Experiences of first-time mentor teachers in New Zealand primary schools
Mentors hold the significant position of being able to influence the induction of beginning teachers into the profession. A mentor is usually the person who is closest to the beginning teacher in the professional context, who has the most direct contact with them, and has the responsibility of assisting them develop into the future of the teaching profession. The role the mentor plays in the induction programme has been acknowledged as one of the most important for beginning teachers and has been linked to important issues such as retention and professionalism. While there is considerable literature focusing on mentoring practices within New Zealand primary schools (children aged 5 to 12), there appears to be limited information regarding teachers who are new to mentoring (completing this role for the first time), and it is this gap in the literature that this thesis addresses.
This research explores the experiences of a small group of first-time mentors within the New Zealand primary school environment. This study was undertaken in order to explore first-time mentors’ understanding of the roles and responsibilities inherent in being a mentor and additionally, to explore any challenges or tensions that exist between these roles and responsibilities, and lastly, to look at the implications of this in order to ascertain how better to assist novice mentors in the future. The study draws from social constructionism and interpretivism, whilst employing a qualitative approach. A case study method was used. The findings revealed some similarity to veteran mentors’ experiences, that mentoring is a complex and often challenging experience. Additionally the findings also identified that the needs of the first-time mentors mirrored those of a beginning teacher’s first year of teaching. Stark similarities of the peaks and troughs notably recognised in a beginning teacher’s first year, resonated with the novice mentors in this study and demonstrated the need for greater interpersonal, affective and cognitive support when fulfilling this role for the first time.