Great teacher-mentors however, can help ease new teachers into the reality of the classroom and their teaching practice, so that they flourish rather than flounder.
Helping beginning teachers to build their practice, their confidence, connect with resources and colleagues, reflect to identify areas of their practice that need consolidating, and become empowered by their successes, is truly rewarding. Keeping in mind the following points can help you be both effective and influential in the teacher-mentor role.
5. Build the relationship
Being a teacher-mentor is not just about checking in to see how your teacher is travelling and supplying relevant information and resources to their inbox. It’s about building trust so that new teachers feel safe to confide their struggles without feeling incompetent or judged. If our aspiring teachers don’t feel at ease talking with us, asking questions, seeking advice or sharing confidences, we cannot be sure we are providing them with everything they need to become great teachers. Taking the time to build this relationship will ensure that trust is at its foundation and openness and honesty are a given.
4. Share your mistakes
Every new class brings a new set of challenges for even the most experienced of teachers and with no one-size-fits-all approach to classroom management or lesson delivery available, we often have to feel our way as we get to know our students and how best to engage and manage them. Mistake-making is how we learn, but admitting mistakes can be confronting and making them can be defeating if we feel that to make a mistake is a failure. Sharing the mistakes we’ve made, disastrous lessons we’ve delivered and things that haven’t worked when it comes to classroom management can help new teachers to more readily share their concerns and fears, but also to appreciate that mistake-making and reflection is the way teachers learn and build their skill base.
3. Highlight the emotional side of teaching and learning
Teaching is a highly emotional profession, as we not only have to manage our own emotions but help our students manage theirs as well. This aspect of teaching is often neglected in teacher training, leaving many new and even experienced teachers feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped. Being honest and open about the emotional nature of teaching helps prepare new teachers to cultivate self-awareness in order to monitor and manage their emotions and reduce burnout.
2. Hone your communication skills
Communicating effectively is one of the most important parts of the mentoring process, and yet we often don’t check to make sure that what we want to say is what is received and understood by the person we’re communicating with, especially when providing feedback. Being empathetic, accessible, supportive, helpful and honest are all qualities
identified by pre-service teachers as qualities that made their experience with a teacher-mentor successful. Being self-aware when we’re interacting with our training teachers and ensuring that what we hope we’re conveying is what is being perceived, will go a long way towards making the process a productive one.
1. Monitor your biases
It is easy to use the opportunity of being a teacher-mentor to express your own disputes with the teaching profession, your school, colleagues, executive or community, however this is not necessarily going to be helpful for your teacher-in-training. Offering advice on ways to navigate and manage the pressures, complexities and politics associated with the teaching profession and school community are useful and helpful, but we need to be very careful that we aren’t colouring our advice with our biases.