Monday, June 9, 2014

Thrive Week 2: Turn to Mentors

Meenoo Rami shared some great thoughts about mentors in this chapter. Have you found mentors to be important in your career? How have you found your mentors? Have you been someone else's mentor? If so, how has that affected your teaching?

Next week we'll read and think about networks. Read chapter 2 and we'll start discussing next Monday.

135 comments:

  1. I have served as both a formal and informal mentor in my corporation for the last two years. The formal structure required documenting meetings, etc. The informal situation was a natural meeting of minds when a new teacher moved into the room beside me. I think I've almost improved my teaching strategies by being a mentor more than from having a mentor:

    1. Being a mentor keeps me accountable; I can't offer suggestions without having tried/tested them first. I can't keep the freshest and newest strategies to offer to my friend if I am not implementing them myself.

    2. Being a mentor forces me to evaluate what I am doing over and over again; Shakespeare's works may never change but the students do, and I can't offer up-to-date information to my friend if I am still using the same strategies that worked 15 years ago.

    3. Being a mentor always works best if every item we discuss becomes a give and take. I may offer a suggestion or tell my friend how I handle something, but then I always try to ask if she has suggestions for tweaking the process or improving the methods.

    Finally: I always consider the students my best source of suggestions for improvement. At the end of the semester (or year) I have students anonymously send a document to the printer that outlines what they think I need to improve in my teaching. I ask for specific suggestions regarding curriculum, classroom procedures, time spent on various units, policies in the classroom, and my teaching methodologies. I always get a few that suggest nothing more than "No homework!" or "Give everyone an A!" but for the most part the suggestions have merit and always give me something to think about. Each summer I take those suggestions home and use them as I map my new plans for the next school year.

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    1. Your first and 2nd comments are spot on. Informally mentoring others inspires me to remain current and active in my profession. I am constantly seeking new strategies for the sole purpose of helping my students learn by finding ways to get them more engaged in the material.

      As Daniel Ellington says in Why Our Students ts Don't Like School, we remember what we think about. Sounds so simple, but keeping students ts thinking for a 70 minute class is challenging! So I plan for that engagement and constantly ask myself, "are they thinking about this?"

      If the answer us no, I've got to try a new strategy. That's when it's time to collaborate!

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    2. I definitely agree that being a mentor forces you to grow more professionally. I certainly can't ask teachers to try something that I am not willing to do myself. It also causes me to reflect on my practice more because before I can offer suggestions and encourage others to implement new strategies, I have to be accountable for implementing them successfully myself.

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  2. During my four years of teaching, I have had a few mentors. Many were "assigned" mentors, which I felt were the least helpful. The first corporation I worked for was very small and only had three math teachers. Two of us were brand new to the career. Our assigned mentor was a Spanish teacher. While he had some general advice on teaching, he definitely wasn't someone I could approach about content questions. I also had a mentor assigned by my graduate school program. She was extremely experienced and knowledgeable, but she was a bit over committed and did not have a lot of time for day to day questions.

    I have now moved to a new school where, (just like in the book) I am able to work under my high school math teacher. He is a great teacher and someone I can always trust with questions about teaching, content, the school, or why won't the printer work. I am much happier in this larger school where there are many people to work with and reach out to right down the hall.

    Another mentor I have been lucky to have is my mom. She has been a special ed teacher for around 30 years. The last 10 years she has spent running an alternative school program. She works with some of the most challenging students in our area. Anytime I am having a tough day or I am frustrated by something going on in my classroom, I can call her and we chat through things. She always shares stories of her classroom and reminds me that a rough day (or week) doesn't mean I am a failure as a teacher.

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    1. Ooh, I'm so glad you said this-- my parents were both teachers, and they have definitely been important mentors to me, in the same way you mention. When I am overwhelmed or feel very discouraged about something I call them and they help me see the bigger picture. It means a lot, and I know they've been through it too and come out ok on the other side.

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  3. I entered the teaching profession after spending 25 years in Industry (the best career move I ever made). Once I landed my first teaching job, I was assigned a mentor. I won't tell you who it was, but she is also participating in this book club!! Since I was older and had industrial experience, our weekly conversations consisted of simply how I was doing as I was in an alternative setting and my mentor taught high school English. We had great conversations and the meetings, though short, were something I looked forward to.

