About a week ago, the new principal sent an email asking the staff to take a look at a list of teachers who had signed up to host practicum and student teachers the year before. I dutifully checked the list, and saw my name. The last few years, I have mentored practicum students and student teachers. I thought about all the work involved in mentoring these students, and began to respond with a “Please remove my name from the list.” Just as I was about to hit “send”, I thought about how selfish it would be. I have 27 years of experience to offer someone who is new to this profession, and because I believe it’s too much work, I won’t do it? I deleted the email I had written.
We have to mentor. We can’t complain about new teachers if we’re not willing to offer our experience to them, especially if we are good at what we do. We all know there is a huge divide between what is taught in a college classroom, and what happens in a “real live” classroom. If we’re not willing to guide our newbies over that chasm, who will? Whether you believe yourself to be a fair, good, great, fantastic, or extraordinary teacher, you have something to offer. There will always be something you can share with that teacher that joins you for a couple of hours, or a couple of weeks. Some “trick” or lesson they learn from you, that they can use when they get their own classrooms. They might even learn that teaching is not what they want to do. I loved my student teacher, he made me the type of teacher that I am today.
At the end of the school year, we had a 5th grade celebration. At the end of the ceremony, a man approached me and introduced himself. He was related, I don’t remember how, to a woman who was one of my student teachers about two years ago. He told me that while she was student teaching, she would discuss all the new things she was learning in my classroom. She was currently teaching, and doing well, and he thanked me. Wow! We don’t always know the impact we have on others, but we do.
The other day, while at a friend’s house, I met a young woman who is going to start teaching this year. I sat and listened to the frustrations she was already experiencing, and offered my advice. Before I left, I gave her my information, and told her to contact me if she needed help. Share your experience, pay it forward, and help mold they type of teachers we want in our classrooms!