The importance of early childhood teacher (ECT) mentors


From September 2015, VIT began registering early childhood teachers, meaning they go through the same registration process as other teachers, including having a mentor. 

It is vital for new teachers entering the profession to have access to well-trained mentors. We know that the mentor relationship helps build confidence in new teachers and is a major determinant in them staying in the profession.

Through various programs over the past few years, VIT has been training mentors in the early childhood sector. This training assists experienced practitioners to develop strong coaching and mentoring skills, such as using questioning skills to build capacity in new teachers, building relationships that give new teachers confidence as they develop their own practice and helping them to meet regulatory requirements.

Based on feedback gained at recent training sessions, VIT has been gathering ideas about what makes an effective mentor. 

Tips for early childhood teacher mentors

Tips for building a positive relationship with your mentee
  • Smile
  • Make contact/initiate conversation
  • Effective communication, open body language
  • Be approachable
  • Offer reassurance
  • Demonstrate cultural sensitivity
  • Understand expectations of your mentee
  • Being human; open, honest
  • Recognise both people are learning (mentor and mentee
  • Find commonalities between each other
  • Show trust through vulnerability
Questions to build trust with your mentee
  • What’s working really well?
  • How are you feeling about the process?
  • How can we support you?
  • What forms of communication work best for you and when?
  • Is there anything you want to know about me?
  • What’s worrying you the most?
  • Do you have a time frame in mind?
  • What are your motivations?
  • What are you hoping to get from this?
  • What challenges have you/will you encounter?
  • What strategies work for you?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What’s come up in your practice that has challenged you?
  • Can you see how the process might benefit you and your practice?
  • How can you link what you already do to the process?
  • What is the benefit for the children?
Examples of coaching questions
  • What was the outcome?
  • What is happening?
  • What is important right now?
  • What have you tried?
  • What have you learnt from that?
  • What else could you try?
  • Can you use a current skill to address the issue?
  • What support could you seek?
  • What are you going to try next?
  • When will you do that?
  • When would you like to check in?
  • How confident are you?
  • What are the barriers?
  • How can you overcome these barriers?

If you’re considering becoming an early childhood teacher mentor, you can find out more about our mentor training.