Becoming a Mentor Teacher

female pe teacher by hadfieldeducation
female pe teacher, a photo by hadfieldeducation on Flickr.

About a year ago now, I received a quick email on Facebook from a former student. She told me that she was taking an education degree and in a year would be embarking on her first of two major student-teaching assignments. She asked if I would consider being her mentor teacher. My initial reaction was to be flattered and to answer, “of course” to her request. When I pondered more intently on the responsibility I was taking on, I thought, “I’m not a good enough teacher to coach someone in how to be a teacher.” I was nervous, but the truth is, I thought that maybe she would forget about it in a year when the time came.

Fast forward a year later, I received another email forwarded to me by my principal with a more official request from the university facilitator. At that point, I accepted and looked at this as a new opportunity to learn and grow as an educator while helping a former student who I was very fond of, decide if this was going to be the career for her.

The duration of the experience is to be 5 weeks, of which we are already done with 2 of them. Miss Seehagel came for three “observation” days before she started so that she could get acquainted with school and class routines as well as start to get to know the students a bit. We used those days to discuss a few tings about educational philosophies and some of the challenges she would see in my classes specifically, and in the profession in general. It was easy to communicate with her and I could tell that we would be a great fit for each other.

For the first week of her IPT, Miss Seehagel did some more observation and got involved in my classes each day. Starting last week, she took over the three PE classes that I have and developed a fitness circuit for the students to do in the fitness room.

So far, I have found it rewarding and enjoyable. It reminds me of parenting in a lot of ways. At times it is hard to know when to step in and help and when to let her handle things herself (sometimes this means letting her fail). Truthfully, there are times when I don’t even know if I can help. When students are acting up, or pushing the limits, sometimes that is just because there is someone else in the class and they do not have a relationship built with them. She needs to handle that herself so that she is able to build that relationship.

The area that we have discussed the most, is not surprisingly, classroom management and dealing with less than ideal behaviours from some students. Again, since we already know each other and are effective communicators, these discussions have been easy. Advice I have given her so far:

1. Be firm when you ask students to change a behaviour. Don’t yell, but let them know you are serious.

2. The more you get to know them, talk to them and build a relationship with them, the easier classroom management will be.

3. Be proactive in your planning. Try to see the future – what roadblocks do you foresee and what can you do to eliminate them? You’ll never eliminate all roadblocks, but try to have a plan b and plan c, just in case.

Every suggestion I have given or discussion we have had, has led to a slight change in how she teaches the next lesson and even over just 4 days of teaching, I can see her confidence growing in the way she talks and handles the students. To be honest, my confidence in my ability to mentor her has also increased.

Together, we presented a half hour active team building session to our staff at our PD day on Friday. This was another area where Miss Seehagel thrived. This could have been quite intimidating for her but she showed no signs of trepidation and session was funny, active and enjoyed by all. I couldn’t have been more proud!

This week will be a bit different as she will be taking on the start of our basketball unit. The open gym and the noise of the balls and distractions will pose some new challenges. I am looking forward to seeing how she handles them.

I would love to hear about other educators experiences with student teachers. Any advice that you have for me as a mentor, or for her as a new teacher would also be welcome.

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