Effective Practices : Human Resources
Mentoring and Professional Development
Human Resources Section 4
1. What person or group is responsible for the ongoing administration of your professional development and mentoring program? How was this individual/group selected?
2. How does this group ensure that development needs identified in the evaluation process are addressed?
3. What kind of financial support is available to assist colleagues in their efforts to develop as teaching professionals?
4. Describe the mentoring process used in schools. Is mentoring available for all colleagues or just those lacking experience or with problems cited in their evaluations?
5. How are members of the administrative staff served in their efforts toward professional development?
6. What is most effective in schools’ professional development and mentoring programs?
7. What are the key underlying philosophies that inform schools’ policies and practices in this area?
What person or group is responsible for the ongoing administration of your professional development and mentoring program? How was this individual/group selected?
Most of the schools surveyed have a personnel/faculty development committee that is responsible for administering the school’s professional development and mentoring program. One school noted that this responsibility is handled by the College of Teachers; it has a teacher development committee but chooses to activate it only in cases where there is a significant problem that will require attention for an extended period of time.
One school noted that the individuals chosen for work on the personnel/faculty development committee were selected based on three ideal capacities:
- The ability to be supportive and really care about the transformation of others.
- The ability to say something hard to someone in a tactful but clear way, and
- The ability to recognize when it is time to call it quits with a colleague whose performance is not reaching the requirements of the position.
Another school described their members this way, “Committee members need to be people who are good listeners, who have strong communication skills, and who can recognize and believe in the potential for change in everyone. It is a hope that the individuals on the committee are aware of the whole movement and of what is available in terms of trainings, conferences and mentors that can visit as there is a real need to look for resources beyond the immediate community. It often happens and is great when the members of the committee are from the kindergarten, lower school and the high school.”
These committees are usually relatively small, with three or four members as the norm. It is often the ideal that one new member is added each year, allowing the membership to rotate but maintaining consistency over time so that expertise can be developed in this area. Several schools noted that while it is often the case that all members also serve on the College of Teachers, this is not a requirement and that as long as there are one or two College members included coordination between these bodies can be ensured. It is often the case that the faculty chair is a member of this committee, especially in those schools where a large portion of the faculty chair’s position is administrative rather than primarily in the classroom.
In some schools the College appoints the committee members. However, most schools prefer to have the general faculty involved in the selection process, either asking them to nominate candidates for the College to select from, or making the selection from a short list of candidates suggested by the College. These latter two approaches recognize the rights sphere aspect of the professional development work, ensuring that the committee’s members are trusted and respected by their peers for their ability to listen, discern and act fairly.
Questions for Further Consideration
- Does your school have a person or group who is responsible for faculty development?
- How were these people chosen? Are there agreed upon characteristics for these positions?
How does this group ensure that development needs identified in the evaluation process are addressed?
Each of the personnel/faculty development committees was responsible both for coordinating the evaluation process and for ensuring that any recommended professional development plans is implemented. This means that each member of the committee is quite aware of the results of the evaluation and the recommendations made.
Most schools employ a bi-annual or tri-annual evaluation rhythm for teachers, and the personnel/faculty development committee meets with each colleague and their mentor in the year following the evaluation to ensure that recommendations or requirements are being taken up. Of course if the concerns are more serious attention will be provided early on following the evaluation to ensure that significant progress is made in the appropriate areas.
Many schools assign a mentor to all new teachers and to those who have experienced serious performance difficulties, and establish “peer buddies” for all other faculty members to serve as talking partners. Mentoring depends on two critical factors:
- That the mentor/teacher relationship is confidential.
- That the mentor’s work depends primarily on classroom observation, as well as support at parent evenings and conferences. (see: Characteristics of the Mentoring Process)
In the schools without a personnel/human resource committee it is the responsibility of a College designated mentor to follow up on professional development recommendations and to ensure that the colleague is making adequate progress in areas of concern. The report to the College or personnel committee might therefore consist of confirmation that mentoring is occurring and progress is being made. If the mentor believes that there is not adequate progress being made he can either counsel the teacher to resign or suggest that another evaluation take place. Most schools find it helpful to separate the mentoring process and the evaluation/correction/termination process.
Questions for Further Consideration
- Is there someone designated at your school to administer evaluation? Mentoring and faculty support? Both?
- Does this person or group report to the faculty? The college? The board? What do they report? Is there clear agreement among the colleagues as to the extent of evaluative reporting?
What kind of financial support is available to assist colleagues in their efforts to develop as teaching professionals?
There is a wide range of funding provided in Waldorf schools to support professional development. While all schools want to support their colleagues, it was mentioned with regret by several schools that this is an area that is frequently cut back in times of financial challenge at the school. Schools at the upper end of funding report that the professional development budget is approximately $1,000 annually per full-time teacher. These funds support bringing in mentors, summer conferences, and teacher in-service training programs. These schools expect that teachers will attend some sort of training at least every other year, and provide some funding to offset a portion of the cost.
Other schools provide $200 to each person annually for personal development. The personnel/faculty development committee tracks the use of these funds and notes how each colleague is using them. These schools often have some additional funds that can be used for more expensive programs that support both the individual and the school. An example might be sending the athletic director to spatial dynamics training or creating an on-site high school teacher-training program to support the growth of a new high school on the campus.
