Day 4: Teacher As Mentor #AprilBlogADay Challenge
Prompt: Support- How do you support other teachers?
The summer before I started my first year of teaching we did 4 weeks of professional development. We were 9 teachers working to open a new alternative high school in East New York. One of my favorite memories was an afternoon planning with the other English teacher, a more seasoned teacher-- maybe 5 years in at that point(?)--who I looked to as collaborator and mentor. We exchanged ideas and excited suggestions that afternoon, charting out the year on paper with markers. It proved to be a benchmark experience for me. This is what co-planning could look and feel like.
As time went on, the support faded as did the collaboration. It was a result of many outside forces pulling at our teaching community and hurt the work. That first year I had a lot of informal mentoring from experienced teachers and coaches. I, for the most part, felt supported. There were struggles, especially as the years went on. When administration in small schools learn that you don't need a lot of support- they focus their attention on where it is needed: teachers who struggle, instructionally or with management. I quickly learned not to ask for help unless I truly needed it. So I didn't ask. I fended for myself and learned as I went along.
Now I am the mentor. First year teachers are required to have a year of mentoring that is logged into an official tracker. Teachers I have mentored are now mentors themselves. This is the goal right? That the mentees become the mentors? Torches are passed, growth takes place and ultimately we all learn. I do love working with teachers this way. This year in many ways has been my most successful year- mentoring two young men, an English teacher who I also co-plan with and a music teacher. Very different strengths. Very different content. While I am not a music teacher, I am a theatre teacher and understand the constraints of teaching a required arts course in a very not arts focused school community.
I learn so much from the hours I spend talking 1:1 with teachers. Sometimes conversations are about navigating the system, other times they are about co-teaching dynamics, then there are the times when a teacher just needs space to vent or to be heard. We have all been there. I have worked with some very seasoned teachers over the years and I don't know that I will ever see myself as I saw them but as schools get younger and younger, I am the seasoned teacher and it is my responsibility to support new generations of teachers. Hopefully the work I do will help them to stay.