Thursday, August 6, 2015

Blogging Challenge Day 6

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers

Day 6: Explain- What does a good mentor “do”?

Initially when I read this I thought of a teacher mentoring another teacher. In New Jersey part of getting our teaching certificate is going through a year of mentoring. A more experienced teacher gets assigned to each brand new teacher to help them out. The mentor teacher gets a stipend to do this, some districts pay for it and in others the new teacher has to pay the mentor them self. (sidenote: I'm actually quite curious if this is a common practice across the other states? Or if not, what do you do instead?) I'm actually not too sure of how many effective mentoring relationships I've seen. In my experience, the official mentor doesn't always seem to be the one that helps the new teacher the most. Also I've never officially mentored another teacher so I can't really speak from the other side.

So what I'd guess is a good teacher mentor would do is to just really to support the new teacher without being condescending. And I think that new teachers are an especially interesting bunch of people to mentor. As a brand new teacher we're put in front of a group of kids who we have to seem like an expert in front of, even if we're far from being experts. Sure we're most likely an expert in the content, but that is also like the smallest part of teaching. So it seems some new teachers end up having a hard time really asking for help and admitting that they don't really know quite what they're doing yet because they feel like they have to be experts already. Consequently, I've seen new teachers that feel like they need to come across as if they already know everything. By the way, I think I was a "new teacher" until like year five and I was definitely one of those people that thought I knew way more than I really did so please don't feel like I'm criticizing anyone.

And I'm not trying to fault anyone. Being a new teacher is a tricky. Seem too insecure and the kids are going to pick up on it and you'll lose your authority. Come across as too authoritative and the kids will pick up on that too, they'll realize you're new and over compensating and they won't respect that either. And honestly, I don't really know what the answer is. I wasn't great at classroom management for quite awhile. My 5th year was the year I finally really got the hang of it. Kids see right through us. I've talked at length with kids about this stuff and trust me, they pick up on every little thing.

Sorry, I went off on a bit of a tangent here but what I'm trying to say is that mentoring a new teacher is sometimes tricky. Sometimes we think we know more than we really do and can be hesitant to really listen to someone trying to tell us what we should be doing. We think we've got this under control. And since I've never done it I guess I don't quite know what the right answer is!

When I think of a good mentor though, I think of the cooperating teacher I had when I did my student teaching. She never directly tried to tell me what to do or teach me how to teach. She made me feel way better than I probably was at the time. She got really excited about new things that I tried and made me feel like I was doing a good job, which made me want to keep trying. She acted like I was her colleague instead of someone that was there to learn from her. I definitely wasn't her equal, but it felt like it.

She had a phenomenal relationship with her students so I learned this just from watching. She never talked down to the kids, she joked around with them, she was always smiling. I can't remember her ever really getting super angry or yelling or threatening anyone but the kids still all behaved for her and respected her.

So in the spirit of advice, I'll share some of my favorite bits of "new teacher advice" I've found. I've come across these on pinterest so you may have already seen them but there's tons of advice there and I feel these ones ring especially true. And if you are new, my biggest bit of advice would just be to keep an open mind. Try to be the expert in front of your classroom, but find some experienced teachers that you respect and try to learn all that you can from them. Don't ever feel like you can't admit that you need help because as teachers we're usually a pretty willing and helpful bunch.

If you recall, in the beginning I said that initially when I read this I thought of a teacher mentoring another teacher. But then I rambled on about that for far too long and never got to the other part I was going to talk about- which is mentoring students. So perhaps I'll save that for another day because I have quite a bit to say on that too. Or maybe I won't get around to it, who knows!


  1. Happy to see you back at blogging again! I always enjoyed your ISN page posts and the fun things you are doing in your room :)

    I teach in Illinois and we also have a mentoring program for teachers but it is 2 years long (at least in my district it is). You are appointed a veteran teacher in the building, typically one that teaches in the same department as you. You are required to meet a certain number of times throughout each year and as the mentor you have to observe them and do a formal write up of what you saw, suggestions for improvement, etc. I did it for a new teacher in our building (last year and the previous school year). It was interesting, they typically never had any questions ask and at times did act as though they knew it all. The teacher had some issues that needed to be resolved with Administration. I felt at times I was put in a more evaluator position without being their evaluator and it was a bit uncomfortable. We made it through, the teacher focused on the areas that needed improvement and are now a 3rd year teacher in our building. I think the mentor/mentee program has it's benefits but often then not it's exactly how you described it.

  2. I am a high school teacher that teaches health. I am entering my 10th year and i am having a hard time with the way things have been going. I have read through your entire blog and you sound like you have a great understanding of how to do these. I have found some great resources for the majority of my class( body systems, nutrition, drugs and alcohol) but i am having a really hard time trying to get stuff together for the mental health unit. I would love any ideas or suggestions that you might have.


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