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The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: mentoring in early childhood education.

"Within the past weeks of mentoring, I noticed a significant difference in the way my mentee men·tee  
One who is mentored.

[ment(or) + -ee1.]
 worked with the children. I noticed that she showed more confidence in how she managed a group of children and noticed an improved routine of developmentally appropriate practices Developmentally appropriate practice (or DAP) is a perspective within early childhood education whereby a teacher or child caregiver nurtures a child's social/emotional, physical, and cognitive development by basing all practices and decisions on (1) theories of child development, (2)  in the classroom." (Student from the Mentoring in Early Childhood Education class, Spring 2001)

To look at practitioners in the field of early childhood education is to look at a kaleidoscope kaleidoscope (kəlī`dəskōp), optical instrument that uses mirrors to produce changing symmetrical patterns. Invented by the Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster in 1816, the device is usually a hand-held tube, a few inches to as much  of education, experience, and practice, from practitioners who are beginning in the field to practitioners who have extensive experience and education and have mastered the art of teaching. This kaleidoscope of practitioners brings into the light a rainbow of practices, and the reality that quality practices are not always guaranteed. Even so, the fact remains that professionals in the field of early childhood education are touching the lives of children daily and are having a profound effect on the development and learning of each child they serve.

The report Taking the Lead states that there is real cause for concern that poor-quality programs are failing to support, and are even damaging, our children. Studies reveal that only 14 percent of center-based care, 12 percent of family childcare and an even lower percentage of infant care can be rated as good to excellent. The remainder is rated mediocre me·di·o·cre  
Moderate to inferior in quality; ordinary. See Synonyms at average.

[French médiocre, from Latin mediocris : medius, middle; see medhyo-
 to poor. (Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes Study Team, 1995, Galinsky, Howes, Kontos, & Shine, 1994, as cited in The Center for Career Development in Early Care and Education, 2000, p. 5)

Being trained in early childhood education does not guarantee quality practices (Hoot, Bartkowiak, & Goupel, 1989; Naber, 1995; Wien, 1995). Personal style and belief can develop from modeled behavior that is experienced over time, becomes habit, and leads to teacher-directed or inappropriate practices, rather than developmentally appropriate practice.

One initiative that has shown promise for promoting and supporting quality practice within early childhood classrooms is mentoring. Mentoring is not new to the field of early childhood education. Professional organizations, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is the largest nonprofit association in the United States representing early childhood education teachers, experts, and advocates in center-based and family day care.  (NAEYC NAEYC National Association for the Education of Young Children (Washington, DC) ), have worked to develop or promote mentoring programs through publications or at conferences. Over the past decade, the National Center for the Early Childhood Work Force (NCECW) (now known as the Center for the Child Care Workforce) has conducted extensive research and promoted and supported mentoring initiatives in the field of early childhood education. In 1995, NCECW developed the National Early Childhood Mentoring Alliance and has since developed several publications that focus on mentoring in early childhood programs, including those found in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. .

Just as vital as the issue of quality practice is the problem of retaining a stable and trained work force. The turnover rate of teaching staff in child care centers is very high all over the United States, which can have a profound impact on the quality of care and education. Mentoring, however, can encourage experienced teachers, caregivers, and directors to remain in the field by validating val·i·date  
tr.v. val·i·dat·ed, val·i·dat·ing, val·i·dates
1. To declare or make legally valid.

2. To mark with an indication of official sanction.

 their teaching experience and expertise. NCECW (1996) believes that this validation See validate.

validation - The stage in the software life-cycle at the end of the development process where software is evaluated to ensure that it complies with the requirements.
 creates a new pathway pathway /path·way/ (path´wa)
1. a course usually followed.

2. the nerve structures through which an impulse passes between groups of nerve cells or between the central nervous system and an organ or muscle.
 on the career ladder The Career ladder is a metaphor or buzzword used to denote vertical job promotion. In business and human resources management, the ladder typically describes the progression from entry level positions to higher levels of pay, skill, responsibility, or authority.  and addresses "a serious shortage of on-the-job training by emphasizing excellence in daily practice for young children and their families" (p. 3).

Mentoring also can benefit new teachers or directors, offering them much-needed support and encouragement. Research has documented that new teachers often feel isolated within their own classrooms, leading them to doubt their ability to deal with young children. As Lilian Katz expressed it, their primary concern is "Will I survive?" (Katz, 1972). Mentoring offers educators an opportunity to dialogue with other professionals and can help them feel empowered and successful.

