Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Being a Reflective Mentor - Slice of Life 2014


 A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by Two Writing Teachers, Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz. Click on Two Writing Teachers to be taken to their website to learn more about this week's Slice of Life.

Today I actually struggled to find something to write about. I often want to blog about my work as a mentor but I constantly worry about inadvertently breaking confidentiality so I choose not to. The topics that I want to blog about focus on the ways that the teachers I mentor inspire me. I think that I just need to take the leap and do it and blog as if my mentees were my students.

I mentor 13 beginning teachers as half of my work (the other half of my educator world is spent managing my district's Collaboration Grant). It is work that I find rewarding. I spend my days observing beginning teachers - collecting data related to classroom environment and/or instruction; as well as meeting with my teachers one-on-one to reflect on instructional practice. My role during these meetings is to listen and ask questions. My work is about helping beginning teachers to find their teacher-selves; not try to coach them into being mini-Kristin Becker's (Lord knows that one Kristin Becker is enough). I am only in my second year of mentoring and already feel inspired and energized about a future return to the classroom - I have learned as much or more from the teachers that I mentor than they have learned from me. Talk about educator blessing - WOW!

Part of my district's mentoring program includes a series of seminars that our beginning teachers attend that focus on topics unique to supporting beginning teacher development. Each January, a portion of the seminar is spent on reflecting on individual beginning teacher growth thus far. The teachers refer back to their self assessments they completed back in September as well as any data mentors have collected from observations (we have a series of tools that we use). A part of this January's mid-point reflection was to focus on a significant area of growth and then the mentee needed to indentify what he/she did to make that growth happen. The idea was for each mentee to see that he/she did something - that the growth didn't just happen by accident or chance. 

It was powerful to see that the teachers I mentor could see their growth and what they did to make it happen. I feel such pride in their openness to feedback and coaching and that each one could state for certain at least one thing worth celebrating. 

I decided to do the same process for myself. 

I found it difficult. 

One of my professional growth goals as a mentor focuses on questioning. My overarching goal is to be a facilitative mentor - as I stated earlier, mentoring is about helping my teachers to determine their own path. Not get them to follow mine. It's not that I don't have great ideas, but I really want to make my actions be more about coaching and less about "here's how I did it". 

I have found that when teachers share their challenge with me and my response is more of "tell me more about..." that the teacher and I are actually able to get to the heart of the challenge quicker and that the teacher is actually able to determine some next steps independent of me. I've noticed that I have stronger more trusting relationships with the teachers I mentor (half of which are not teachers that I mentored last year) based on the fact that I am more willing to listen and ask questions that get teachers to go deeper. Now, I'm not saying I'm perfect with this. I've actually caught myself saying, "when I taught 4th grade, I...". The teachers I support are gracious and accept that type of instructive feedback; however, in that instance I missed my target of being facilitative.

As I move forward for the remainder of the year, I will say that I have grown on as a mentor; I am cognizant of which role I take on (instructive, collaborative, facilitative) yet I want to continue to refine those effective listening and questioning skills.

I am always learning and growing.

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