Day 6: Explain- What does a good mentor “do”?
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 like a lot of 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, a lot of times 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 5 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 business. 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 was pretty bad 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 tricky. We think we know more than we really do so we're 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.
- 5 Effective Tips for New (and Experienced) Teachers
- The 7 Bad Habits of Ineffective Teachers
- Do Teachers Really Need to Dress Professionally?
- New Teacher Thinking vs. Veteran Teacher Thinking
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!