In a lot of different fields such as sports, martial arts and business, people have mentors. Mentors are usually older people who have dealt a lot of years with the subject. In general, a mentor is characterized by one very important and very specific thing – experience!
When it comes to teaching, we also have mentors, and the role of these mentors is to help new teachers get their feet on the ground and have guidance from someone who has been there.
I was assigned a mentor during my first year of teaching and it was a very helpful experience. She observed my classes from time to time and was always available when I had any questions.
The role of the mentor, in modern schools, can be played not essentially by a veteran teacher, but by a more experienced teacher at the school as well, while anyone with some experience can be a useful source of advice and information. During your first year, pay attention to whatever a colleague teacher has to share with you!
I want to share with you 4 reasons for working with a mentor.
Every beginning teacher has foundational knowledge. So, once we graduate from college, we have conquered a decent level of expertise both on teaching and both on the specific subject we will teach. But what isn’t taught in the university are the many nuances we should follow when teaching.
Now, one would suggest that both the university and educational field labs give us a lot of teaching insights. And I agree with that. However, we don’t know the specific methods that are especially adapted to our character and to our class’s character. I hope that makes sense.
For example, you have a class weak in language, but excels in math. Well, consider this, would it be appropriate for this particular class that the teacher would explain both grammar and syntax by using mathematical expressions? Well, I wouldn’t exclude the possibility of it. The methodology such as previously described would come with years of experience and some very creative thinking.
So, a mentor, with his/her own experience is able to give the new teacher those types of resources and tips. The new teacher will be given tips and strategies just the first few months, while someone needed years of experience to evolve them.
…And this brings me to my second reason:
As we said, we all share the same knowledge when we start teaching. However, the second issue that arises here is how to apply this knowledge in the classroom.
For instance, we learn about children psychology, in terms of how children deal with anxiety when it comes to let’s say testing. Yet, the mentor will show you that while some children do in fact have anxiety over testing, there are some children who pretend that they are anxious just to get more lenient treatment.
This was a simple example. But there is a lot of information that is easier taught than applied and some 1 on 1 mentoring on this, is needed.
…and don’t forget that not all the necessary information about teaching is taught. A mentor is able to have his/her own external resources or to have made his own research and throughout it he has learned his own tactics that are probably not so widespread.
So, let’s leads to my 3rd reason:
It is a fact that the first year of teaching is more difficult than the first school year for students. Teachers have under the responsibility for a class of 20 or more students and for the first time this is something that needs some real-world support.
Mentors usually, apart from psychological support, provide practical support for the new adaptation, which is a truly important period, and at the same time, a really challenging one.
For this part, teaching mentors usually give insights on the way to handle kids and their unexpected questions!
The mentoring program can play a significant role in shaping the values, beliefs, and teaching skills of a new teacher just beginning their career. It can have a huge influence on their behavior and the choices they can make later in their career.
Introducing my 4th point, query resolution is for sure one of the most important ways a mentor can help the new teacher.
The most common thing people do when they are exposed to something new is ask questions. Either to find out how things work or to simply understand what to do.
This applies to a great extent in teaching. Any teacher has his own perspective and any class of kids on this planet is different from every other, so there would never be a standard formula to treat all students. You always need to know how to deal particularly with each specific class.
So that comes down to the fact that you need to ask things.
The role of a mentor could be even just to answer questions. Some veteran teachers are sent just for observers during the class with a role of resolving queries.
The thing with the mentor is that the answers you will get are the most valid you could possibly ever get. In case you get mentoring from a veteran teacher with years of experience, he probably has experienced just about every single problem or issue you are now facing.
So, consider how powerful it would be, instead of trying to struggle in isolation with a situation you are having, a colleague always on your side is critical for advice.
…And here is where I want to make a final point referring to the equally beneficial side for mentors, as well.
I would like to put it the way as one internet source has put it: “The benefits of mentoring aren’t limited to the apprentice. As college students, new teachers are exposed to the most recently developed methods in education. It’s an opportunity for veteran teachers to learn innovative practices and observe them being taught. The exposure to new ideas often breeds renewed enthusiasm in veteran teachers.”