What does a good mentor “do”?
A good mentor provides counsel, gives feedback, listens, and supports. Teaching is an incredible profession, but for many new teachers, teaching can be an incredibly tedious profession. Forms, digital grade books, progress reports, department goals, classroom observation, aligning content to curriculum (or vice versa), and making sure kids are getting to school ready to learn- this is teaching.
I can not begin to stress how important my first three years as a teacher were from this standpoint: I went through a system which taught me how to teach. My wife and I say often, “The standards-based teaching for learning taught us two concepts, what do I want my students to learn and how do I know they learned what I wanted them to?” The system was kicked off with a multiple day course on the teaching process. A part of that course was a mentor lunch. What was immediately evident about my assigned mentor was that she was more than just a special education teacher. She was a literacy guru. She pioneered a co-taught Young Adult Literature class that was full every semester. From the onset, it was clear to me that my mentor was an awesome teacher and that she had a passion for continuous improvement.
When I didn’t know what was wrong with PowerSchool, she would tell me what I needed to hear.
When I had my first student quit school, she said he would be back (and he was, he was my first 5th year student to graduate).
When I was unprepared for the class we co-taught, I was held accountable. Not with words, but with corrective suggestions and ideas on how to improve for the next day (Ishmael Beah A Long Way Gone was the unit I bombed on).
When I wanted to do more, for kids and in my practice as an educator, she listened, she went to trainings with me, she participated in the design, she encouraged me to go forward.
Mentors are key. They show new frightened teachers that making a difference in kids lives is possible, and they show them how. If I would have had to figure out everything by myself in a one room schoolhouse, I would have probably failed miserably. More importantly, I would have missed on seeing world class teachers work their craft. I would have missed on seeing unparalleled dedication to kids.
Mentors carry the company ethos, and when the District or school strives for excellence, mentors carry the responsibility and have the privilege of on boarding new faculty successfully.