Everyone with a career needs a mentor. As I make holiday gratitude lists and contemplate my areas for growth on the heels of the New Year, I am thinking a lot about mentorship because I know that has been a major key to my success. No one makes good decisions in a vacuum. It’s important to surround yourself with people who have achieved what you hope to or who are setting similar goals. They might think like you or have a completely different approach. They might be personal friends or people you admire from afar. Whatever the case, a set of guiding stars can provide clarity and confidence. This article outlines 8 things good teacher mentors do.
I really enjoy bonding with previous generations of teachers. The ones who started when computers were bulky, when the internet wasn’t a thing, when craft was king, and being able to define one’s personal pedagogy really mattered. I have been lucky to teach with many talented people from this generation. Some have retired and some are still at it, providing critical leadership at a time when so much about school is up for debate. I find their perspective incredibly helpful and listening closely to their insights has prevented many novice mistakes.
I am also lucky to be teaching with an incredible team of teachers who have become peer mentors. We complement each other wonderfully because we all have different strengths, but the common thread is that everyone brings their “A game” everyday. We listen without judgement. We don’t fixate on problems, we solve them. We collaborate without competition. We share without threatening one another. We teach with no ego.
Sometimes mentors show up unexpectedly. We recently invited a dynamic speaker to visit our grade as a DC hunger expert. She previously led a cluster of charter schools and now is a food justice advocate. I am fascinated by her energy, her focus, and her ideas, and I am plotting how I might become her friend and partner with her on a project or two.
I recently came across this blogpost from my good friend and long time mentor, Monica Edinger. We began working together over a decade ago at The Dalton School. To this day she remains a steadfast champion and a critical source of advice and ideas. I deeply admire the way she has never become complacent with her practice. She stays true to her core principles, but tries something fresh and new and innovative every year. To have someone like that believe in you when you are just starting out gives you the confidence to press forward, to take risks, and to trust that the journey to becoming a master educator could be the funnest and most rewarding ride yet. I look forward to having the opportunity to provide that to someone else.