11. Mentoring Makes the Difference

Georgia, like other states, is experiencing a shortage of teachers, principals, and ESP.
According to statistics, Georgia will need to hire more than 12,000 new teachers annually.
Every metro school district is also actively seeking qualified bus drivers, paraprofessionals, and other ESP.
The shortage of professional educators has reached school administration levels as well. It is necessary, in order to attract and retain quality educators, that Georgia takes measures to address the problems that are driving educators from our profession and failing to compete with other professions for college graduates.

Many polls have been conducted seeking answers as to why college graduates are not entering the education profession and what can be done to retain a qualified workforce.
Answers reveal that reasons for not pursuing an education career include: low wages and benefits; poor working conditions; lack of cooperation and support; little or no decision- making opportunities; lack of respect; lack of supplies and professional work stations; and, in a recent poll of principals; no job security due to a lack of a fair dismissal policy.

Georgia’s elected officials must begin listening to educators who are demanding a change in their profession. They must work to create a “professional community” in order to peak school and student performance.
Decision-making authority must shift to the school level.
Teacher leadership is not about “teacher power.”
It is a realization that suggestions to improve school and student performance must be made in an atmosphere, which encourages collaboration.
A professional community within our schools will mobilize the untapped attributes of all professional educators and create shared leadership responsibilities.
Teachers must become a majority voice in the discussions to establish goals, implement changes, and provide leadership.

The first step to solving our problem is to create and support successful mentoring programs.
Georgia’s current program for providing support to new teachers is a dismal failure. There is no incentive for veteran educators to dedicate time and resources to assisting new teachers, and it has been proven in many states that unless the mentor program is meaningful new teachers will continue to flee the profession. In Georgia, mentors receive low pay, no additional benefits nor time to adequately work with the new employee, and little administrative support and encouragement. New teachers are arbitrarily assigned to a mentor and given no additional time to work with their mentor. There is also the tradition of placing new teachers in the most difficult classes and not providing them with support from an experienced peer is an invitation for them to exit our profession.

GAE supports legislation to develop and maintain a good mentoring program, which combines the best new approaches to teaching with time-tested strategies known to work well with students.
The policy should include:

Certification requirements and guidelines for becoming a mentor;

A selection process that includes administrators, teachers, and the school council;

Adequate training, preparation, and support;

A salary stipend of at least 10 percent;

A reduced teaching schedule that allows mentors to observe colleagues during actual academic performance and share suggestions for improvements;

Peer review evaluations that recognize the importance of confidentiality;

Implementation of the tiered professional status for becoming a mentor and master teacher; and

Adequate funds for supplies and materials.

Georgia’s Professional Standards Commission must develop mentoring certification requirements that recognize teachers as professional partners.
There needs to be more funding for staff development programs to train mentors and to provide greater incentives for teachers to become mentors. In Glendale, California, mentors receive three weeks of training and planning time during the summer and monthly informational meetings throughout the school year.
Kenneth Wilson, a Nobel-laureate at Ohio State University, states, “Imagine that you aspire to be a mountaineer. You have a new pair of boots, a tent, backpack, and endless enthusiasm. However, you have never climbed before. There are two ways to get into it. You could take a practice run with someone who has lots of experience and the ability to share it or you can be taken to the base of Mt. Everest, dropped off, and told to get to the top or quit.” Georgia’s new teachers have been expected to become experts in the daily school operations and effective teaching methods the first day they enter the classroom without the support of mentors. The system is not working and more than 10 percent of our teachers quit annually. There has to be significant changes in how attractive we make our profession or we will continue to have difficulty not only recruiting new teachers but also keeping them in our classrooms.