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Mentoring vs. "Buddy" Induction Program - which model is your district offering?






It is a few days before the start of the school year. Your district offers a 2-3 day orientation for all new hires to help them "learn the ropes" of the district and introduce them to each other and important staff members. Ice breakers are performed to help everyone get to know each other, lunch is provided to increase organic dialogue between staff, and each new teacher is given a mentor, a veteran teacher in their building.


The school year kicks off, and days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. New teachers are coming in early, staying late, and working through their lunches (when not on lunch duty) to meet the classroom's needs. The mentor stops by from time to time, giving a quick "hello" before the start of the school day and answering any simple questions such as "where should the teacher go for the staff meeting?" or "how does the new teacher take online attendance?" While the new teacher has an endless amount of questions, they are maybe too embarrassed to proactively ask or feel bad for asking as the veteran teacher has his/her own classroom needs to focus on. While the mentor truly cares for the new teacher and wants to offer support, the time is simply not there.


Does this sound similar to your district?


Every school district has the best intentions when creating an induction program. The goal of the induction program is to support and retain its new teachers. There will be an increase in student achievement and a positive school community by doing so. While many districts have some form of an induction program, the quality of the program varies dramatically. For example, some districts nationwide have full-time mentors whose only job is to support the new teachers, while other districts offer a volunteer veteran teacher to mentor a new teacher. It is not uncommon to see mentoring programs turn into the "buddy" system described in the above scenario. How do you know if your district offers a high-quality mentoring program and not a buddy system?


Your district may be offering a buddy system if…

  • Veteran teachers work full time and have the same level of responsibilities vs. non-mentor teachers

  • Mentors are not given formal expectations, including minimum requirements to sit down and meet with the new teacher

  • There are no curriculum topics to be discussed at meetings

  • No or low stipends are given to the mentors

  • Veteran teachers are asked (or even told) to be a mentor vs. volunteered

  • Low retention rates for nontenured teachers


If you are saying yes to any of the above, your district is most likely offering a buddy system program. As mentioned, everyone has the best intentions to truly support the new teachers but there simply is a lack of time. These veteran teachers and administrators are already struggling to keep up with the post-pandemic demands and doing their best to avoid burnout.


According to a recent study by NEA.org, "A staggering 55 percent of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned" [LINK]


The fact that so many teachers are considering leaving the profession should cause alarm for every school district. Even districts with a robust induction program need to pause and reflect on the program over the last few years. Chances are that these induction programs with veteran teachers working as mentors have underperformed as the veteran teachers are unable to spend any time outside of their own classroom needs.


The first step to creating a strong mentoring induction program is to evaluate what is currently in place. A strong induction program that is more than a "buddy" system will translate into a strong workforce that provides a high quality curriculum and brings consistency to the classroom.




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