Mentoring older and tenured teachers
The mentor serves as a guide, resource, supporter, advocate, role model, and professionally as a friend. Demands of teaching and learning new information create strain on the mentee. Mentors help the mentee to build coping skills. Sharing my approach, techniques, and experiences, will help the new information I learn, become a more fluid, natural teaching practice. Mentoring also helps me gain a new perspective on teaching.
The approach I use for mentoring older and tenured teachers is as a resource and friend. I use indirect dialog and offer help. Avoiding direct confrontation helps, but is needed at times. For example, learning software and data entry, not to mention using the data is taxing, but when there is a problem, glitch, or last minute deadline, teachers stress. Preemptive reminders or asking them questions, as if I forgot, eases the defensive barrier that goes up when talking to seasoned teachers.
A mentor teacher whom I had collaborated on novice teachers, passed this year. We shared frustrations and dilemmas. However, with talking to her, I could see similarities between novice frustration of learning new procedures correlating with seasoned teachers encountering “Fixable” issues. In frustration from time allotment or other issues, teachers will ask others to fix problems for them, especially if they know who can do specific things. For example, I get phone calls, emails, and knock on door class interruptions anytime, any day about fixing printers, projectors, phones, software glitches and passwords, supply requests, and general empathy needs.
The interruptions in my class cause my frustration level to be big enough to affect my teaching. The effects include, mood swings, disconnects in behavior management for the kiddos, and tension for my assistant. I love to help people or I would not be a teacher, but the interruptions lead to poor teaching. Some days, I feel like a novice teacher, trying to prioritize peers’ needs and my students’ needs. I get frustrated, make quick, sometimes poor decisions, and reflect on it too much. The conclusion was to start saying no.
Step 1 is to teaching others how to fix it themselves by taking the initial time to walk them through it and providing immediate, constructive feedback. In addition, I ask that no one disturb the golden hour of teaching, which should flow at a rapid pace. The golden hour is difficult to regain upon interruptions. One of the women I mentor talks about time at the carpet and gaining more attention from the kiddos. The more importance and positivity a teacher gives the activity, the more control the teacher has over it. We talk about routine ad procedures. Routines and procedures must also be approached with positivity and discipline followed through. One issue we still have is student-teacher relationships.
Step 2 is not answering emails during that hour and increasing parent communication. By increasing parent communication before 9:00am, the parents understand the importance of punctuality and attendance rates on learning, or at least my urgency and demand of it. In discussing parent contact, I suggested increasing positive comments (pre-thought out) during interactions and a soft voice or kind touch on shoulder. Upon follow-up, the kind touch is working with a specific parent, but the tone of voice and volume are still setting the parent off. I let her talk it out. She decided she needed a calmer, softer voice. She reflects more frequently than before. The issue is improving.
Step 3 is following up during plan time, when I have a chance to help people, letting them know that plan is the most opportune time for them to approach me. I went into a classroom to see how the SMART Board was going. I found out she had not asked for help, because I was trying to “Say No.” I apologized for coming off that way. I told her I wanted to help her. We discussed times, emailing, and the Help desk number again. The issue for her is usually pulling up too many items or printing big files all at once. The printer and computer end up having issues that Help desk has to commandeer the computer and fix with me on the other end. She sees the hassle and apologizes each time, but I believe it is making her just live with the problems, not learning how to fix them herself. I will work on dropping in more frequently and asking her assistant how she is doing or what needs attention. I need to be more direct and indirect. (New thoughts on that later.)
Step 4 is preemptive strike. When testing windows are coming up, I will alert, remind, and reteach software and procedures to help the actual testing to go smoothly. We keep a collaboration notebook. I mentor and PLC with my grade level, then use the notebook to gather evidence and resources for a later time.
These steps will take time, but I believe they will truly help me “Say No,” in a way that teaches and promotes self-sufficiency to others.