- Be sure to find someone who is happy and having fun.
First and foremost, be sure to only interact with veteran teachers who really love teaching. There is so much to love about the profession, but there are also a lot of difficulties — teachers don’t earn what they should, for example. As a result, some teachers’ thoughts and feelings about the work aren’t as positive as others.
Pay close attention to this aspect of a potential mentor’s nature and character before you attach yourself too eagerly to them. When you’ve found someone who radiates happiness and joy, when you witness them laughing and enjoying their students and their colleagues, notice that, and know that you might be on the right track.
- Look for someone who loves both the students and the act of teaching and learning.
Teaching is both an art and a science.
Science: learning about the the psychology of how people learn. Good teachers get a kick out of understanding and applying their knowledge in this area. They love seeing students experience those “I get it!” moments, and work hard to create them as often as possible.
Art: using your instincts to connect with people, motivate them, and bring students together as a cohesive and supportive group. Your classroom management skills will likely make or break your experience as a teacher, so you want a mentor who can guide you in this aspect of the job, as well. The best teaching mentors love teaching and learning, and they also love working with young people. Be sure to find a mentor who is highly capable in all aspects of the job.
- Don’t be too concerned with finding a “formal” mentor.
Some schools, and some school districts, offer a formal mentoring program for new teachers. This is a wonderful idea, but don’t worry too much if this option isn’t available to you, or if you don’t bond or connect with the mentor-teacher you’re assigned the way you’d hoped. The truth is that mentoring doesn’t have to be a formal process — you can benefit from the wisdom and guidance of other teachers whether they’re assigned to work with you or not. So, don’t concern yourself with securing a formal mentor. Instead, keep your eyes and ears open for any opportunity to connect with veteran teachers who are willing and able to help you.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
There is no rule that says we each are only entitled to one professional mentor a piece. Actually, having a few different veteran teachers that you can turn to, instead of just one, would be a tremendous benefit to you. You might connect well with someone about classroom management, and another person about working with parents and families, while another mentor might be especially good at helping you organize your classroom and your materials, for example. Also, if you have a few different people you can turn to for help and guidance, you won’t lean on any one person too much or take up too much of their time. Spreading out the support among a few people would probably be best for everyone involved, and you’ll feel less funny asking for help if you’re not coming to any one person too often.
- Use your resources.
Finally, what good is an awesome mentor if you never take advantage of the opportunities they provide? It can be hard to ask for help, but good veteran teachers know that you’re going to need it, and they are willing to spend time with you now and then. So, be sure to use your resources and ask for help as needed. It could be one of the best things you do for yourself, and your students, as a new teacher.
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