Five models of mentorship
There is no “one” right way to mentor. Effective mentorship responds to specific needs, and there is no one structure that fits all school districts or mentoring situations. Some popular models in BC school districts include:
- School-based model: Each school has a mentoring representative, who either acts as the mentor themselves or matches mentors and mentees.
- District-based model: The district centralizes the process of matching mentors and mentees within and across schools.
- Learning team model: A group of mentors is available for direct and indirect support.
- Cohort model: Mentorship cohorts are formed across the district to develop and implement a range of programs, from whole group sessions to one-on-one guidance.
- Peer collaboration model: Teachers form collaborative teams to talk about their experience and support each other in the development of their teaching practice.
With this approach, each school district identifies a “mentoring rep” who volunteers to connect with beginning teachers or teachers who are looking for a mentor because they have changed positions. The rep provides a connection between the school and the district and helps to match mentees with school mentors if the rep does not provide mentoring support themselves. Mentor teachers are carefully paired with new teachers and, throughout the year, use formal mentorship opportunities (release time) along with informal time to develop a mentoring relationship.
In this model, a district establishes a District Mentorship Steering Committee with representation from administration, the union, principals and teachers. The committee sets out the purposes, principles and practices of the mentorship program. Teachers are informed about the mentorship program and apply to the committee to participate as mentors and mentees.
Mentees can suggest their choice for potential mentors on the application form. The committee then matches mentors with mentees across the district (within and across schools) according to similar contexts of teaching grades and subject areas.
Learning team model
With this approach, teachers sign up to join a mentoring learning team in their area of teaching focus, with each team led by two to three teacher leaders/mentors. There may be separate teams for teachers-teaching-on-call, kindergarten, primary, intermediate, resource teachers, middle school and secondary school. Each team meets several times a year, with planning and facilitation provided by the lead mentors.
The learning team approach allows mentees to establish a one-to-one relationship with any of the team mentors for collaboration and observation, and it also provides the opportunity for indirect support by the entire team of professionals. Learning support is also provided for mentors.
In this mode, cohorts of teachers who share a similar teaching and learning focus and interests come together to form a mentoring group. For example, there might be five mentoring groups across the district focused on secondary, resource/ESL, intermediate, primary, and TTOC interests, with each mentoring group offering:
- whole group mentoring sessions planned and facilitated by teacher mentors/consultants to professionally discuss challenging areas of daily teaching practice,
- teacher mentors/mentee team sessions (organized in secondary predominantly around subject areas),
- one-to-one teacher mentor/mentee opportunities for focused observations and reflective conversation regarding classroom practice and
- teacher mentor training workshops to develop capacity and build mentorship and leadership skills for mentors.
This model allows for variable structures of mentoring to be developed to meet the needs of different cohorts. It’s been successful in providing curriculum-relevant mentoring for secondary teachers.
Peer collaboration model
This model of mentorship is popular in rural districts where there is a smaller teaching population working in more geographically isolated communities. Teachers form a collaborative partnership or team so they can learn from one another’s varied experience and expertise. Release days are provided for the partners or teams to work together, and they meet together as a whole group on professional development days to design a shared learning focus and receive training to improve collaboration skills.
The collaborative partners and teams provide personal accountability for growth in a specific area of teaching practice, and create the conditions for their cultural knowledge and understanding to benefit each other. Peers who are geographically distanced from each other are assisted through technology, establishing a virtual hub through which teachers can connect, and discuss their work.
No matter which mentorship models you implement, make sure you are following best practices. Learn more about the characteristics shared by effective mentorship programs.