The Importance of Good Mentors

I just finished reading a book on being a successful school administrator. The book included anecdotal observations and experiential information from past and current educational administrators. It was unanimous. All of the administrators who provided their expertise for publication in this book said the same thing: all educators, including assistants, teachers, curriculum coaches, maintenance and janitorial staff, building level administrators, and district level administrators need good mentors.

I try to read at least two educational books a month and as many research articles I can find. I’ve scoured the internet searching for books to read that could help me in my profession. I’ve picked my colleagues’ libraries clean in search of practical books/information that can help me grow. All this searching and reading has been extremely beneficial. However, besides on the job experiences and making mistakes then learning from them, I think mentoring is probably the most propitious form of growth in my professional practice.

Many districts place heavy emphasis on the mentoring and induction of our new teachers. Yet, I know there are some districts that provide no formal mentoring for their administrators. I’ve heard how some districts assume that because someone was a successful teacher, they will be a successful administrator. I find that assumption problematic.

I’m thankful that my district invests in its administrators by providing them an opportunity to work closely with mentors. During my first year as an assistant principal, I was partnered with a retired high school principal. Because of the difference in grade level experience of my mentoring relationship, I was skeptical at first. However, even though my mentor was a previous high school administrator, much of the wisdom he shared with me has been certainly applicable. In addition to my formal experiences with a mentor, I’m thankful for a superintendent who invites all the administrators in the district to learn and grow with him. I feel that he has taken me under his wing and helped me understand things and get better at things along the way. This informal mentoring has been and continues to be just as beneficial as the formal mentoring.

Essentially, I think it’s important for districts to remember that as administrators, we need mentors, too.