Advice for veteran teachers

How to best guide new teachers

Katherine Mansfield and Lara Gallan

Katherine Mansfield (left, author) and Lara Gallan, one of her mentors at Huron Heights Secondary School in Kitchener, Ontario 

As this school year ends, probably the last thing on your mind is those new teachers who are just graduating from teacher’s college and starting fresh at your school this September. But trust me, they are thinking about September and they will need your help. 

As teachers, we are taught to do just that: teach. We are trained to impart our knowledge to a classroom, but ironically, sometimes we are reticent about imparting advice to newbie teachers.

Having graduated from teacher’s college in 2017, I was part of the first cohort in Ontario to experience the new two-year program, instead of one, to obtain a Bachelor of Education. This means I got more of everything: more time in the college, more practicum experience and more alternative experience. 

Was I fortunate to have the additional time to process and learn? Certainly. 

Did I feel any more prepared than my one-year B.Ed. counterparts? Certainly not. 

Although my cohort had more time to learn as students, a substantial learning curve still awaited us when we got our own classroom. New teachers still need help and professional guidance from experienced teachers.

Since deciding to become a teacher, I’ve been fortunate enough to have many mentors, who are at different points in their careers. Mentors, just like teachers, offer their own individual skill sets and abilities. Here are some of the things I’ve learned to appreciate in mentorship from experienced teachers.

Assist with new professional challenges. As new teachers, we are transitioning from students to teachers and also from students to professionals. Even learning to navigate a new administrative environment comes with new challenges (for those of you that I have asked, “where do I find my copy code, again?” for the 5th time, I apologize). Any guidance and patience you could bestow in terms of administration is well-valued. 

Share your wisdom (and your resources). We appreciate when you give more than just advice. While it’s good to have tidbits of information, like tips on molar conversions, it’s better to have something actionable, like help with structuring the stoichiometry unit plan. Giving specific resources or lessons that have worked for you in the past helps immensely. If possible, take the time to sit with a new teacher to walk them through a successful activity or lesson. While working on specific lessons is obviously useful to the new teacher and their students, you may also  benefit from being exposed to their fresh perspective. 

Consider being a mentor, or even a friend. Aside from providing professional advice, including classroom management tips, providing personal and emotional support to a new teacher may prevent them from leaving the profession. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. If you don’t share a planning period, offer to chat with them over lunch or coffee after school one day.

The best teachers I have known have been excellent mentors and have been helpful in professional matters with their peers, willing to share and collaborate on pedagogical methods. They have also been just simply supportive and kind. 

So what’s my best advice to veteran teachers? Be a great mentor to a new teacher in your life; they, their students and you will benefit from your guidance and time.