Mentoring — Is it Possible Overseas?

by Lynee Ward

I came across the article “Helping New Teachers Cope.” As I read the article, I found myself wondering how mentoring new teachers overseas would be the same or different from what the author, Cynthia Simon Millinger, was suggesting.

Most teachers sent overseas are not first-year teachers. Our organization prefers they have at least a year or two of experience. I also recognize we have some brand new teachers going overseas as well. Regardless of whether or not they have taught in their home country, they are still new to teaching third-culture kids overseas.

At our yearly teacher orientation, we compare teaching in one’s home country to teaching overseas. However, discussing it ahead of time and recalling the necessary information at the needed time are two different things. In a new situation or with a new grade level, people need mentoring of some kind.

I can hear some groans already. “Teachers on the field already have too much to do, and you want us to do more?” Please hear me out. When you arrived on the field where you are teaching, did you know everything already? Did you wish you had one person you could go to to find the answers?

Cynthia Millinger suggests four necessary parts to mentoring which I will describe below:

  • Codevelopment and Collaboration
  • Observation and Feedback
  • Policies and Systems
  • Encouragement and Support

Codevelopment and Collaboration

Which is more helpful? Having someone hand you a copy of their curriculum or to have them sit down and have the two of you plan together? When I moved from teaching 4th grade to teaching 2nd, we teachers (only one a seasoned 2nd-grade teacher) planned our lessons together. It gave the rest of us teachers a chance to ask Anita how to handle certain situations we thought might come up or how she usually taught a certain part of the unit we were working on.

In many of our schooling situations we only have one class per grade. How can you plan together? You may not always be able to plan with someone in the same grade level, but in at least going over the schedule of the coming week together, the seasoned teacher is more likely to remember to tell the new teacher about this school event happening or that national event that will affect the teaching day. And teaching techniques are often the same from one grade level to another.

Observation and Feedback

Is it possible for one teacher to observe occasionally in another teacher’s classroom, maybe when their students are having PE or some other “elective” that they don’t have to teach themselves? The mentor may have the mentee watch for something specific, such as how often each student participates – something that would be good for the mentee to observe in their own classroom as well.

  • How does a teacher relate to her students in class when she see them so much out of class?
  • Does a teacher tend to call on students from his home country more than other countries?

Policies and Systems

Many schools have a teacher handbook and/or new teacher orientation. However, handbooks do not include everything. Some things are best explained at the time of occurrence, not at the beginning of the school year – a new teacher is not likely to remember it later.

Mentors can share what they use for a discipline system where students are more likely to listen and do their homework, how they interact with their students outside of class, and how they deal with parents in the dual role of parent/friend.

Encouragement and Support

Sometimes a new teacher just needs someone who will recognize that they are tired or confused or overwhelmed (actually, we would probably all like someone like that!). They need to hear stories of how more seasoned teachers struggled and overcame so they can have hope that they too will overcome. Sometimes it helps to have all the new teachers meet together once a month or more to discuss things they have questions about so all can get answers at the same time.

Our newly arrived teachers are more likely to struggle with dealing with multi-cultural issues or using a different set of resources (or lack thereof) than the discipline issues they had in their home country.


Does mentoring need to be a formal thing or can it be informal? I think it differs for various people and circumstances. But, can you reach out to a new teacher at your school even if your school does not have a mentoring program?

If we can help our new teachers when they join the rest of the teachers on the field, maybe they will decide to stay longer than they had originally planned. Maybe those who came for the short term will decide to become long-term members. One never knows.

Permission to copy, but not for commercial use.

How do you mentor other teachers overseas, or how have others mentored you? Write comments below.

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