For first-year teachers, the first day of school is what you’ve spent the past four years (or time in an alternative certification program) preparing for. Every veteran teacher will tell you that there’s nothing you can do to truly prepare for your first year of teaching. They don’t say that to scare you—there are plenty of wonderful experiences ahead that no one can predict. Experienced teachers say it simply as a reminder that you’re not alone.
During your first year in the classroom, a mentor can be a lifeline. But, in the relationship, you have responsibility as a mentee as well; there are definite ways of making it flourish and as beneficial as possible.
As with any other relationship, honesty is the quickest way to growth. Even the simplest interactions with your mentor deserve an honest response. If you run into your mentor in the hall and he or she asks how things are going, answering, “Fine,” when everything really isn’t won’t get you anywhere. Many people default to this answer when they don’t have time to divulge specifics. Instead, share an honest answer, and schedule time with your mentor to get into detail later.
Take this commitment seriously
The commitment required for a successful mentor-mentee relationship works both ways. Yes, you’ll have instances when you’re overwhelmed and would rather go home than meet with your mentor. He or she would probably like to go home too. But, you’ve committed to each other. Make your meetings a priority, and follow through on things you say you’ll do. The benefits will come in time.
Observe and be observed
Many first-year teachers are too embarrassed to spend any more time being observed than they are required to. Trust me, everyone who observes you knows you’re a first-year teacher and is aware of what to expect. The best way for your mentor to give you meaningful advice is to see you in action. And, if any veteran teachers give you the opportunity to observe one of their lessons, take them up on it. You’ll see that there are many different ways to motivate students to learn.
Recognize if it isn’t working
Just because you are trying your best to be a good mentee doesn’t mean that your mentor is the right fit for you. Maybe he or is blowing off meetings or has a teaching style that simply doesn’t mesh with yours. If the relationship isn’t working (and those things do happen), tell an administrator. You deserve someone who will help you grow, and it’s more than likely that everyone involved will be supportive.
Are you a veteran teacher on the other side of a mentoring relationship? Or would you like to view another perspective? Check out our earlier blog post for 4 Tips to Be a Better Mentor!