For the last several years I have helped various teachers around our campus, district and state with changing their teaching through conferences, Twitter and various conversations (and possibly this blog). This year I did decided I wanted to do it more formally and became an Induction (the program our state requires for first and second year teachers) Mentor for a teacher just starting her career. It has been an interesting journey for few reasons.
1. While I reflect when I write this blog or participate in Twitter chats, being a mentor forced me to really look at ALL of my practices, not just the big stuff. I love sharing all the exciting things we´re doing in the classroom and at our school, but what about those little things that matter for the good or bad. I had to look at the everyday occurrences to help explain them to my candidate. We are told we should reflect on what we do, but how often do we really do it. Mentoring someone else helped me see the importance of this.
2. I had to remember what it was like to begin my career. I have a very strong beginning teacher to mentor. She does well with classroom management and intuitively understands the importance of relationships with her students. (This was a relief to me as I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided to try this.) However, I had forgotten how overwhelming it can be to figure out how to teach the curriculum with a class full of eager students (mostly) ready to learn from you! Apparently I had really forgotten this.
The other night we had our last official meeting for the year, which was all about reflecting. As we were getting ready to leave, she shared with me that I had scared her a little when we first met. If you´ve read my blog, you know how I am all about doing things differently and not depending on the textbook to teach the students. Well, maybe I shared that a little too much with her. I wanted her to think outside the box. Step away from the textbook and do what best suits her students. I was essentially trying to take away her lifeline. I forgot what it meant to not have a clue what you are supposed to be doing. How that textbook might be the only thing that reminds you what you are supposed to be teaching. It is only through experience that you feel confident enough to create new lessons that benefit everyone.
3. It’s important to listen. When you start the mentoring process there is a lot of looking for advice. New teachers have a lot of questions. The trick is learning when to answer, when to collaborate and when to just listen. Just like in the classrooms, the one who does the most talking is also the one that does the most learning. There were times I stepped in and needed to give specific information or guidance. These were rare and usually to ease her stress about how much of the book to get through before state testing. There were several times where we could collaborate.Her ideas would spark my own and both of our classes were better for it. However, most of the time, I just needed to listen. In order for her to reflect and get better, she needed to talk through her experiences. My role was to ask a few questions to get deeper reflection. This was hard for both of us in the beginning. I think we got the hang of it by the end though. The good thing is we get to try again next year. We don’t usually get this chance with our students. We need to learn to listen and guide them early in the year because our time with them is limited. Students need a chance to reflect on their experiences in a variety of ways. We, as teachers, need to be their coaches and guide them through the process. This happens best when we are listening to what they have to say.
There are so many things we can learn when we share with others. Mentoring a new teacher gives us an opportunity to use our experiences to help shape a new generation of teachers and classrooms.
The last thing my candidate shared with me was that even though she felt overwhelmed and a little scared of me in the beginning, she was glad I pushed her. She realized her own strength and is now sharing what she knows with others. (That makes both of us very proud!) Did this process add more to my plate? Definitely. Was it worth every minute? Definitely.
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching