Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Week Zero: Realizing I Might Actually Know Stuff

It's Week Zero. School Year Eve. The last few days of summer before I get to go back into the classroom and spend the next nine months convincing teenagers that math is freaking awesome.

I'm a teacher mentor this year, which still seems crazy to me because I'm only four years into this profession myself. On Monday, I went to an all-day mentor training session to learn about my role and responsibility as a mentor. A lot of the information was about what I had expected: the mentor wears many different hats, has to build a relationship of trust with the mentee, can learn just as much about teaching from the mentee as the mentee does from them, etc. and so on. We talked about how to have positive conversations with our mentees, how to listen and to provide feedback, and best mentoring practices in general.

We also got toys and candy, which was super cool:

One thing that struck me from the mentor training was what distinguishes a good mentor from a not-so-good mentor: the desire to keep getting better as a teacher. Good mentors know that they still have things to learn about teaching, and no matter what the difference in experience is, they can learn a lot from their mentees. (I'm pretty convinced that I'm going to learn more from my mentee than my mentee is going to learn from me.)

I was reminded of this the next day (Tuesday) when I attended the first-day morning session of new teacher orientation. I sat with my mentee throughout the morning as we introduced ourselves and learned various things about the teacher-mentor program. We had time to talk about the upcoming school year and I was able to answer some questions about curriculum and how we do things at our school.

The experience made me think back to my first Week Zero in our district, when I went through new teacher orientation. I remember feeling excited and nervous about my first year of teaching. I also remember thinking that I was probably going to make a lot of mistakes, I was going to have to learn from them, and there was so so much about teaching that I didn't know yet.

I had the same excited, nervous feeling this week. I still feel like there is so so much about teaching that I don't know. But, in the act of answering my mentee's questions, I was struck by another thought: I actually, maybe, perhaps, do know stuff about teaching now. I had never really thought about it until someone else was asking me. When I was answering my mentee's questions, I really had a lot to say. I had a place of experience to speak from. Holy crap, I have experience. And it might even be useful to someone else.

That might be my important realization from this week: There are many things about teaching I still don't fully know. But I'm also starting to understand how much I do know about teaching. Maybe I'll actually be a decent mentor.

Anyway, back to work! Students come back next week!

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