I think about mentoring a lot, especially since I have had the privilege of mentoring new teachers for the past three years. I worry about these new teachers, so much has changed in education since I began teaching…and most of this change is not good change. I worry about how these new changes will affect their desire to stay in education, to keep going in those early years when the days are especially long and the rewards seem few and far between. I worry that, given all the stresses and strains, they will tune out, give up, leave.
And, as a mentor, I worry about the quality of my mentoring. Do I listen enough? Do I read between the lines to assess what is really going on? Do I make myself available enough? Do I offer enough praise to offset the self doubts that always creep in in those early years, when no amount of preparation seems adequate? Do I encourage enough? Do I suggest, not criticize? And, most importantly, do I make a difference?
Yesterday, I came across this Tweet from Meenoo Rami, an English teacher at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy and a (new!) Heinemann author of the forthcoming book:
Meenoo’s tweet read like this:
So, I checked out the (free!!! ) download and was happy to learn that included were excerpts of the first chapter which focuses on: “finding mentors and ways that you can maintain these relationships in your life.” I loved the idea that Meenoo explored of being intentional about mentorship – about really thinking about the process as something that can enhance one’s teaching lives, as opposed to something that is done to simply check off a box on the district’s to do list: every new teacher must have a mentor for their first year of teaching, for example.
Because, what happens in year two?! I remember that my second year of teaching was much harder than my first – now that I knew what a school year really looked like and felt like, now that I knew the type of planning that was really effective, now that I had a much better understanding of the range of learning needs I would need to address in all my subject areas… now I was really anxious and overwhelmed. I didn’t have a school assigned mentor, and I really didn’t know how to reach out and find a mentor, either. And so, at a very formative time and vulnerable in my teaching career, I went it alone. And, with the exception of the virtual PD I’ve been lucky enough to develop over time, that is still the case.
How much better it would have been to follow the path that Meenoo Rami describes – an intentional culling together of “models and guides for particular parts of my professional and personal life.” And how much better to think of mentoring as a many leveled, many dimensional enterprise, one that does not end at the end of one’s first year of teaching but continues and grows as one develops as an educator.
I think I am going to pass this excerpt along to my mentee, and gift her the book when it’s published in its entirety. It’s never too soon for her to start thinking outside the box (our one mentor in the first year of teaching only box) – and perhaps if not too late for me, either.
P.S.: Here’s what Meenoo’s book covers:
Ch. 1: Turn to Mentors
Ch. 2: Join and Build Networks
Ch. 3: Keep Your Work Intellectually Challenging
Ch. 4: Listen to Yourself
Ch. 5: Empower Your Students