"We engaged in a conversation that made me understand more about the obstacles that new teachers overcome in their first few months of teaching. She told me that it was a very stressful period and when something failed, she felt very inadequate. She wanted to fit in with the other staff members and feel a sense of belonging." (Student participating in the Mentoring in Early Childhood Education class, Spring 2001)

Mentoring Defined

The first concept of a mentor may have come from ancient Greece The term ancient Greece refers to the periods of Greek history in Classical Antiquity, lasting ca. 750 BC[1] (the archaic period) to 146 BC (the Roman conquest). It is generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western Civilization. , when Odysseus was planning for a long journey away from his family. Odysseus felt great concern for his family, especially for his son Telemachus, for it was traditional to provide young males with daily guidance in the virtues of strength and wisdom. Odysseus therefore asked his friend Mentor to provide Telemachus with guidance, teaching him about the world and how to be courageous, strong, and compassionate com·pas·sion·ate  
1. Feeling or showing compassion; sympathetic. See Synonyms at humane.

2. Granted to an individual because of an emergency or other unusual circumstances:
 towards others.

Being a mentor implies being in a relationship with another. An effective mentor in the field of early childhood education is a reflective Refers to light hitting an opaque surface such as a printed page or mirror and bouncing back. See reflective media and reflective LCD.  practitioner who is open to professional development and who has a keen understanding of classroom practice that is effective and supports individual needs. The mentor usually has been practicing in the field for at least five years, and has been trained and educated in mentoring. This mentor then is paired with a first-year teacher, director, or student teacher, and works to build rapport The former name of device management software from Wyse Technology, San Jose, CA ( that is designed to centrally control up to 100,000+ devices, including Wyse thin clients (see Winterm), Palm, PocketPC and other mobile devices.  and trust over time. Mentoring is not a supervisory relationship; it is most effective when built on mutual trust and an openness by both parties to grow and learn.

Many programs in the United States encourage specific training in mentoring, often through a college course. Through this training, the mentor learns such skills as active listening Active listening is an intent to "listen for meaning", in which the listener checks with the speaker to see that a statement has been correctly heard and understood. The goal of active listening is to improve mutual understanding. , effective observations, reflective conversations, awareness of different learning styles, and adult and teacher/ director development. Mentoring program designs vary. One can find mentoring programs for new directors, new teachers, and even for student teachers in preschools, child care, or family care programs. Many of these programs receive financial support and can offer release time and stipends or college course incentives.

"I have learned how to build a good partnership with a fellow teacher. The techniques and skills that I learned from this class were very helpful in supporting our mentoring relationship. I found reflective practice to be the most valuable tool." (Student participating in the Mentoring in Early Childhood Education class, Spring 2001)

The Community College Experience

In the spring of 2000, the author was hired to coordinate an early childhood teacher preparation grant at a community college in Ohio, and to work with a full-time faculty member who would serve as the curriculum coordinator. Through a grant initiative, the course Mentoring in Early Childhood Education was developed by the curriculum coordinator and taught by the author.

The 15-week-long course was designed for practicing professionals who had at least an associate's degree as·so·ci·ate's degree
An academic degree conferred by a two-year college after the prescribed course of study has been successfully completed.
 in early childhood education or a related field. It focused on gaining an understanding of the mentoring relationship and on the role that teacher-mentors and/ or director-mentors played in the early childhood professional development system. The course content included such topics as the role of the mentor, understanding mentoring relationships, guiding principles in early childhood education, stages of new teacher/ director development, learning styles, and mentoring observations and conversation. The course also provided opportunities for each student to develop effective skills and strategies in a mentoring relationship by classroom role-playing, and provided students with 12 weeks of field experience as a student-mentor. Each student sought his or her own "mentee" in a preschool, within or outside of the person's own program. The author suggested that each student-mentor try to find a classroom teacher who was open to the experience and somewhat new to the field. Ten students took the initial offering of the course in the spring of 2001.

Developing Effective Mentors

Since the state-funded grant required some form of qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation, the author developed a pretest pre·test  
a. A preliminary test administered to determine a student's baseline knowledge or preparedness for an educational experience or course of study.

b. A test taken for practice.

 and posttest post·test  
A test given after a lesson or a period of instruction to determine what the students have learned.
 to evaluate the impact of the mentoring course. The tests examined the effectiveness of the course by measuring students' skills and knowledge in 12 areas that would facilitate an effective mentoring relationship. Consultants hired from a local university evaluated the grant and analyzed an·a·lyze  
tr.v. an·a·lyzed, an·a·lyz·ing, an·a·lyz·es
1. To examine methodically by separating into parts and studying their interrelations.

2. Chemistry To make a chemical analysis of.

 the results of the pretest and posttest by using a paired t-test. The results demonstrated significant improvements in the following areas:

* Skills that are needed for effective mentoring relationships

* Conversation strategies that promote effective mentoring relationships

* Understanding the role of mentor versus supervisor

* Understanding adult learning styles

* Understanding and experiencing the developmental stages of first-year teachers.

