A good mentor should demonstrate the following attributes:
A willingness to share:
A mentor should be willing to share their experiences, successes and failures. New teachers learn through experience. If a mentor is willing to share their teaching experience, a new teacher will benefit.
Positive and passionate
I believe these attributes should be assumed, however… A mentor must be positive and passionate about teaching. If a mentor is cynical or negative they are not going to be able to assist or advise a new teacher in any positive way. Mentors should be able to show new teachers how to see the sunshine through the rain.
A mentor should be a great listener. They should be able to sit, listen and truly hear what the new teacher is saying. Too often, we are quick to jump into a conversation with our thoughts, opinions or advice. Is this always helpful? I don’t think so. There are times where a new teacher needs to “vent,” share or talk without interruption or suggestions.
Enthusiastic and engaged
Again, these should be assumed attributes… A mentor needs to be enthusiastic and engaged in their work each and every day. We do not need mentors who are negative about the teaching profession. Instead we need mentor teachers who enjoy what they do and encourage others around them to feel the same way.
The ability to provide professional constructive feedback to a peer is a difficult task. However, mentoring needs to be approached as a coaching opportunity. I find that asking reflective questions is a powerful way for new teachers to begin to develop their teaching practice. The process of asking questions rather than critiquing has proven to be successful for me. A mentor should be able to provide multiple solutions or strategies to a situation or problem. The mentor should then be willing to allow the new teacher to try to implement some of those strategies (even if they think they won’t be successful) and then revisiting the issue. A mentor should stand beside the new teacher as they navigate their way through their first years of teaching.
A mentor should be a lifelong learner consistently seeking out new information, ideas and strategies. A mentor should be a questioner and a researcher. I have often said that the day I quit wanting to learn more is the day that I should retire.