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Monday, March 14, 2011

Essay on Mentoring

Essay on Mentoring

Introduction
Teaching, along with the military service and the medical profession has been regarded as the noblest profession in earth. Teaching or a career in education has been popular among people with an academic bend of mind. Although teachers have become less noble and a teaching career has become just another career choice, the regard and respect that the profession invokes in the minds of the common person is still large. Often teachers leave a permanent impression in the minds of their students and have been instrumental in guiding students to achieve what they thought was not possible by them. Often teachers have the dual role of teaching and developing the character of the child. Most of the countries, particularly the European nations, face a shortage of teachers and candidates from countries like India fulfill their teaching requirements.

In fact, the requirement is high not just for teachers, but also for school administrators, teacher's aides, and instructional coordinators. The objective of this paper is to find out the role of the school administration in enhancing the productivity of teachers through the process of mentoring.
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Analysis
The word Mentoring has its origin in the Greek Language. “Mentoring--from the Greek word meaning enduring--is defined as a sustained relationship between a youth and an adult” [Dennis, 1993]. It is the process in which successful individuals go out of their normal routine to help others to establish goals and develop the skills to reach those goals. This means that mentoring is more like adopting a person and showing him a path, mostly a tried and tested one by a successful senior. The elder person always provides support, advice and assistance in times of need.

There are basically two types of mentoring: they are natural mentoring and planned mentoring. Natural mentoring happens informally as in families. Planned mentoring on the other hand is usually a planned effort by the management of a business house or a social organisation that goes through a process of matching, selecting and training its staff, for a particular period of time.

Usually in planned mentoring, mentors are recruited from corporate houses, consultants etc, to take care of a group of trainees. The matching process is the most tedious and time-consuming one, because if the mentor and the trainee do not vibe well, the very purpose of the whole activity becomes a waste. The process of matching a mentor and a trainee can be done formally or informally through interviews, comparative interest sessions and group or personal interactions. When mentors and the trainees are given a chance to choose each other, planned mentoring takes on many aspects of natural mentoring.

To put it simply, the job of a teacher is to teach. Although the job description sounds very simple, the job is very complicated because knowing something and making others understand it, are two entirely different things. Teachers are required to fulfill many duties. Some teachers see teaching as an extension of their previous career. Military instructors fall into this category.

Others see a genuine need to contribute to the development process of the society. Still others see teaching as a process that fills the void of effective role models in the society. A teacher has to have a mix of adequate knowledge, patience, authority, and above all a genuine caring attitude to be able to become successful. The teacher must be selective and careful in using these skills. The biggest problem that most teachers face today is that they are not accepted by students and if the teacher is successful in this primary task, all other hurdles in their career can be cleared more easily. Mentoring, as far as teachers are concerned is a sort of training because it gives the teacher an idea about how he/she must go about performing his/her duties.

Pool (1997) also believes that mentoring in the form of effective leadership can help a lot in grooming the young teacher to reach performance levels that are expected of them. As far as the employees in the colleges are concerned, mentoring assumes two significant roles. The trainee will have to perform as a future mentor. Hence, good practices of development are very essential so that the benefits are passed on the next batch of students in the college. Bad relations between the mentor and his subordinates can also be a problem that can affect the job satisfaction levels. They can be counter productive in most occasions due to personal problems between the two. This scenario is very dangerous in the education scenario because the mentor and the trainee are adults who may not follow authority protocols. It is in such cases that the reputation and professional skill of the mentor far outweighs anything else [Pool, 1997]

Factors that necessitate the need for mentoring
In many schools, junior teachers and senior employees have an overlap of roles and this may be more pronounced as the responsibility of the employee increases. Diversity in roles have been a major success formula for business organizations [Hopkins, 2001] However, such role requirements may be not in line with the individual's aspirations and personality [John P. Murray, Judy I. Murray, Cliff Summar, 2000]. In fact experts have not been properly able to differentiate whether role ambiguity or role conflict cause people to leave educational institutions. There are often conflicts between new and old teachers and it is seen that the management mostly supports the experienced teachers even when the needs and demands of the new teachers may be justified. This sort of management behavior has been cited as a major reason for the erosion of confidence and enthusiasm in new teachers [Johnson, 2001]