The evaluation consultants noted that areas that had no statistical significant improvement were areas that were rated high prior to the mentoring class. Therefore, "Lack of significance differences between pre- and post-mentoring was due to ceiling effects rate rather than lack of improvement" (Bagaka's & Eichman, 2001, p. 12).

Improving Classroom Practice

The author also developed a survey that was used at the beginning and ending of class by both the mentor and the protege pro·té·gé  
One whose welfare, training, or career is promoted by an influential person.

[French, from past participle of protéger, to protect, from Old French, from Latin
. This survey had a two-fold purpose. First, it helped to promote dialogue between mentor and mentee about classroom practice and areas that the classroom teacher wanted to address. Second, it was used at the end of the semester se·mes·ter  
One of two divisions of 15 to 18 weeks each of an academic year.

[German, from Latin (cursus) s
 to help evaluate the effectiveness of the mentoring relationship in promoting growth and development in selected areas.

The mentees could chose from one to three areas out of 10 general categories of classroom practice that they wanted to address during the 12-week period. The general categories included: health and safety, learning environments, child guidance and self-esteem, language and literacy development, curriculum planning, assessment of children's learning, valuing diversity, parent involvement and partnership, staff communications and conflict management, and professional development and advocacy. Each of these 10 categories also had five to seven subcategories (e.g., the general category of learning environments had subcategories of free choice time, learning centers, quiet and active play, transitions, and materials/equipment). The most frequent areas that were addressed during the mentoring relationships included the general categories of: learning environments, 100 percent; child guidance and self-esteem, 80 percent; language and literacy development, 60 percent; curriculum planning, 40 percent; and assessment, 40 percent (Bagaka's & Eichman, 2001).

To measure the levels of effectiveness at the end of the 12 weeks, a five-point Likert scale Likert scale A subjective scoring system that allows a person being surveyed to quantify likes and preferences on a 5-point scale, with 1 being the least important, relevant, interesting, most ho-hum, or other, and 5 being most excellent, yeehah important, etc  was used, with 5 indicating highly effective and 1 indicating not effective. In the areas that were identified above, both the mentee and mentor believed that the relationship had a positive impact on practices, particularly in the category of child guidance and self-esteem. Interestingly, the mentee valued the effectiveness of the mentoring relationship more highly than did the mentor, in four out of five areas. This finding correlates to the overwhelmingly positive response that was shared by the mentees at the closing celebration. All of the mentees spoke of benefiting from the relationship, especially in terms of the relationship providing them with encouragement and an increased feeling of efficacy. The mentors' slightly lower scores could have been due to the fact that their expectations of classroom practices were different from those of the mentees. Many of the mentors had been in the field for more than five years and had a good understanding of developmentally appropriate practices. Each of the mentors could have had a greater expectation of change, although mentors were in agreement that the experience had a positive impact on their mentee and that it supported their own professional growth.


This community college experience provided a small snapshot (1) A saved copy of memory including the contents of all memory bytes, hardware registers and status indicators. It is periodically taken in order to restore the system in the event of failure.

(2) A saved copy of a file before it is updated.
 of the positive effect that mentoring can have on classroom practice in the field of early childhood education. Both mentors and mentees grew as professionals through reflective practice; most important, the classroom teachers felt encouraged and increased their own efficacy over the 12-week period. Many of the students and classroom mentees stated that they wanted to continue their relationships and expressed their wishes that the course and the relationship could have lasted longer.

During this period, the author observed professionals renewing their passion for the field and establishing positive, professional relationships that had some degree of positive impact on quality practice for young children. Extended relationships could have had an even greater impact on practice. If we seek to ensure best practices for young children, the field of early childhood education must take seriously the need for mentors. This personal experience has led the author to believe that teacher education by itself will never be enough for quality care and education of young children. What is needed are personal, ongoing relationships that can make a difference and be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow end of the rainbow

the unreachable end of the earth. [Western Folklore: Misc.]

See : Remoteness

Some additional perspectives of several of the students who took the mentoring class in the spring of 2001 offer further insight. Their eloquent el·o·quent  
1. Characterized by persuasive, powerful discourse: an eloquent speaker; an eloquent sermon.

, personal reflections speak of the gold to be found at the end of the rainbow and of how mentoring can benefit the field of early childhood education.

"My mentoring "My Mentor" is the second episode of the American situation comedy Scrubs. It originally aired as Episode 2 of Season 1 on October 4, 2001. Plot
Elliot gets on Carla's bad side after telling Dr. Kelso about one of Carla's mistakes. Elliot gets defensive with J.D.
 experience throughout this semester has been wonderful. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had, and it has given me a chance to share my early childhood background and experiences with my mentee."

