Mentorship Programs for the Millennial Educator

(This blog post is part of an ongoing series of the Millennial Educator)

Talking to pre-service teachers a clear and consistent message that comes through is wanting a strong mentorship program from their new schools. For this generation however mentorship programs need to look and feel different. They are a different generation, and expect things to be different. If your school is still running a mentorship program for new teachers that goes something like this:

  • Sending an email to all staff to see who wants to be a mentor for the new teacher
  • Pay them a small stipend for being the mentor
  • Have some guidelines (although I find many schools don’t have them or don’t hold mentors to them) of what the mentor should do or how many times they should meet.

Then you’re not really providing them with a mentorship program. You’re pretty much paying someone a small amount of money to answer their questions. In most schools the mentor doesn’t get any training on what it means to mentor or be a mentor. You are basically paying someone to help them know how the copy machine works, where the bathroom is and how to read the bell schedule.

Understanding the Millennial

Millennials, in many cases, have grown up under a style of parenting that supported individual empowerment, where the kids were almost always included in family decision-making (Forbes, 2016)

This new generation of educator expects to be included in school decisions from the beginning, expect to feel like they are “part of the team”. This goes against many school leaders thinking that new teachers just want to be “left alone to figure it out” the first year or two of their careers. In most cases that is not what they are looking for. Have a talk with your new teachers and ask them how involved do they want to be in school committees and decisions. Some might say they want to just get their feet on the ground, however others might want to be part of the larger school decision making. In many cases this leads to transparency, which we talked about in this blog post.

Now, as they enter the early stages of their careers, millennial employees are often getting a bad rap for coming into the workforce with an immediate sense of entitlement. While that’s a gross overgeneralization, it’s fair to say that millennials are looking for a feeling that they’re more than a cog in a massive machine. So as an employer, “try to create opportunities that give Millennials the chance to take responsibility and find success on a micro level before they move on to larger roles,” says Jay Coldren of EDITION. (Forbes, 2016)

A Millennial Approach to Mentorship

One staple of the millennial generation is that they want feedback, but it might be time to consider a different approach to the traditional mentor and mentee relationship. Just as millennials can learn from long-term employees, your business can learn just as much from them. (CIO, 2015)

It’s time for us to rethink our mentorship programs. We have young educators coming into our systems with a great amount of skill sets. Many times these skills sets are in the technology area and schools can tap into that knowledge in creating a new mentoring approach. The article “Reverse Mentoring — Investing in Tomorrow’s Business Strategy” By Josh Steimle over at Forbes is an excellent read for any school leader. This Millennial Educator wants to be involved, wants to be part of the team from the beginning and feels they have something to give back to the school on day one. How can school leaders tap into this new generation of educators that wants and expects something different went it comes to mentorship programs before?

Some Ideas

  • Mentors should not be assigned to mentees, it’s about a relationship. Can a school set up some type of “get to know you” gathering where mentors and mentees can meet, have conversations and see if there is a fit. Not just for the mentee, but for the mentor as well so that reverse mentoring can take place.
  • In today’s connected world mentors and mentees do not need to be in the same school. There are many away to stay connected (some of which we talked about in this post) so physical location doesn’t need to be the one aspect that ties mentor to mentee. In fact, I would argue it might be better if they are from different schools. We all know the internal politics that happens in schools and having someone form outside your school help you navigate those your first couple years, to have that outside perspective might be a great benefit.
  • Find mentors who are open to learning from new teachers, who want to learn, who have a growth mindset and see themselves as a mentor as not doing a favor for the school or the mentee, but a favor for themselves as well.
  • Create an online course for mentors to go through to learn about mentoring, what it means, how to make the relationship successful.

As I write this, I think about the five different schools I taught in. Each school district set me up with a mentor who did a great job of showing me how to run the copy machine, or read the bell schedule. However the real mentors in my schools where other teachers that I built relationships with. Teachers who we had a connection some way, we talked, taught each other, shared ideas. I always found my own mentor in every school I went to and it was never the one assigned to me. We need to create better mentorship programs for new teachers. Ones that actually work and support them and at the same time allow them to teach us. How does your school’s mentorship program work? What have you seen that’s worked or wished you would have had in your first few years of teaching?

Originally published at