Reflective Teaching Day 6: A Good Mentor

I’m up bright and early on a Saturday to get to today’s prompt!

Explain: What does a good mentor “do”?

In my state, mentors are required to do a lot of things. Most of them silly and rather pointless for any teacher who went through four years of training in college. Especially if your mentor doesn’t teach the same subject as you. Since I am the only world language teacher at my school, our Lead Mentor did her best, and put me with an English-Language Arts teacher. However, outside of the realm of what Ohio requires of mentors and “Resident Educators”, my mentor was just about as excellent as she could be while not teaching the same subject as me.

So what actually makes a good mentor? How about a list:

  1. Showing the new teacher around, both the school and the townMy school is 3 hours away from where I grew up, so obviously I new nothing about this place when I moved here. But my excellent mentor put me in her car during our planning period one day and drove me around town, showing me where things were, especially places that I might need to interact with as a teacher. She also introduced me to practically everyone at the school. When I had a question about “Who do I talk to about getting X” she told me…and the first year, she usually called that person for me to find the answer.
  2. Paperwork! Requisitions, field trip forms, even using our online system to request a day off or call in sick. Without my mentor, I would have had no idea, and that was just the first year. The second year, I took on a class officer position, so I had to learn about building use forms, fund raiser request forms, fund raiser profit reporting forms, and all those other awesome things. Thankfully I had a wonderful mentor who happily led me through the maze of paperwork required of teachers.
  3. Sympathy, advice. If this isn’t the most important, then I don’t know what is. I tend to be a pretty quiet person outside of the classroom. Usually, I don’t like to bother people with my problems. But the mentor/mentee relationship automatically lends itself to that a little bit. She would check in on me and see how I was doing, but we quickly became (actual) friends too, so I was comfortable venting, complaining, and questioning, as well as sharing my struggles, my successes, and my concerns. Although she’s no longer my “mentor” I still frequently bounce ideas off of her and go to her for advice. She may not teach Spanish, but she did take French for something like 8 years, so I figure between her experience as a teacher and a language student, she can give me some pretty good advice. 
  4. All that silly stuff. Of course, what kind of mentor would a person be if they didn’t make sure all that silly paperwork required by the state got done. We worked hard on all that silly paperwork, but ultimately it was better than those groups who put everything off until the last minute and then had to BS all the answers (although, according to them, that worked pretty well).

So the question of what makes a good mentor is a pretty easy one for me, since I had an excellent experience with my mentor just a few years ago. In a few years, I’ll be eligible to serve as a mentor to a new teacher, and hopefully I’ll be as warm, welcoming, and helpful as my mentor was. 

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