Status problems
School employee positions are not comparable to other jobs because the objective of the school borders around student development and philanthropy rather than making money or enhancing one's position... Many experts like Gabris (1995), believe that status and gender roles play a very important role in employee satisfaction. In addition, the relation with different groups and their dynamics also define the job satisfaction that an employee derives from his work. Many teachers lament that new teachers are invariably made to deal with problem students and the amount of workload that is thrust on them is too much to do justice to the class. It is very sad that new teachers may have to deal with children having behavioral problems. In many cases they are forced to teach children from ethnic communities, where language and behavior patterns may be ambiguous. To build a relationship with these children in spite of the difference in culture is an uphill task especially for a new teacher.

Lack of training and exposure to community needs
Teaching demand a lot of temperamental maturity from the teachers and just about anybody cannot fulfill the demands required of such a role. Teachers without adequate training often have a significant problem in performing well [Ashmos, 2002]. It is seen that most new teachers are assigned responsibilities that are opportunistically thrust on them. Assigning teachers with difficult duties with which they have no experience, is a common problem in most schools. Even a good training programs will be inadequate in these circumstances because the teachers have to deal with situations that are not listed in the training programs. Only a good mentor will be able to support the teacher and guide him/her through this difficult phase.

The mentor–trainee relationships can get out of hand sometimes because of close interactions that may ensue as part of the program. Most managements take necessary precautions before the launch of such programs. It is in such cases that the reputation and professional skill of the mentor far out weighs anything else to the company. “Yes, it's difficult to find effective mentors as it is. Yes, many mentors don't believe they need any training or advice. Some will refuse to volunteer if they hear about potential ethical issues and challenges“ [Jones, 2001]

Effective mentoring partnerships are goal-oriented and focus on the trainee’s skill, knowledge, and/or attitude development. It is very important that the trainee too have a plan of development before they come into contact with a mentor. Research shows that people learn best by observing experts and by being given assignments. One of the main role and responsibly of the mentor is to review the progress of the trainee and to keep him accountable for what he does. Mentoring is a mutually beneficial arrangement because both the mentor and the trainee benefit from the exercise. As far as the trainee is concerned, he will be able to tap into the rich experience and teaching strategies of the mentor. He can be assured that the techniques of the mentor would work, because the mentor himself is a living example of success. He will also learn to avoid mistakes that would have been committed by the mentor. In short, the mentor takes him through an experimented and tried path of success. The difference in age is a very big factor that ensures the success of the mentor-trainee relationships. The difference in age in itself is a psychological factor that influences the trainee and makes him or her automatically respect the mentor. The others side of the effect of age on the relation is that the mentor can impart his maturity and tact to the trainee, who is immature and just out of college.

The importance of mentoring assumes significance for teachers because often, new teachers have to face problems that are similar in magnitude and complexity to the problems that are faced by experienced teachers. Since experience is a big asset in handling these problems, a good mentor will be able to guide new and inexperienced teachers to achieve his professional goals.

Even statistics show that inexperienced teachers have a high probability to leave the profession because of the daily stress and workload that they have to face as part of their profession. It was seen that most new teachers leave their jobs in the first two years due to adverse working conditions in the work place [Casey & Mitchell, 1996]. Already the teaching profession is under severe stress and the number of teachers is already dwindling to new lows. In addition, the lack of new teachers has further strengthened the need to use the experience of old teachers to guide the fresh teachers.

"Inadequate preparation also affects young teachers’ decisions to leave the profession. A survey of former teachers in Florida found that 43 percent of first-year teachers felt that they were “minimally prepared” or “not prepared” to manage their classrooms. A national survey of public school teachers with less than five years’ experience found that 62 percent of them felt that their preparation programs did a “fair” or “poor” job of preparing them to deal with the pressures of teaching" [Public Agenda, 2000].

