, the appointed mentor is but one of the many kinds of supports that the beginning teacher can turn to in the school for support and guidance. This scenario describes an overall induction system or culture within the school with active mentoring being one important component within the induction system (Wong, 2004). Induction helps keep new teachers teaching and improving their effectiveness and helps keep them satisfied with their career choice. By intentionally organizing and valuing collegiality and collaboration, mentoring and induction of new staff is everyone’s responsibility, part of the culture of the school, and not an isolated event.
A lot of focus has been placed on recruiting future educators to alleviate the teacher shortage felt nationwide (Learning Policy Institute, 2017). However, more attention also needs to be focused on the retention of new teachers already in the schools. Many people believe the shortage is happening because of the retirement of a large population of teachers. Yet, analysis of the pool leaving the profession suggests that retirement makes up only one-third of the number of teachers leaving the profession each year. Teachers choosing to leave for other reasons comprise the remaining two-thirds (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011; Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, & Carver-Thomas, 2016). Within this two-thirds population, 25% of teachers leave during their first two years and almost 50% resign within 5 years (Ronfeldt, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2013; Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, & Carver-Thomas, 2016). These statistics suggest that focus needs to be placed on the induction and mentoring of new teachers within their first few years of teaching.