Launching Your Teaching Career Part 4 - Finding a Mentor
Sep 9, 2009 Teacher Training 2145 Views
Doctors and physical therapists endure grueling internships; electricians and plumbers are apprenticed as they achieve excellence; dentists and hygienists are constantly taking classes to update their skills; teachers student teach and then...
In a job so critical it is odd that often after a teacher is hired, that is pretty much the end of communication with district and administrative personnel or master teachers. While some schools have collegial teams, many others have teachers operating in isolation. How can you improve every day to become excellent when you are left to figure out 99% of the job and its requirements alone? It is possible but this requires much research, study, practice, and trial runs complete with many errors. Since teaching seems to automatically include research, study, practice, and trials runs, these should be in areas of new and different sorts of topics and instruction not in skills and lessons that are all ready to be implemented in the classroom.
Some schools have thriving mentoring programs. Veteran master teachers work one-on-one with the novice sharing insight and advice, lesson plans and unit plans, and most importantly, they listen. New teachers have abounding self-confidence for several weeks until during about week 7 reality strikes a might blow: 200 students, 400 concepts, 600 strategies, 800 pressures, and 1,000 responsibilities. All of these are bound together in the finite time allowed for instruction. Great mentors wait and weigh the moment when the new teacher recognizes that quality teaching is hard, head-thumping work. Then she steps in (gently) to offer advice and support. There is no brow beating or "I could have told you...", only solid, caring, positive help.
True mentors support you this critical first year and they are available to you for years to come. Regardless of subject change, grade change, or school change, a mentor is a guide who will ignite you forever. The great thing is the reciprocity of the whole deal. What your mentor gives, you return when you are brimming with excellent ideas, enthusiasm, and a love of teaching and kids. The best mentees, those who strive for excellence, also make the best future mentors.
But what happens if your school or district does not have a mentoring program? How is a new teacher to find the best, most qualified mentor so that teaching soars with brilliance (and humility) from the outset? Begin by wandering your school. Search the faces of staff members for eager smiles and animated demeanor. Check out some classrooms. Are they organized with engaging concepts and materials and do to walls exude a love of learning? Chat with your new colleagues. Which ones are thrilled to start a new year, speak only positively of students and teaching, and seem to just get a kick out of returning to work?
Positive people produce positive results and they spread those feelings around with a passion for teaching and learning. They don't mind questions and they blossom with anticipation at the thought of trying something new. While they have faced challenges in the past with students, their parents, and other school trials, they have found ways to turn the tough moments into strengths, to promote a love of learning above all else.
Listen for voices replete with gusto; watch the spry steps of exhilaration; sense the energy that filters into the room; study the intellectual zeal for teaching and learning. There may be two or three teachers who fit the above description. Find one of these to guide and support you as you start your career. You may find that your school is overflowing with people like these. Count yourself fortunate to be in a school filled with so much talent.
And what about your ongoing learning? Superior teaching comes from study, research, and practice in the classroom. Join at least one professional organization to upgrade your methods and expertise. Read at least one education magazine or book per month. Try ideas from these texts immediately and manipulate them to perfection for your students. Discuss teaching and learning with colleagues. Share and listen, experiment and grow. Take a class - a "live" one is best but not always possible so on-line may fit your need.
Every day seek to accomplish great things - learning and success for students, expertise in a technique for you, and never-ending pleasure for teaching. When you fill yourself with joy and love of the job, you become contagious - to students, to colleagues, and to yourself. What an extraordinary adventure!