Back in August we had a look at some do’s and don’ts that a student teacher must consider when on a practicum placement.
Earlier in that same month, I ran a three part series on how to reduce or avoid teacher stress and burnout.
In the second part of that series, at tip #12, I recommended that experienced teachers should consider a mentor teacher too.
Get a mentor: another great way to talk through issues is by having a trusted mentor. Often we see mentors as only those teachers assigned to look after practicum or beginning teachers. However we need to see the mentor as a colleague that we should all have. By this I don’t mean a shoulder to cry on type friend, but someone who can take a critical but supportive eye and look at what’s working for you and what isn’t. We can get so wrapped up with what we are doing, we often develop blind spots and we may miss vital elements of good workplace management that are causing us stress. Take time to think about a teacher, on or off site, who you respect that might fill this role, and then approach them. This can be a great support to your practice.
And I think this is a necessity for all teachers, and not just for alleviating the stresses of the job.
Having a mentor teacher can reignite your passion for your teaching apostolate. They can make us more accountable and professional in how we approach our profession.
However we need to be serious when we take this step, as the last thing we want to do is waste our own time or that of another, if we are only half serious about improving what we do in the classroom.
So before you take that positive step and team up with a colleague in a teacher-mentor relationship, here are a few things you should ask yourself to make sure you are fully aware of what you are about to embark on…
- Am I prepared to take my teaching practice to a whole new level?
- Am I comfortable in moving out of my comfort zone?
- Am I ready to listen to and act upon positive criticism of my practice?
- Am I prepared to be accountable to my mentor?
- Will I meet regularly over the long term to ensure mentoring success?
That final question foreshadows a few further reflections you should consider in who you should approach to be your mentor…
- What experience do I want my mentor teacher to have?
- Can I professionally trust this teacher to fulfil the role?
- Are our personalities likely to lead to a cordial relationship?
- What professional reasons made me identify this potential mentor?
- Does this mentor share the values that are important to me?
These questions are all critically important for ensuring that any teacher-mentor relationship you embark upon, is more likely to succeed than not.
Depending on your school site, you may find that a suitable mentor isn’t available to fulfil your expectations. In that case, you may have to look off-site for a better partner.
For Catholic teachers, it highly likely that you will want another Catholic to be your mentor, so that they understand the supernatural aspect of your role.
The preliminary stages of your search for a mentor are very important, so make sure you invest a lot of time in this area before you set out on your new partnership.
Ultimately, the effort is rewarded and many teachers find that they are reinvigorated once they link up with a fellow professional in a teacher mentor relationship.
If this is something you are considering, jot down some plans for initiating the process.
Finally, if you have experience in being a mentor or mentee, especially beyond the student-teacher placements, please share your thoughts or reflections in the comments area.