Saturday, September 6, 2014

Reflective Teacher Day 6: What does a good mentor "do''?

     I view the job of a mentor the same as a teacher of students, but a little different. Mentors are supposed to help their newbie teachers navigate their first year. If you have ever had a student teacher, it's kind of like that, but again, different. I was fortunate enough to have @mr_bschnides as a student teacher. He was great and it was a great experience because it makes you truly think about what you are doing, a reflection. A mentor teacher takes that student teaching experience and allows the mentee to be 100% on their own, in their own classroom.
     As a mentor, your job is to check on the mentee, asking them how it's going. and answer any questions they have about this thing called teaching. There is so much that you have to learn as you do in this field. No education class can teach you what to do in every scenario. For example, what do you do when you have a great lesson planned using technology and the computers won't work or the internet goes down?? You have to adjust. Quickly. So as a mentor teacher, you have to make sure your mentee can adjust and does not fall apart when these situations arise.
     However, like most things in teaching doing your job as a mentor right, is a subtle dance between being too tight or too loose. In one extreme, you completely ignore your mentee, never checking on them and they wind up going to someone else. Trust me, everyone needs advice and help those first couple of years. Heck, I still need feedback from my colleagues now. (Hence why I am doing this, right?) On the other side of that coin is too much control and contact. New teachers, like student teachers, need to spread their wings and venture out of the nest on their own. They need to try. Fail. Try again. I view a mentee as someone who needs to learn when they need help and when they can figure it out on their own. This is what we do with students: we structure class so they learn how to do something with scaffolds, and then we take those supports away and they do on their own.
     The ultimate goal is to have the mentee gain support in their first few years and then learn to want to collaborate with their colleagues on their own, not to shut their door and forget that there is a building full of people that can help them grow in their profession.

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