Bulgarian mentors met for a 2-day conference marking the halfway point of the NEST project
Mentors, trainers and state officials from Bulgaria taking part in NEST discussed the project results and participated in a creative workshop
“Our common purpose is children’s wellbeing, and it makes our efforts worthwhile.” This line comes from a letter that mentors wrote to their colleagues – the novice teachers they supported through the NEST (Novice Educator Support and Training) project.
The letter was drafted during this year’s final meeting of the Bulgarian participants in the project. The meeting took place on June 29th and 30th, and it was the first time they met in person since COVID-19 measures were lifted in Bulgaria. In addition to the 57 mentors trained under the project, it was also attended by their trainers and state representatives, including Marieta Georgieva, who is a Deputy Minister of Education.
Neli Koleva, NEST Project Manager and Strategic Partnerships Lead at Teach for Bulgaria, presented the results achieved so far and outlined the year ahead.
“We have worked with over 180 teachers, made over 500 classroom visits, shared challenges and solutions, but most importantly, we are building a supportive community. None of us have all the answers, there never are ready-made solutions in supporting novice teachers, so investing in an active professional learning community is key” Koleva said.
Data collected by researchers at the University of Duisburg-Essen, who evaluate the project, shows that the education experts’ mentorship skills have improved during the project. Over 90% agree or strongly agree that the training has equipped them to independently support novice teachers. This is also linked to the fact that, as a result of the training, the majority of experts feel more confident in their professional role. This in turn makes them more trustworthy in the eyes of the teachers.
In the coming year, mentors will continue their work with three new novice teachers each, while receiving additional support from the trainers. Increasing teachers’ engagement in the mentorship process and strengthening the trust between themselves and their mentees are some of the key challenges for mentors during this second year of NEST.
In addition to serving as a platform for discussion, the meeting allowed for mentors to get to know each other and work as a team on fun tasks, using the practices discussed with novice teachers through the project.
“50% of novice teachers will leave the profession within two years. You will not be able to prevent all of them from quitting. But for those people you worked with during the year, your support probably means everything” Koleva said at the end of the meeting.
The NEST project, which was launched in March 2021, explores the question of what an effective programme for novice teachers and their mentors should look like. Educational experts from 5 European countries and 7 education systems have come together to find the answer to this question. Their goal is to approbate a training program for mentors of novice teachers which can then be included in national policies.
Overall, 450+ mentors from 39 regions are being trained across the EU through the NEST project. Project partners include Ministries of Education and Teach For- organisations in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Romania and Spain, together with a teacher union “Podkrepa”, a schools association “SEGEC” and the University of Duisburg-Essen.