Educators need mentorship
As Jamaica begins the new academic year, 2015-2016, there have been calls for improved safety and security in schools, improved leadership and management, higher quality of teaching and learning, among others.
The Ministry of Education and school administrators have initiated several measures to achieve these outcomes. In addition to all that, I am calling for a mentorship programme for educators at all levels of the school system.
A number of institutions have had staff development workshops and orientation sessions for their new teachers. I am calling on institutions to go further. There is need for a formal, structured mentorship programme in schools for new teachers and those up to five years in the profession.
In some schools, the senior teachers, grade coordinators and vice-principals do some amount of mentoring and coaching informally. This needs to be formalised. At present, there are only 18 master teachers in the system, four at the primary level, and 14 at the secondary level.
These master teachers are excellent resource persons to serve as mentors for new and young teachers up to five years in the profession. Retired excellent teachers could also serve as mentors. New teachers and those with up to five years of service should be assigned a mentor.
The Jamaica Teaching Council is ideal to give support to this mentorship programme for teachers. The Jamaica Teachers' Association should also play a role in this mentorship programme for the profession and its members.
Let's not leave out the new principals and vice-principals. They, too, need to be mentored by seasoned and well-experienced principals. Excellent retired principals could also serve as mentors.
I am aware of the work of the National College for Educational Leadership, which has trained principals and vice-principals in different aspects of leadership and management. However, the need exists for principals up to five years to be mentored also. There are many instances where problems could have been avoided if they had been mentored. We have seen instances where correct procedures weren't followed.
I know in the colleges and universities some amount of mentorship is done mainly in the areas of research and publication. Much more needs to be done. Higher qualifications and more qualifications do not mean that someone knows it all and is exempted from mentorship and coaching.
There are many benefits to be derived from a structured, formalised mentorship programme for educators in our institutions, which will lead to greater professionalism, higher quality of teaching and learning, and improve the performance of our students, as quality teachers and quality teaching should result in quality learning.