As far as the schools are concerned, it was seen that mentoring programmes enhanced the skills of teachers and more importantly the skills of their students. Further, there was a significant reduction in hiring and recurrent recruitment costs that happens when teachers leave too often

The biggest advantage of having a mentor around is that the new teacher feels completely at home in the new school. The prospect of being answerable to the management is in itself a big confidence drainer. Many new teachers feel safe under a mentor because the mentor is a refuge in times of difficulty. Most teachers consider themselves as trainees under a mentor, and that position in itself is very soothing to them. Most new teachers prefer to work as a trainee under a good mentor and then advance as a teacher when they acquire the sufficient skills to handle the class. There is a lot of psychological strength that fresh teachers derive when they work under a mentor. Trainees do not feel that they are being undermined professionally when they are under a mentor. On the contrary, they are able to respect the skills of the mentor, which was gathered through experience, and appreciate the fact that they are still students as far as teaching is concerned. Teaching is not just the exchange of knowledge. Many philosophical and psychological factors that are involved in teaching are not taught at the teacher’s training sessions and have to be invariable gained by experience. Research and opinion polls have shown that new teachers turn to the Principal the most, to be mentored, mostly because he/she has the most experience, in the school. In most cases, when the Principal was ready to help them, teachers were encouraged to continue in the school. "Beginning teachers identify the school principal as a key source of support and guidance. Increasingly, principals recognize a need for first-year teacher assistance and are attempting to provide it" [Brock & Grady, 1998, p. 182]. This proves that mentors need to be resourceful enough to provide that role that he/she is expected of, by the new teacher. Fresh teachers expect various roles from mentors. They may expect a role model, a teacher, a philosopher, an understanding person, a protector and a communicator. Only a good mentor can perform all or any of these roles to various personalities who come to the school as fresh teachers.

In addition to the fact that fresh teachers are not experienced enough to teach, the fact that a huge number of older teachers are nearing their retirement ages is a strong factor that has encouraged the government to start teacher-mentoring programmes. The authorities believe that the experience of these teachers must not go waste and that it should be used to train new teachers. In this context, mentoring has the role of maintaining quality in educational circles [Katayama, 2001]. The district of Ohio has made a state sponsored effort to promote mentor trainee relationships as far as the area of teaching is concerned. The programme, called as PAR (Peer Assistance and Review) is a mandatory programme for new teachers and under the programme, fresh teachers are assigned to a mentor. The programme was started in 1986 as a cooperative effort of the teachers and school administrators of the state. Senior teachers visit the classes of the trainee and maintain contact with them through e-mails and telephone. A confidential progress report is given to the trainee by the mentor who evaluates his/her teaching as well as their general skills. A survey revealed that the effort was very beneficial to the fresh teachers. A similar effort was started in 1992 in California, which is known as the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) Program. Connecticut also has a similar program called Beginning Educator Support and Training (BEST) program, which has evolved since 1980. [Johnson, 2001]

There are many factors that affect the success rate of a mentoring program in a company. Mentoring will not be successful if done in a tense atmosphere because in such a case senior teachers will be more interested in self-development. They would be looking for ways to enhance their careers and stay ahead of the competition. The organisation must have the adequate number of mentors and if numbers fall short than required, the school must hire people than make do with those available. Another important requirement is that the dealings between the mentor and the trainee must be very confidential, because the basis of the mentor-trainee relationship is confidence. If the trainee feels that the process is some sort of an assessment or that it would lead to a confidential report to the top management, he will be less forthcoming and will try to hold back himself, which destroys the very purpose of the activity. Usually the requirement of the management is to see that the goals of the trainee are satisfied more than the mentor.

Conclusion
Job satisfaction among employees in the educational organizations is definitely affected by many factors like stress, work schedule, knowledge up-gradation etc. While most of these factors may be considered as challenges that are part of the job, the overbearing attitude of the school management cannot be tolerated. There are proven initiatives that help the teacher and the management to work with peak productivity within their defined roles. These methods have to be applied in order to ensure the overall development of students, teachers, and the school in general. Mentoring is one of the best of these techniques. The idea of introducing a mentor to train young recruits in a school can be seen as measure of risk management by the Organisation. Many schools have imbibed the fact that training with a personal touch, is far better than long hours of training in the classrooms. A personal mentor is actually an experience, which will motivate the fresh recruit to live up to his duties.

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