Oklahoma Members Group

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Oklahoma Members Group

Mentoring on the fly


During the residency year, a mentor is supposed to be assigned and work with the resident teacher. My experience as a rookie was a few visits to tell me I teach too high for this age, which is another story, and then pregnancy leave for the rest of the year. It was hard. How to make friends, how to talk to parents in the community, how to foresee built in routines that tenure teachers already know, and how to prioritize were my struggles. Taking the hardship and moving forward, I was politely voluntold to mentor a new teacher who was so overwhelmed. I had been a teacher for 9 years in the same sect of lower elementary education. I had been in the building for 7 years. I changed buildings or rooms all of the 9 years, but one, this one. We had a new administrator though. So, everything was second guesses and over achieving just to be safe. As first years go, I flopped. I really stepped down as a mentor for lots of reasons, but the guilt eats at me. I never wanted to be a mentor again. 

The relationship end was so bitter, but professional enough. I work really hard to mend that each day. The teacher asks me questions, advice, assistance, and brings others to me for help. It warmed my heart when she came into her own. I can see her on the road to becoming as great as she wants. My third principal told me that becoming a great teacher takes at least 8 years and to never give up. My first one told me that a teacher was a million dollar investment and that I did not have a job the next year. Which one was the mentor?

Continuing on with my journey, I had a principal who told me what other's thought of me and how I come off to them. She told me about the best things I do for kids and listened when I needed something. There were drawbacks, just as any relationship with a supervisor, but mostly she groomed me to be self-reliant and reflective. I used that to help bring about positive change in myself. Using that mentoring, I tried to help others who I would see struggling like I had. This brings me to the next voluntold job.

The year had just about started. I had returned from an awesome summer. My friend moved down to my grade level. Then, it happened. I became her mentor. The news was gut-wrenching. I was her friend. We were close. We hung out after work and went on vacations together. What would happen to our friendship? 

Well, it hit rock bottom. I had these two faces; mentor and friend. She is very smart and strong willed. It was hard to put into words how important some things were. Even with others saying the same things as I was, it seemed as if she was determined to do it her way. The backstory is that parents were complaining of intonation and volume, as well as discipline. Before school started in August, we went to professional development, focusing on positive discipline, rewards, and integration with interaction. I unfortunately taught the class. That put me in a "this is how we do this" position. She liked the class, but failed to utilize most of it. I do not know if she was overwhelmed or bullheaded. The whole grade level helped with grooming, without being overbearing or preachy. At, the point the friendship hit bottom, she was overreacting in unprofessional ways at work, interrupting my class time, and bad mouthing me in front of my assistant and the students. I had to cut off the friendship after school to make my point about professionalism. It took time, but the professionalism came back. It is much easier to work with her now. We even started going to trivia weekly after school. She is giving me space and I am continuing to mentor at school. There is a bigger story there, but that is it in a nutshell. 

I chose to make my growth goal this year mentoring, but I am working on prioritizing interruptions, teaching rather than doing it for them, and growing as a mentor by reading articles, books, blogging, and talking with other successful mentors. 

I genuinely think I would like mentoring more if it was only with 0-1 year teaching experience teachers, not tenured ones. I think that was the other factor that rifted the level of compliance and defensiveness between learning and listening. To teach/mentor tenure teachers, I have to take their experience and steer the mentoring through it. I have to learn much more about their pedagogy, techniques, strategies, routines, and hang ups, before I enter into new learning. When I go to watch other teachers, I take what I think I can use to help me in the "now," write down the interesting things, and dismiss the rest, because I only have time for so much and tolerance for certain changes. Tenure teachers are mostly the same way. Starting small, just like teaching students, and using real-life experience, hands-on, relevant, etc...really does work. I think I got hung up in not hurting feelings. The line between mentor and friend has to be there, because to mentor, you have to care about the mentee.