First off, I would like to point out that I never had a mentor the first few years of my teaching career beginning in 1986. After decades of teaching, I think I know what I am doing, and hopefully it is the right thing! It would have been very nice to have a mentor in those early years. Teacher preparation programs have realized that it is important to mentor beginning teachers, and to a certain extent, seasoned teachers.
Mentoring adults is very different than teaching children. Papa describes a characteristic of mentoring as “work-related situations rather than theoretical subjects” (2011) I have to say that teaching children has a different characteristic in the realm of K-12 school. Our ultimate goal is to prepare students to be successful and productive citizens in the community. This involves many content areas that are determined to be important basic core knowledge, but it can, and should involve providing a way for students to be problem-solvers, especially in the 21st century.
Looking back at what my first years teaching were, it would have been nice to have a mentor that is a confidant, an observer, and a confidence builder. (Cutler, 2014) Many times I struggled to teach math, science, computer science, and other subjects out of my specialized area of mathematics. I felt isolated, and alone. I tried different things, activities, worksheets, texts, homework assignments, assessments, and not to forget classroom management options! Having a mentor would have helped with the stress, and almost complete burnout in my first few years.
These days there are a wide variety of options to help new teachers in a mentor capacity. Lisa Dabbs created a way to become a “virtual mentor” by utilizing available social media and technology across distances, so mentor and mentee can communicate and collaborate. (2012) Of course the internet was not available in my early years, so that would not have been an option, but if it was available, I would have been able to work with a mentor in the small village I was assigned to that was hundreds of miles away from “civilization”. I was the only math/science teacher in the high school with no one on site to help me. A virtual mentor would have been a life-saver!
Another way mentoring can work in our own district or school that has a large enough staff is to have mentors or coaches assist with integrating technology in our class. (Hertz, 2011) There is always a few staff members on site that are comfortable with using and integrating technology in the class. We should be able to use their expertise to help others that need assistance. If there is no one available, a “virtual mentor” can be found to help. It was interesting to read about what the differences are between a mentor and coach. According to Starcevich, a mentor’s focus is on the individual, while the coach’s focus is on the performance; the role of the mentor is as a facilitator with no agenda, while the coach’s role has a specific agenda; and the arena of a mentor is with life, while the coach’s arena is task-related. (2009) These were just a few of the comparisons described, but it made sense to me what the differences were.
I know I didn’t cover much about teaching children, but I focused on how mentoring is important, and vital to preparing teachers to be effective in the class. Mentoring is allowing teachers to be better teachers. Teaching children is allowing children to be successful and productive citizens of our community.
Cutler, David. (2014). Why New Teachers Need Mentors. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-new-teachers-need-mentors-david-cutler
Dabbs, Lisa. (2012). Collaborative Mentoring for New Teachers. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/collaborative-mentoring-for-new-teachers-lisa-dabbs
Hertz, Mary Beth. (2011). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/mentoring-coaching-tech-integration-mary-beth-hertz
Papa, R. (2011). Technology Leadership for School Improvement. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Starcevich, Matt. (2009). Coach, Mentor: Is there a difference? Center for Coaching and Mentoring. Retrieved from http://www.coachingandmentoring.com/Articles/mentoring.html