While reading a blog by Cristie Watson titled 9 Mistakes New Teachers Make, I was triggered to consider how mentors and instructional coaches approach the start of new relationships with teachers new to working with a coach or mentor.
Number 6 on Watson’s list of 9 is Being Afraid to Ask for Help
“When struggling as a first-year teacher, it’s tempting to hide in your room. However, helpful solutions may be right down the hall. When asking for advice from teammates, mentors, or administrators, be specific and solution oriented. Know that asking for help doesn’t mean you’re a bad teacher. Rather, it’s a sign that you’re being proactive and have a willingness to improve.”
Mentors and coaches should model coach-ability.
It’s important for the beginning teacher to discover that making him or herself vulnerable to input from colleagues is a career-long path to great teaching. It’s critical that the beginning teacher not see the mentor as an evaluator, not see the mentor holding some measuring stick up in front of the teacher saying when you meet these criteria, mentoring will be over. You’ll be accepted into the profession.
Mentors might start by having the beginning teacher coach the mentor. Invite the beginning teacher into the mentor’s classroom to observe and provide feedback. Model for the mentee the way she can request coaching from the mentor.
Coaches can work with mentors to introduce coaching and mentoring as a gift. All teachers deserve coaching vs need coaching. (The Gift of Coaching video) A mentor can invite the instructional coach to conduct a coaching cycle with her while inviting the new teacher to observe the process. Great modeling by the mentor on “how to use a coach” and valuable introduction of the new teacher to the instructional coach.
Number 9 on Watson’s list is Forgetting the Joys of Teaching.
“The difficult realities of teaching hit hard in your first few years. Standardized testing, paperwork, and extracurricular duties can be overwhelming. Learning to focus on the positive experiences can help you power through tough days. Remember why you chose education in the first place. What we do matters, and sometimes remembering that simple fact can make all the difference.”
Coaches and mentors can identify where teachers find motivation to teach. For most teachers, the motivation to teach isn’t found in the standards that students need to meet. Teachers have a passion for something that they want their students to gain from working with them. They have an outcome. They have an attitude. They have a belief system that they want their students to develop.
Mentors can begin by sharing their own personal passions and beliefs about teaching and how they manage to deal with meeting the standards while achieving those additional elements that generate a sense of power, freedom, and fun. These are often found in how they teach, or in the classroom environment they generate. I believe that meeting the standards is in effect the cost of being a teacher. If I generate learning that has students master the standards, I have the opportunity to develop the passion, beliefs, and attitudes that drive me to be a teacher.
The authors of Generative Leadership: Shaping New Futures for Today’s Schools describe a form of leading that is similar to improvisation.
“For skilled leaders, this is not an either-or choice but a both–and option. Leading in this way is sometimes likened to an improvisational dance: The starting point on the dance floor is clear, but how the dance will go and where it will end up depend completely on what the musician plays and how the dancer responds to that music. With true improvisation, neither the musician nor the dancer is in command. Neither has planned his or her actions in advance, and the precise outcome cannot be predicted ahead of time. Musician and dancer co-create the performance in real time, guided by shared knowledge, values, and intention.” (page 7)
Co-create….A great description for coach/coachee and mentor/mentee relationships. I love the idea of explaining to teachers that the coach’s work will come from “reading the moves” of the coachee. Shared beliefs and values and a focus on student learning will guide the process.