This Big Thing!

“I told my class if they weren’t quiet at lunchtime, there would be consequences.  Now I can’t think of a suitable consequence!” the new teacher told her mentor.  Then the two teachers discussed consequences and management of the classroom.

Our school implemented a mentoring program where we pair new teachers with experienced mentor teachers.  These pairs meet weekly to go over questions, school procedures, classroom management, and other areas of need or interest.  They observe each other teaching, the mentee observes other teachers, and they debrief after the observations.  There is a time of orientation in the summer for these new teachers to become acquainted with the school and its policies, and the mentors begin their mentoring work at that time.  The mentors help acclimate the new teachers to the school, telling them of those little things like the customs of the school, how to lead a class to recess, and where to go for information or questions.  There are many areas in which the mentor guides the mentee: planning a schedule, dismissal procedures, seating arrangements, writing objectives, lesson plans, and classroom management.

We hold some workshop-type events to assist new teachers with their work. The curriculum coordinator gives a presentation on the Standards Aligned System of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, showing how to set up an account, access the standards, and find resources and assessments.  The curriculum coordinator meets with each new teacher at the end of the first quarter to check in on curricula, the curriculum guide/scope and sequence, and resources for the class.  We look at the curriculum guide, and ask the new teachers, “Are there any questions?  Are you able to follow the guide?  Do you see how the curriculum is aligned to state standards?  Are there any ways we can support you?”  The curriculum coordinator checks in periodically through the year to help new teachers to follow the school’s plan for classes and the alignment of the curriculum to standards. (Find our Teacher Induction Plan here.)

The mentor is a safe person for the mentee to ask questions, give feedback, share concerns and challenges, and ask for advice.  The mentor can be a confidante and lead the mentee through many new situations in school.  I think of Jethro giving Moses advice, and telling him, “This thing you’re doing is too big for you!” and guiding Moses in dividing his task.

I think back to my first year of teaching when we did not have a formal mentoring program.  We all worked together and several of my colleagues were valuable mentors to me.  I had just moved 600 miles to a new area where I didn’t really know anyone, to teach in a new community at a grade level that I had not worked with much.  The first day of school was a half-day and I assumed I would go home for lunch.  It was one of those times that returning teachers just knew about and no one thought to tell me: the teachers would have lunch together at school and join in a faculty meeting in the afternoon.  I had no lunch, but several teachers shared with me.  The principal helped me create a schedule and find the textbooks I needed.  One teacher showed me around the school.  Another teacher took me around the community and helped me find a bank, the borough office, and a grocery store.  Everyone was helpful and gave advice and helped me settle in to my new area and position.  In looking back, I realize that there were many things I needed help with, but didn’t even know what to ask for.  People were very supportive and I remember fondly many of those teachers who supported me, and still keep in touch with several of them.

In a sense, all experienced teachers are mentors to the new teachers, as we all try to look out for each other and are willing to answer questions and share from our experiences.  We all need the support and encouragement of our fellow-teachers as we navigate the school year and teach and disciple our students.  This thing is too big to do on our own!

Download the Teacher Induction Plan from Ephrata Mennonite School below:

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