"I have gained new insight on how a veteran teacher can be a powerful factor in a new teacher's experience. If there is a lack of support for a new teacher, it can be quite discouraging dis·cour·age  
tr.v. dis·cour·aged, dis·cour·ag·ing, dis·cour·ag·es
1. To deprive of confidence, hope, or spirit.

2. To hamper by discouraging; deter.

. I have seen that it is very important to give a new teacher a sense of belonging right from the beginning .... I need to be aware of how the new teacher feels about her experiences and give her encouragement to build up her confidence.

"Through this mentoring experience I was able to grow as a professional.... This opportunity enabled me to reflect and remember how uneasy I was when starting out as a new teacher. In addition, I became more aware of my own work that I do with the children. I believe mentoring takes practice and a lot of understanding, which I feel I have gained by enrolling in this class. I learned that taking someone through the process of change can be very challenging and takes time. For myself, I found the mentoring process to be a very gratifying grat·i·fy  
tr.v. grat·i·fied, grat·i·fy·ing, grat·i·fies
1. To please or satisfy: His achievement gratified his father. See Synonyms at please.


"Mentoring relationships within the early childhood profession are a good way to prepare new teachers, encouraging them to grow to their fullest potential."

"I have found that if I continue to be a good listener and respond to my mentee's questions, comments, or non-verbal cues, I am really getting to know her as a person, as well as what her needs are as an early childhood professional."

"I have found out several things about beginning teachers, and have found out more about myself. It was interesting to find out that these correlated cor·re·late  
v. cor·re·lat·ed, cor·re·lat·ing, cor·re·lates
1. To put or bring into causal, complementary, parallel, or reciprocal relation.

 to what I have been reading for this mentoring class. I think the phrase 'Quality Care and Education Matters' is true. However, the phrase 'We must first care for the caregiver' is very profound. I cannot think of a single person whom I have met in early childhood, including my mentee, who does not fit this requirement."


Bagaka's, J. G., & Eichman, G. T. (2001). Evaluation of the teacher preparation project for the early childhood education program. Unpublished report, submitted to the Ohio Department of Education as part of the Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Grant requirements.

Breunig, G. S., & Bellm, D. (1996). Early childhood mentoring program: A survey of community initiatives. Washington, DC: National Center for the Early Childhood Work Force.

Center for Career Development in Early Care and Education. (2000). Taking the lead: Investing in early childhood leadership for the 21st century. Boston: Wheelock College History
In 1888, Lucy Wheelock began a kindergarten teacher training class at the Chauncy-Hall School. In 1914, the school moved to its current location on the Riverway in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1939, Wheelock School incorporated into a non-profit college.

Hoot, J. A., Bartkowiak, E. T., & Goupel, M. A. (1989). Educators" beliefs regarding developmentally appropriate preschool programming. Buffalo, NY: University of New York There is no institution of higher education in the State of New York or the United States of America that bears the name University of New York. However, in confusion, it is possible that such a reference may regard the following:
, Early Childhood Research Center. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 315 179)

Katz, L. G. (1972). Developmental stages of preschool teachers A Preschool Teacher is a type of early childhood educator who instructs children from infancy to age 5, which stands as the youngest stretch of early childhood education. Early Childhood Education teachers need to span the continum of children from birth to age 8. . Elementary School Journal Published by the University of Chicago Press, The Elementary School Journal is an academic journal which has served researchers, teacher educators, and practitioners in elementary and middle school education for over one hundred years. , 73(1), 50-54.

Naber, M. B. (1995). Increasing application of developmentally appropriate practices by childcare and Head Start staff following training. Unpublished doctoral practicum practicum (prak´tikm),
n See internship.
, Nova Southeastern University History
Originally named Nova University of Advanced Technology,[7] the university was chartered by the state of Florida in 1964[8][9] as a graduate institution in the physical and social sciences.
, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 389 465)

Wien, C.A. (1995). Developmentally appropriate practice in "real life": Stories of teacher practical knowledge. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: Teachers College Press.

Final thanks to the 10 practicing, professional students in the mentoring course, who were willing to share their honest and insightful experiences of mentoring!

Lauren Cummins is Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education, Youngstown State University Youngstown State University, at Youngstown, Ohio; coeducational; est. 1908 as a department of the Youngstown Association School sponsored by the Young Men's Christian Association. , Youngstown, Ohio
For other places with this name, see Youngstown.

Youngstown is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Mahoning County. The municipality is situated on the Mahoning River, approximately 65 miles (105 km) southeast of Cleveland and
COPYRIGHT 2004 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Cummins, Lauren
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 6, 2004
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