Often when we think about teacher mentors, we visualize older teachers with decades of classroom knowledge. I know I always associated a mentor to someone who “knows it all,” and has have had years of experience. What I’m realizing after putting more thought into it, however, is that when we limit relationships in this way, we’re missing out on the opportunities in front of us. In my case, mentorship has been the most powerful when it revolves around technology, as that’s what I’m trying to integrate into my room but need help to do so. If I were to choose a mentor that was older, chances are he/she wouldn’t have experience with technology, as this is relatively new in the world of education. Choosing several role models to work closely with is a way to work in various capacities within education. As a result, I have numerous perspectives and opportunities; this makes for a well-rounded network!
Included in this amazing array of strong teachers is an older, more experienced teacher named Syd, and a younger, tech-savvy teacher named Ashley. Our career paths have been similar and yet, vastly different. At one point we all taught fifth grade, and now teach 3rd, 4th, 5th. The connection we share is beneficial since we can see and analyze the development of kids over a three-year-period.
A distinguished educator of twenty years, Syd has learned to use her networking resources wisely. Syd is an exceptional teacher, but more than just that she also runs professional development through the summer. Just recently, Syd and I sat down to talk about the demands of teaching. The one question that I wanted to share with you is: What do you do to re-energize your teaching practices, even when the paperwork and demands of teaching get piled upon us?
Syd’s response was simple. She said that the easiest way to re-energize herself is to take a walk and visit other classrooms. She stressed the importance of connection. Syd believes that once the staff feels connected and supported, then the kids feel the cohesive spirit and get more grounded in their own education. She says that the style of learning needs to be seen as collaborative, inviting, and invested. Syd said that not only does she love to take bits and pieces from each teacher and make it “her own,” but she also feels motivated to lean on others for help and that knowing her colleagues strengths allows her to reach out to the appropriate people when needed.
When I asked Ashley the same question about motivation she said that tech conferences is the number one way for her to get re-energized. Ashley became a “tech tutor” for our building, because she was so excited to come back and share new tools with the staff. Personally, for me, just being around Ashley is energizing. She is willing to make time to come into my classroom and help me use a new tech tool, simply because she practices what she preaches. When I see her success in the classroom, it makes me want to follow in her footsteps. Ashley’s way of being is positive and encouraging. Ashley also said, “the other motivator for me is time away from the classroom. Whether it be summer vacation, spring break, or just weekends; spending time away from the kids makes me reflect on my strengths/weaknesses. Having some time to soak up what’s happening in my classroom allows me to deepen my practice and my personal reflections. Every summer I find myself diving into a good book, and I do it because I want to and not because I have to. This motivates me to go back to the student’s with new ideas to try on.”
Taking a few minutes this week to sit down and talk with my mentors about what motivates THEM allowed me to see that there is just so much wealth and knowledge in front of us. It is a shame for those who sit back and keep to themselves, as the power is found in connection. As one of articles for this course states, “the room’s IQ is greater than any one person’s in it.” Anytime I get to grow intellectually creates an energy within me to keep evolving as a teacher. Plainly put, my single networth is highly connecting to my network. I am blessed to work with a great network of teachers, who I will continue to collaborate and connect with.