I n the field of early care and education (ECE), mentoring is a relationship-based arrange-
ment designed to facilitate the learning and professional development of teachers or oth-
er practitioners. 1 Teachers face increasing standards and expectations about what they
should know and be able to do in promoting children’s early learning and development,
and this has led to a dramatic surge in the types and numbers of mentoring opportunities
operating within the ECE field. Particularly in public school classrooms, mentoring may be a
required part of one’s first year of teaching. With the recent rise in higher education require-
ments for teachers in Head Start and many publicly funded pre-K programs, along with the
emergence of quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) in many states, protégés—
i.e., teachers working with a mentor—are now just as likely to be experienced teachers as to
be novices to the profession. These changes have brought about many new mentoring and
other professional development roles.
Mentors may work in their own classrooms, or in their protégés’ classrooms or fam-
ily child care homes. Many have worked as classroom teachers or home-based providers
themselves, but a sizable proportion have not. Some mentors have considerable autonomy
in determining the focus and content of their relationship with protégés, while others are
expected to help protégés learn a particular curriculum model or work on a specific skill.
Mentoring efforts can also vary widely in time frame, from a matter of weeks or months to a
year or more.
The proliferating variety of mentoring programs underscores the need for clearer defini-
tions and terminology about these different professional development arrangements, as well
as greater awareness of the challenges and benefits of each approach. Equally needed are
more clearly articulated competencies for mentors that emphasize the importance of foun-
dational teaching experience; sound knowledge of pedagogy with young children; training
related to understanding and facilitating adult learning; respect for protégés’ perspective
and skills; and sensitivity to the dynamics of the mentor-protégé relationship and the con-
text in which it occurs.
Because of such changes in the ECE field over the last two decades, the time is right for
a completely new version of our Early Childhood Mentoring Curriculum, first published in
1997, that can reflect the changing mentoring terrain and the multiple contexts in which
mentoring now takes place. This book is intended for all who are working in mentoring or
other roles to educate and support teachers and family child care providers in their practice
with children. It can serve as the text for a training series or credit-bearing course on men-
toring, and can also be used by anyone involved in providing professional development to
teachers and other practitioners in a variety of ECE settings.
1. While this book addresses formalized mentoring relationships, mentoring can also happen more informally in early care and
education programs—for example, as a director seeks to guide a teacher’s development and practice, or as a teacher works with
paraprofessionals or other assistants in the classroom. Note, however—as discussed in more detail in Chapter 3 —that mentoring is
not the same as supervision.
SUPPORTING TEACHERS AS LEARNERS