Being a Coach or Mentor

Sep 2, 2019

"I think it has been 15 years.  Wait, no...16."  Last night, a friend and I were trying to think through how many years we have been teaching and in what positions.  I'm a veteran teacher. The years have slipped by quickly (and slowly, at times).  But in this time, I have been a mentor for quite a few teachers.  And it is one of my favorite parts about the job.

Reflecting back...I didn't have a mentor my first couple years of teaching.  Crying, a desire to quit, and loneliness were daily feelings.  I didn't have a mentor.   So I take the position seriously and work hard to ensure that the new teacher does not feel alone because teaching is hard and we need goo teachers to stick around.

In July, Scholastic published the second edition of "The Coaching Partnership: Collaboration for Systemic Change" by Rosemary Taylor and Carol Chanter.  Although, I have had training (years ago) on being a mentor, it is like any other aspect of teaching.  We should be working to grow stronger at the task.  If I am going to be a supportive mentor, I need to work at it.  Professional development makes a difference.  So I read this book.

This book is broken into three parts: learning partners, learning processes, and learning breakthroughs.  The authors share practical applications, examples from the schools, and questions for self reflection.  But I really want to jump in and share some of my favorite parts with you.

Chapter 3 is about "Embracing Generative Thinking."  The authors really dig into the beliefs we have our thinking, the culture of learning within our schools, and the structures we provide for reflection.  This is something I think about a lot (probably too much).  What is the culture within my own school?  Do we encourage others (adults and children) to try out new learning, make mistakes, and then provide time to reflect and change?  This is the type of environment I want to be; therefore, part of my role is to promote and encourage generative thinking.

I cannot be any kind of mentor if my mentee does not trust me.  Not new information; however, this quote really struck a cord with me.  "Trust is built on consistent and predictable actions."  What are my repeated behaviors and what do they say about me?  Am I someone that says one thing and does another?  Or am I a person that does what I say I will do?

The authors do give Ideas for Productive Partnerships.  I found some nice little nuggets of information within these sections.  One quote really stuck with me...
To facilitate authentic discussions that build rapport and trust, we suggest replacing the common "Any questions?" with "Jot down your wonders."  The rationale for this suggestion is that having a question may signal a lack of knowledge or expertise.  On the other hand, highly accomplished people think and wonder.  People who make a great impact on the world wonder. p.66
 I love this!  Changing up our words and language can have a large impact on the job we are doing.

If you are a new teacher, this book may help you to work with professionals that are coaching or mentoring you.  It provides ideas on how to work with these individuals in a productive manner.

If you are an experienced teacher that would like to someday be a mentor, this book will provide you with a great starting point.

If you are currently a mentor or coach, this book may provide you with some new ideas, refresh your memory on training you have had, or it may reaffirm what you are currently doing.

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