The Journal of Special Education Apprenticeship


Novice special education teachers (SETs) often report on stress and burnout in their jobs, identifying collaboration with colleagues as a factor that supports them during the first years (Belknap & Taymans, 2015). While previous research focused on teachers' support from their mentor teachers, administrators, and colleagues, in this study we examined the mentorship relationship between SETs and their classroom paraeducators. We analyzed interviews of three novice SETs who taught in a large urban school district. All participants taught in Special Day Classrooms (SDC) and worked closely with paraeducators. The findings of this comparative case study suggest that these relationships are important for teachers' assimilation in the classroom. Results show the mentorship can be bidirectional, where experienced paraeducators support the novice teacher, or where teachers who take an active role in mentoring their team. In addition, findings suggest that in the absence of any mentorship, the relationship with the paraeducators becomes a burden for novice teachers as they try to navigate their new roles and duties. The paper provides recommendations for practice and future research.