New study on mentoring immigrant teachers

Mercado, G., & Trumbull, E. (2018). Mentoring beginning immigrant teachers: How culture may impact the message. International Journal of Psychology. doi:10.1002/ijop.12555

Summarized by Rachel Thompson 

Notes of Interest: This article highlights the importance of mentoring immigrant teachers, especially in retaining new teachers and improving their practice. Furthermore, it can positively impact student achievement. The researchers discuss how educating mentors about culture can also assist beginning immigrant teachers to adapt to the expectations of U.S. schools effectively, while still maintaining the values that are important to them.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Beginning immigrant teachers may experience cross-cultural conflicts because their home cultures may differ in important ways from U.S. school culture. In California, mentors are assigned to work with new teachers, many born in other countries, to solve a range of problems—often attributable to cross-cultural conflicts between the culture of the school and the cultures of these teachers. Mentors are veteran teachers, but even those who receive special training as mentors are not educated in theories explaining how culture influences child-rearing and schooling practices. In this study, 12 beginning immigrant high school math and science teachers born in Asia and Latin America participated in lengthy, semi-structured interviews conducted by an experienced mentor specialist (not known to the participants). Conflicts reported by participants were analyzed from the perspective of differences between the collectivistic cultures of the teachers and individualistic culture of the schools in which they teach. The conflicts reported, primed in part by the nature of interview questions, were categorized as having to do with differences in perceptions of the roles of parents, teachers and students and relations among those roles—particularly in terms of role hierarchy and regard for authority

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Study findings suggest that each mentor should get to know the beginning immigrant teacher before initiating the mentoring process. In their first meeting, the mentor can ask about the beginning immigrant teacher’s perspectives on areas of conflict identified in the study, such as how the beginning immigrant teacher perceives authority, the role of parents in education, teacher and student responsibilities and classroom management. He or she can share information about the typical U.S. perspective on such topics and discuss the school district’s conceptualisation of goals such as student engagement and achievement; parent involvement; and successful classroom management—as well as the ways the teacher is expected to work toward those goals. Such a conversation can help develop mutual understanding and build a foundation for trust and future problem-solving (Mercado, 2015).

Orientations for new teachers could make mentors’ jobs easier by focusing, not just on logistics and paperwork as is the case now, but also on teacher responsibilities, including curriculum development, classroom management and the role of the parent. For optimum success, however, all mentors should be given the opportunity to develop foundational knowledge about culture—and about the implications that cultural differences may have for beginning immigrant teachers’ adjustment to U.S. schools and teaching. Mentor teachers who engage in cross-cultural mentoring could surely benefit from such professional development. Without it, mentors will continue to be less effective than they could be, with unwanted consequences for beginning immigrant teachers and, ultimately, the students they serve.

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