Some schools have a separate education committee that coordinates the back to school conference. This committee often enjoys separate funding. There is often collaboration between the personnel/faculty development committee and the education committee, and they share the expense of sponsoring outside speakers and mentors.
Describe the mentoring process used in schools. Is mentoring available for all colleagues or just those lacking experience or with problems cited in their evaluations?
Schools report that in-house school personnel do the majority of mentoring work. Mentoring is generally required for all new employees and those with performance concerns, but is available on request for any colleague. Those teachers not assigned a mentor are given a “peer buddy”, so everyone has a colleague with whom he can share conversation and classroom experiences.
Some schools have ongoing relationships with experienced teachers from other institutions. These master teachers visit the schools on an annual basis, visiting for several days in various teachers’ classrooms and making recommendations on ways in which the teaching work can be strengthened. These outside mentors return each year, allowing them to see progress and to become experienced with the expectations of the school being visited. These outside mentors are sometimes asked to share a report of their observations with the College of Teachers. Strictly speaking, however, this should be considered evaluation rather than mentoring, as it is no longer confidential. The mentor’s role is to open the teacher to new insights about their teaching. This is challenging in an environment where what is shared with the mentor can be reported to the personnel committee.
More detailed information on mentoring can be found by accessing the Mentoring section of Effective Practices. Information is available there on:
- The Mentoring Program
- Mentor Qualifications and Scheduling
- Oversight & Review of the Mentoring Program
- Evaluations and Mentoring
- Personal Development and Enrichment
How are members of the administrative staff served in their efforts toward professional development?
Most schools have a separate process for evaluation and professional development for their administrative staff. The schools noted that while teachers can provide valuable feedback on some aspect of the work of staff members, its specialized nature requires that both evaluation and development for these individuals need to be handled by an administrative committee. The administrative committee makes recommendations regarding professional development needs based on the evaluations and will follow up to ensure that the recommendations are being taken up. It was also noted that mentoring as it occurs with teachers is not directly applicable to administrative staff members.
However, all schools reported that staff members are assigned a “peer buddy.” It is recognized that staff members are a critical part of the working of the school, and that they need and appreciate this opportunity for ongoing conversation with another colleague.
What is most effective in schools’ professional development and mentoring programs?
The fact that mentoring is a requirement (for new teachers everywhere and all teachers in most locations) is the greatest strength of a school’s professional development program. The school recognizes the importance of self-development, and creates systems that support this important task.
Sponsorship or “peer buddies” is another effective aspect of professional development. When two people are truly able to support each other, the results of this collaboration can be quite remarkable.
Providing funding for professional training and development is important. With funding there can be no excuses for not getting the help one needs or desires. Although funding is primarily directed toward full time colleagues, some funds are available for part time colleagues as well, especially those that the school can see as on a path toward full time service.
Master teacher visits can be very helpful. It is wonderful when these teachers can bring their experience in the classroom and a depth of experience out of anthroposophy to the school, providing important feedback to teachers, celebrating their successes and providing a helpful roadmap for improvement.
Attending a summer conference or workshop can be helpful for teachers. These workshops often provide both technical skills and important networking opportunities, allowing teachers to grow personally and professionally.
What are the key underlying philosophies that inform schools’ policies and practices in this area?
To be an effective support in professional development a school must believe that people are capable of transformation and recognize that everyone is on a path of self-development. The entire gesture and tone of the personnel/human resource committee must reflect that belief so it can serve as an active support in that effort.
Self-review and professional development are essential activities in a Waldorf school, and require active support. Making time for these activities in faculty meetings is essential, and allows the issue to live in a different way then if it only lives in the world of memos and paper. There are wonderful results when colleagues are given space at a meeting early in the year to create three goals-one professional, one collegial and one inner goal-and then a follow up opportunity in the spring to reflect on the progress made on these three commitments.
A strong professional development and mentoring program builds trust among parents and faculty by encouraging people to talk about their work, to visit each other, and to allow people to come into the classroom. Without this interplay there is no ability to ascertain whether a complaint is valid. People resort to relying on sympathy and antipathy, and mistrust can reign. Once people start engaging in peer visits and having regular buddy conversations, the interest and engagement builds a substance that is about the children and the work. It stops being about “me”, and the gesture is supportive rather than punitive.
A strong professional development program helps parents to be confident that needs are being addressed and that the school is taking responsibility to provide support for the improvement of teachers and administrators.
Mentoring and Professional Development Summary
- Responsibility for the mentoring and faculty support program should be clearly delegated to a specific person or to a small and trusted group.
- The individuals for such a delegation are selected on the basis of the capacity to be supportive, tactful, good listeners, and objective.
- A clear distinction is made between mentoring and evaluation.
- An adequate budget for professional development and teacher support is critical and should be a high priority, especially when there is a high percentage of new or inexperienced teachers.
- Outside mentors can provide insight and inspiration, but consistent, in-house observation and mentoring is a critical component for the adequate support of new teachers.
- While administrative mentoring is more difficult in-house, it is important that schools also provide peer-buddies or talking partners for administrators.
- A strong belief in colleagues’ capacity for self-transformation is the key to any professional development program
- A commitment to consequent professional development will increase community confidence in the school.