Mentoring is truly an undertaking, which requires the mentor to prepare diligently for all scenarios through what some might say qualitative, quantitative, and a mixed-methods approaches. A mentor must become a person to whom the mentee feels enough trust and confidence to share not only the highlights and what is on the surface, but to also share those items, which are not always visible. Mentors must strike a balance between mentoring and real world experiences. However, this can be a burdensome role, not only are you trying to handle your own professional and personal loads, you are also juggling one of a mentee, someone you may have just met. Having empathy or developing empathy may appear as a difficult task for some individuals and they may not feel comfortable in taking on such a strenuous part in the relationship. What should a mentor do when such an occurrence begins to form? One approach may be to establish new boundaries with the mentee; establish a clear division in roles. Explain to the mentee you value his or her confidence in you but in order to help him or her become more productive in the classroom, the focus will have to return to the classroom and the activities, which will make him or her more successful in this area. One caveat is this is done with a blending of gentleness and ease. Mentees may be at a fragile state in their careers and your response to their challenges may not produce the desired results you seek.
As mentioned before handling the mentee with care but assertiveness, is not an easy task. The mentee’s perception of the situation must be articulated about how to improve, fully integrate, or harmonize the mentee’s current situation. The mentee may take this as rejection of him or her personally and may begin to withdraw and feel not only is he or she is not suited for the classroom. but not equipped to handle even a professional relationship. Nevertheless, the mentor can reassure the mentee by adding, as many tools to his or her toolbox will better prepare him or her for the classroom and the challenges that are currently being faced. Adding more tools can range from visiting other teacher’s classrooms to see what they are doing or talking to your department chair or even seeking out different sources on the Internet. They are a myriad of websites devoted strictly to teachers and their professional development. Also, by focusing on the positive attributes, the mentee has already incorporated into his or her classroom will also aid in bringing the concentration back to the classroom. The mentor can then begin to focus on the lessons that have gone well, the times in the classroom when the students were on tasks, and learning was truly seen and applied.
Mentoring is a rewarding but challenging field. In every situation, the mentor wants to develop the trust of the mentee so areas, which have been difficult in the past, are discussed with openness and honesty, allowing for a productive dialogue to take place. Keeping an empathetic ear open is crucial to helping the mentee but must also be kept in an environment, which is beneficial for both the mentor and mentee and its effectiveness seen in how the mentee is now handling his or her classroom. Establishing a relationship that builds on successes, consistent and positive feedback, open communication, and making available resources to the mentee will allow the bridge of trust to scaffold into a long-lasting relationship even when the mentor and mentee relationship has officially ended. I look forward to becoming a mentor and sharing many of the rewards and challenges I have faced as a new teacher. I took a non-conventional route to become an educator. My first degree is in human services and I thought I wanted to become a social worker, however, my life took a different turn and I said teaching is where I belonged. I took my first courses, met with other people who were new the teaching profession, and also sought out a mentor to help me become an efficient classroom teacher. Was it an easy undertaking, I am here to tell you it was not. I know what first year teachers are facing from being over-whelmed to feeling less confident to asking myself is this the ‘right’ place for me. However, as time went on and I began to hone in on my skills my confidence began to build, my anxiety levels began to lower and I reassured myself that the classroom was the best choice that I have ever made. I look forward to sharing this information with other teachers, especially, those who have changed careers and teaching is their second profession.
Things that I do see happening, as a mentor will probably run the gambit; each person is unique and their experiences will be just as unique as well. I see my experiences ranging from teachers who may need just a little guidance to teachers who may need extra support from beginning to end. I see mentees who are trying to find their way to mentees who have a grasped on the curriculum but need additional resources to help them prepare and teach the lesson just a little bit better. I also see myself as a learner. As always there are individuals with so much more knowledge than I have and are willing to share it. I look forward to bringing new techniques into my own classroom; new pedagogical approaches, sharing these techniques with other teachers, and honing on skills that I didn’t know I had. I also see having the difficult conversations, motivating the mentee, and keeping the mentor/mentee relationship focused on developing the skills that will help him or her becoming a better educator in the classroom and community.
I also see being a mentor as a means of being able to give back to my profession just as someone took the time with me; I am now taking that same time with someone else. Paying it forward in the hopes the torch is passed on to others and then passed on again. Teaching is a vital component of our society not only is it a segue way for students to move from children to young adulthood; it is also an opportunity for others and myself to make a difference in the lives of many. Mentors have faced some of the hardships seen by first year teachers such as anticipation, survival, disillusionment, and hopefully rejuvenation. Mentors will also have the ability to reflect, share and develop better ways to enhance the teaching practice. The mentor profession sees as more mentors take on the task as of becoming a mentor, mentees will have a phalanx pool of knowledgeable participants that are willing to share with them the best educational practices out there. Also, I see the mentor profession grooming current mentees to become mentors, leaders at their school, and leaders in the community. I see the mentor program not only as a steppingstone but also a pathway to becoming the best educator one can possibly become. Through mentorship programs, mentors and mentees have a chance to develop the skills needed to maintain a lasting relationship and pass that experience on to others who are considering or currently in the profession.