Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Day 10: Be A Mentor

I did it again.

I started with a mediocre lesson in 1st period and slowly refined it so by the time I did it for a 5th time, I liked it MUCH more.  We have started discussing spectroscopy and the unique fingerprints that are left by chemicals.

After first period, I realized that I hadn't really given them enough information to do what I had asked.  After 3rd, I realized I had given too much.

I'm still trying to figure out how much I want them to work out and how much I want them to have.  Since I'm not super familiar with the subject matter, it's very difficult for me to tell the difference between important background info and what can be glossed over.

So I showed, and talked about, lots of pretty pictures today.  It worked out well, since they were starting to ask "why do we care about waves so much?"

With all of the uncertainty that I have around my classes this year, one major thing has kept my confidence up and my motor running: I know how to teach.

This is my 7th year in my current district, 9th year as a classroom teacher and 11th year in education.  I'm not the best teacher, but this far into my career, I know that I can do this.  There will bad days and good days, setbacks and leaps forward, but I am a teacher.

I think about how many teachers don't have that to fall back on.

Last night, I spent almost an hour on the phone coaching a first year teacher.  Her practicum was in a high school setting, but now she's working in 1st grade.  She is frustrated, terrified and overwhelmed.  She's not getting the help and support that she desperately needs.

During our conversation, I assured her that what she is feeling is very normal.  The first year as a teacher is often the worst, driving many to question whether they should be teaching at all.

I know this young woman.  I have watched her grow into a remarkable person with a wealth of experiences that will serve her well as an educator.  She is smart, compassionate, kind, driven and inspiring.

I believe that she is also a teacher.  I fear that without the supports that should be in place for her, she may not believe that herself and may not continue along this path.

What she is seeing, in terms of expectations of her, of her students, of her time, are causing her to burn out.  Even over the phone, several hundred miles away, I was able to smell the smolder.  I am afraid.

I am afraid for her, possibly being led to believe that this isn't the profession for her.

I am afraid for her current students who are missing out on the best version of her because that version is buried in paperwork.

I am afraid for future students who might miss out on the incredible experiences that she can help them to have.

I am afraid for where our education system may be heading if this is a representative microcosm.

There seems to have a been a spate of articles recently about teacher shortages.  Very few of them mentioned how new teachers are supported in order to keep them into the profession.  Most of those articles focused on how many fewer students are enrolling in teacher education programs.

I have very mixed feelings about whether my graduate program properly prepared me for what I'm doing.

This new teacher told me flat out that hers didn't prepare her at all.  I'm not surprised.

We need more supports in place for teachers.  We need to remember that they (we) are still human beings with lives outside of school.  We need to have better mentoring programs in place.  We need a growth mindset that allows for mistakes and encourages teachers to take risks.

We need to stop expecting teachers to be perfect right out of the gate.  Or after 10 years.  Or 20.  Or ever.

I believe that everything I've written here applies to veteran teachers, administrators, students and parents as well.

I have the chance to mentor this young woman, to be an ear when she needs to talk, a shoulder when she needs to cry and a sounding board when she need to bounce off ideas.

Teaching is hard.  We all need someone.

We should all strive to BE that someone as well.

1 comment:

  1. Justin...

    This is a lovely tribute to you and your insightful view of things. Thank you for mentoring such a talented and wonderful "student of the game"!




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