While teaching is an extremely rewarding profession, it can also be difficult, especially for a new teacher. That’s why the New Jersey Department of Education seeks to ensure more support for new teachers, including requiring all teachers who hold a CEAS or a CE and are registered in the Provisional Teacher Program to be mentored in accordance with state regulations for a minimum of thirty weeks.
How do you make the most of your mentor? With busy teacher schedules, it can be daunting to ask more of your mentor. But remember, they signed up to be a mentor, so do not miss the opportunity to receive their valuable support.
Be clear on your expectations
Not all new teachers are the same. While there are some general areas that new teachers need assistance with, take some time to reflect on your own experiences, what skills you are bringing with you to the classroom, and what you hope to gain from the mentee-mentor relationship. Once you’ve done this, share your reflections with your mentor and invite them to add their own ideas for the mentoring relationship. Your mentor is there to help you, so remain open to the feedback they have on areas they suggest you need to grow in.
It may be easier to put the burden of responsibility on you mentor to grow the relationship, but you can, and should play an active role in managing the mentorship. Note that you get what you put into the relationship, so if you wait for your mentor to contact you or bring up conversation topics, you are not going to get the maximum benefit from the opportunity. Come prepared to scheduled meetups with planned questions, targeted areas for support, and specific requests for feedback.
Use the New Jersey Professional Standards for Teachers
If you’re not sure what topics your mentoring sessions should address, you can use the state teaching standards to guide you. For example, you can ask for ideas on different assessment strategies or advice on how to accommodate the special learning needs of all your students.
Remember –your mentor is a teacher too
While it may be tempting to turn to your mentor every time you have a question, remember that they have their own classrooms and students they are responsible for. Do your best to keep your questions organized, maybe creating a list of small questions to ask at an upcoming meeting and saving outside communication for big things. As a fellow teacher, there may be areas where you can assist your mentor, so be conscious of their needs and make sure to check-in on how they are doing. Lastly, retention can be an issue in the profession. Make note to ask your mentor what keeps them motivated and what suggestions they have for avoiding burnout.
What has been your experience with mentoring? Comment below a takeaway from a professional mentor you've had.