Education reform should always be a topic of discussion. The main reason is that nobody is perfect. No country has a perfect educational system. It is important to strive to make tings better all of the time. There are many different ways to change the current system, but I think there is one that can have a positive impact on teachers and students.
Mentoring is something that is in place in some school systems, but not all. I've heard of mentoring programs in certain school districts that match up teachers with new hires for the first 3-4 years of teaching. After those 3-4 years, the mentoring programs ends for the new teacher. Why? Are we to believe that a teacher knows everything they need to know after 3 or 4 years? Mentoring programs should last until retirement. Professional development should revolve around the mentoring relationships created. I propose a more rigorous mentoring system that provides help for all teachers regardless of age or experience.
Teachers should be paired up with another teacher in their department for the first 3 years of teaching. Teaching within the content area is tough for a new teacher and they can use all of the help the can get. After the first 3 years, teachers would be then be paired up with another teacher from a different discipline. Math teachers and English teachers or Art teachers and Science teachers. These teachers would participate in Professional Development offered by the district together. They would work as a team as the explore new and interesting way to instruct students. They will be there to support one another as they try new things. Pairs of teachers could be matched with other sets of teachers to form larger groups to explore larger ideas. The main purpose is to connect teachers in a school with other departments and see teaching from other points of view. Every couple of years, pairs should be switched to all teachers to experience different points of view.
To spice things up, administrators should be thrown into the mix so they can see first hand what learning and teaching is from the perspective of teachers from all age and experience levels. This new mentoring program will not be easy to install overnight and some veteran teachers might need to double up to make sure everyone has someone to work with, but this mentoring program can change the culture of learning in a school. No longer will teachers feel like they are alone in tackling problems. Departments will get to share ideas with one another on how to improve student performance in different areas. Younger teachers will be able to share new strategies with veteran teachers and veteran teachers will be able to share tried and true practices with the new teachers. Mentoring is a way that allows teachers from all over the building to work together to help all of the children in the school, not just the ones sitting in front of them.
I keep reading about districts that are trying to create new evaluation systems to "encourage" teachers to "work harder". Teachers already work hard. For those teachers that need help and encouragement, a new evaluation system is not going to help them. It will only drive them to do the minimum and fear asking for help. Districts should focus on the wonderful resources available to them. The biggest and best resource available are teachers. We want to help everyone, that's why we are teachers.
For those of you out there do not have a mentoring program, start one yourselves. Find a teacher, any teacher, and spend some time with them. Ask them how tings are going and offer support in any way that you can. You might be surprised at the positive impact a few kind words have on a colleague.
Mentoring can improve education if it is set up the right way. We have good mentoring programs, but should we be ok with good?