Thursday, January 15, 2009

I know I signed up to be a mentor to my student teacher, but being a mentor is a lot harder than I thought. At first, I figured that I would let my student teacher kind of figure things out on his own. Give him some freedom to do whatever he wanted with the class. And he did really well with that. But then I started thinking about some things I needed to talk to him about: classroom management, use of the student calendar, effective use of class time, all the things that they don’t really teach you in your education classes in college. And then I realized, how was I going to bring these things up to him? I hadn’t established any sort of protocol about how to do this, and I certainly hadn’t had any training on how to best do this. So, I waited, and waited for him to bring up some frustrations he might have been feeling with teaching and the 9th grade class. Still nothing. I knew that being a teacher has those tough moments when you need to talk to parents or students about things you need them to work on, but I didn’t think too much about it with mentoring. I saw my role maybe more of an encourager rather than mentor. By that I mean I needed to just be supportive rather than pointing out things he needed to address. And then I realized I wasn’t really doing my job if I wasn’t making him the best teacher he could be. If I wasn’t making him think about some of his choices, was I really helping him or would I be hurting him in the long run?

I talked to a few friends about what I was observing and how to best approach the conversation. They really made me think about what would benefit Randon hearing in the long run. How would I like to have this conversation if it were reversed? They really listened and encouraged me to talk to Randon about it. What I am finding that is challenging is that I want Randon to do really well, and I want my students to be successful at the same time. Why can’t I have my cake and eat it too? What is challenging about being a teacher and a mentor is the balancing act. How do you let your student teacher make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and help your students along all at the same time? How do you be an effective mentor? Luckily, I am in a mentorship class with my grad school program right now and so I am learning about all of this. I am learning from each discussion with Randon, each lesson he presents, each question and conversation with my students, and with my grad school class. And I am walking away from this all thinking this is not going to be easy, this is going to be a growing experience for all involved. Randon is challenged with dealing with Kristin and I and all our quirks, advice, and expectations. He is also challenged by his students expecting him to teach them to the best of his ability and so that they can change the world. Kristin and I are challenged with making sure Randon learns, grows, and becomes the best teacher he can be while still making sure our students are doing the same. We are all going to make mistakes, but hopefully we all learn from this process.

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