Flipping the Teacher Mentoring Experience

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Each year that I mentor either a student teacher/intern or a new to the profession teacher, I always reflect on how I could make the experience better for both of us.  Mentoring takes time and intentional planning to make it more than a required activity.  There have been times that I felt I did a really good job with my interns and student teachers, but I haven’t felt as satisfied with new teachers.  I often blamed a lack of building or district focus on what mentoring should entail, but in the end, that was just an excuse to make me feel better about how the experience went. This year my district made great strides in how they approached the mentoring experience.  Even better, at the end of the year they gathered a group of mentors and mentees to evaluate and tweak the program.  Love that reflective nature!

Yet, this is not enough for me.  In order to change the situation, I need to first change how I’m going to approach mentoring this year.  And yes, I’ve got a plan.

I’m going to flip the mentoring experience.  This will not replace our face to face meetings. After all, these meetings are where you build relationships and get a true gauge for how your mentee is doing.  What I’m talking about are the things that you’d like them to reflect upon, or look into prior to meeting.  With my students we call this coming to a discussion prepared.  So, this summer I will be planning my list of topics to flip.  I’ll also be asking my mentee to also think upon what needs she has.  While I know our new teachers are quite capable of finding information on their own, this is one way in which I can lessen the work load that first year.  If I already have information on a topic, then I’m happy to share.  Or, maybe my mentee is interested in something I haven’t yet heard about and now we get to learn about something new together.  Definitely a win-win.

I plan to use my blog as the medium for delivering the flipped mentoring experience.  It will include topic information, links to books and videos, and I am thinking of including a video in which I can either talk directly to my mentee (adding that personal touch), or walk her through the websites that I share.  I’m sure that as I go, I will tweak the format as I learn from my mistakes and get feedback from my mentee.

So as I look to planning my Mentoring in Minutes (Yep, that’s what I will call my blog posts) posts, I will consult the district suggested list as well as topics I feel would benefit my mentee.  Below is my list so far.  What would you add?

Mentoring in Minutes Topics

  • Parent Information Night
  • Communicating with Families
  • Using an Online Planbook
  • Creating a Sub Tub
  • Websites to Help With Differentiation
  • Google Drive/Classroom
  • Favorite Professional Books
  • Connect with Twitter/Growing Your PLN
  • Guided Math
  • Number Talks
  • Calendar Math
  • Guided Reading
  • Writer’s Workshop
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Classroom Management
  • Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest
  • Technology
  • EdCamps

Are You a Marvelous or Mediocre Mentor?

Well, the answer to that question is simple.  It depends on the day.  This year I have the unique situation of mentoring a student teacher from August until October.  Then, I mentor a teacher intern full time January through late April/early May.  There are days where I feel that I am doing a marvelous job of mentoring my student teacher. However, there are days I feel mediocre.  It’s these days that if I feel so guilty.  I’m still trying to teach until she takes over full time, balance all of the extra demands we teachers have to meet, and then balance my family life with the demands of teaching and mentoring.  I’m not content on being mediocre and quite frankly, my student teacher and intern deserve marvelous.

So, after looking at resources I’ve used in the past, ones I’ve come across on the internet, and those shared by my PLN on Twitter, I’m going to share a few of the more Marvelous ones.

The Spiral Notebook-One of our teachers last year began using a spiral notebook with her teacher intern.  In the notebook she would leave her observations and questions.  The intern would then be able to read it and record her own observations and/or questions.  This then became a place in which to start a conversation about the teaching and have  a record of progress and learning.  Had I remembered this earlier, I could have gone from mediocre to marvelous.  However, I plan to start this tomorrow.  It’s never to late to be marvelous.

Another great resource, 10 Tips for Mentoring a Student Teacher, is from Teach 4 the Heart. One of the best ones, and one that seems obvious, is to explain everything you do.  This can actually be quite challenging because it’s all second nature to you.  I often will pull my student teacher or intern aside and while the students don’t need me, explain why I just did what I did.  My student teachers and interns have expressed that this is extremely helpful.

This Teaching Channel post came to me from my Twitter colleague, Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom).  While it is titled “The A-B-C’s of Giving Feedback to a Colleague” is directed toward a teaching colleague, we need to remember that our student teachers/interns are our colleagues.  The author, Ashley Hurley, does a marvelous job of providing specific examples of giving targeted feedback.  I will be using these on Monday to go from mediocre to Marvelous.

At TeachingShop.com Richard E. Lange and Brian P. Roach wrote a blog post on what the university supervisor, cooperating teacher, and student teacher should be doing in order to create a successful student teaching experience.  My favorite take-away from this post is helping your student teacher/intern manage their time.  Last week I observed my student teacher mange her time during guided math groups.  She had expressed that this was an area that concerned her.  I was able to track her time on each portion of the lesson and offer both praise and suggestions.

Not only time management, but organization can be also be challenging, especially when it’s not their own classroom.  I create a binder for my student teacher.  I provide the schedule, planning sheets, websites and codes, planning resources, standards, and district pacing guides.  In addition, I create a list of expected duties.  I break it into before school, during planning period, and after school responsibilities.  This lets my student teacher/intern know exactly what is expected.  We also work on a timeline of how they will assume teaching the various subjects.   I add to the binder as I find more resources that would be helpful.

My favorite planning resource to use to keep my student teacher and I on the same page is Planbook.com. It’s an online planbook that is simply Marvelous.  My student teacher and I each have access to it.  This allows me to see her plans and comment.  I can even create the planning template that I want her to follow.  This way my expectations are readily available.  What’s even better is that we are able to attach supplemental resources.  She can see what I use and I can see what she is planning to use.  Oh, and did I mention there’s an app for this?

Whether you’re already a Marvelous Mentor or sometimes mediocre, I hope you’ve found a resource here that will help you mentor our future teachers.

Be fearful of mediocrity.–Jonathan Ellery