Posted in Teaching

Mentor or not to mentor…


It shouldn’t be a question.  So why is it?  I will readily admit without finding my group I would never have made it in this profession.  Those women saved me.

They also brought beer and made me leave the building when they knew I needed to, but I thought I could get more done.  These are the kinds of people first year teachers need to surround themselves with.  These are the same women I can still call when I feel like a huge failure.  They will listen, then laugh at me and tell me to stop.  Then they remind me of everything I have done well and all the kids I have reached.

It is sad to me that so many new teachers are out there and feel like they are floating on an island all alone.  If we are to keep new teachers, and attract others to this profession, we need to show them that they are not alone.  We need to be able to show them that we have failed too.  In spite of those failures, we have picked our sorry selves back up and gone back the next day.

Today I was teaching a lesson on annotation (it was beautiful in design and crap in execution).  For it, I used an article on first year teaching.  It got me really thinking.

It isn’t just first year teachers that need to remember a few things.  So, I decided to make my own list…

  1.  Help someone that you feel needs some advice or guidance.  If we all think back, we had help those first few years.  If we didn’t we should have.  Watch them teach for a few minutes when you can or a whole period if you can.  It is less intimidating to have a friend come into your classroom than the administration.  You can offer suggestions, and guess what else?  You might get some ideas for your own room.
  2. Make Professional Development a Goal.  Just because we have been at this awhile doesn’t mean we don’t have things to learn.  Lots of them.  Find a super cool workshop and go.  I learned the most at the ones for my specific subject areas.  Then share that knowledge with a newer teacher.
  3. Get to know your students.  Not just their names and what sports they play.  Really get to know them.  Research shows that students with close relationships with a teacher do better in high school.  If those students are at-risk, it is even more important.  I can personally vouch for this one.  Over the years I have had every single kind of student you can imagine.  Yes, all of them.  My greatest success stories and my favorites are the ones that other teachers had all but given up on and shown the door.  I got to know them, went to bat for them, made them work for me, and most of all loved them when they didn’t always love themselves.  Guess what, it worked.  This is one of the best things you can do in your room.
  4. Laugh at yourself and with your kids.  They will appreciate it.  Let’s face it, we all make mistakes.  I make more than my fair share.  The ability to laugh them off speaks volumes about you.  It is also going to show your students that they can learn and laugh at their mistakes in the classroom as well.  Life is serious enough, laugh a little.
  5. Remember how you felt.  I will never forget throwing up in the kitchen sink before I left the first morning of the first day of school.  I was so nervous.  I have no clue why.  But, I was.  It could be because I was 24 and I was teaching 9-12th grades.  Or it could have been that I was teaching Drama and I had taken all of one theater class in college.  I was positive that I was never going to make it.  They were going to hate me.  Then they hit on me.  Not what I expected, but it broke the ice and I felt better.  Don’t forget how you felt, the nerves, the hope, the excitement.
  6. Don’t squash the excitement out of the newbies.  Seriously just don’t.  We are losing great teachers by the masses.  I see wonderful new teachers run like their hair is on fire away from schools, simply because they have no support, work their asses off, get treated terribly, and have vets tell them it never gets any better.  If you have no excitement anymore, maybe let their excitement infect you.
  7. Remember why you became a teacher in the first place.  I am pretty sure that not one of us did this to become rich.  If you did, you have lost your mind.  I love what I do.  I love some parts more than others.  I love the “AHHA” on a kiddos face when they really get it.  I love when they really learn.  When they know that I care about them more than just what is on that paper.  Those are my favorite parts.
  8. Reflect on your lessons.  This is one I still need to work on.  At the end of the day think about what went great and you can use again, and what you need to pitch.  Tell those newbies about it.  They can learn for your success and failures as well.  It helps them to know that even those that have been at this awhile have the ability to suck it up too.
  9. Talk to the new teachers, take them out for a drink, make them sit with you at in-service.  Seriously, all of these things.  They are brand new.  If your district doesn’t have a mentor program (I wish they all did) make up one and grab a new teacher in you building.  Invite them to lunch on in-service day, out to drinks after conferences (you know you all need one), or just walk into their room after school to see how it is going.  These things will mean more to them than you will ever know.

I don’t have 10 things.  Just 9.  As I was writing this, I kept thinking about my first few years of teaching and I couldn’t help but think about how really lucky I was to be where I was.



I am a mom, wife, and teacher. I am a hot mess sometimes and sometimes I think I have it all figured out. Teaching for me is about teaching to the whole kid and making sure I am staying true to who I am in the process. I am far from perfect, but I try my best.

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