    I also have my wife, Shannon, who is a Master Teacher and is also participating in this blog. It is nice to be able to share ideas or simply "bounce" thoughts off of her when I am stressed or wanting to try something new.

    Finally I look at all of my colleagues as mentors as a person can always learn, no matter from whom.

    I do think that mentors are important in any career, but we must always remember (as was mentioned in the first chapter) that the "one-size-fits-all" model is antiquated and will not work. It is imperative that we tailor the use of mentors based on our individual needs.

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    1. Hi Coach.

      I'm glad you brought up the notion about a spouse who is also a teacher acting as a mentor. I'm sure there are many couples who are both educators. What a convenient mentorship and support system! My husband is strictly sciences and I am humanities. As a pair, we are a dynamic duo. However, I appreciate his engineering-like approach to problem solving; it rounds out the whole picture for me.
      Thanks for sharing.
      Rhonda

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  4. My path to high school teaching was by way of college teaching. In my university teaching, there was little to no mentoring for the actual teaching. I had classroom observations once or twice a year, if that, and the department secretary became my resource for most institutional questions. The people who knew my teaching and who helped me to identify strengths and weaknesses were my students. They were there for the full semester and they filled out (mostly) thoughtful and helpful end-of-semester evaluations of my teaching.

    When I made the transition to high school teaching, I was assigned a mentor who let me know that he was available for questions, but he was at the other end of the building and it was not always convenient to find him when I wanted to ask. He assumed that because I had taught for many years, I did not really "need" a mentor. I ended up asking the history and middle school teachers in my hallway for help when I needed it - they were convenient and could give me a much quicker answer.

    Now that I am in a different school, I find that the small-school/small-town atmosphere makes a huge difference. The attitude is that we are all in this together, and I am as likely to answer a technology or practical question for another teacher as I am to ask another teacher for help. I don't see formal mentors in my school, but the peer mentoring is invaluable - if the first teacher I ask doesn't know the answer, s/he is sure to suggest someone else who probably does!

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  5. My first mentors were my parents. They were not school teachers, but they both would have been good ones if they had chosen Education as their professions. My mom and dad both have the "can do" attitude and both of them have always encouraged me to find creative solutions to figure out situations. My dad frequently took me to work with him, and I learned volumes about interactions with other people from his outgoing friendliness. My mom is very good at figuring out creative solutions to any project. I have always looked to them as mentors.

    I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was still in high school, so teachers I admired were early mentors of mine, and I still think about them, My piano teacher, Katherine Beard, my French teacher, Carol King, my anthropology teacher, Steve Ford, and my chemistry teacher, Phil Ford, have all been influential teachers to me for different reasons. Katherine Beard for her passion; Carol King for her ability to keep every single day interesting and different; Steve Ford for teaching me how to write a good essay answer; and Phil Ford for his ability to engage me and help me experience success in a subject I thought I didn't like! Interestingly, none of these favorite teachers taught my favorite subject - English.

    As a first-year teacher in my first school, I was not assigned a mentor, but as a second-year teacher in a second school, I was assigned a mentor. He was assigned to me, but we didn't have much interaction. I found a mentor that better suited me on my own; she was English teacher in my department who was the mother of three children, and I emulated many things about her, although she had a more formal teaching style than me. She advised me that I would never be sorry if I got my Master's Degree in English rather than Education. Even though it was a lot more reading while I was teaching full-time, I am glad she influenced me to do this. After this mentor retired from teaching, I have continued to look for mentors. It was a little unsettling at first to have mentors who are younger than I am, but this has been very necessary as we move forward with 1:1 laptops and technology lessons. I am extremely lucky that some of my best friends teach in my building. Three teachers, specifically, also are participating in this book club this time with me! I have sought advice and feedback from them for years. Finally, I consider my current principal to be a mentor. He is younger than me, and is the fifth principal I've had in my career. He is the first one to engage his teaching staff to think creatively and to actually collaborate in meaningful ways with his teachers. I thrive with this style of leadership, and being part of a school with this kind of teaching environment has made going to school more fun than it has been for me in a very long time.

    I have had seven student teachers so far in my career, so I hope I've been a mentor to some of them. I tackled a tough Association issue at one point in my career, and I think I've been a mentor for teachers who are also moms in my corporation. I hope I've been a mentor to other teachers in my department as we continue to learn new ways of teaching with technology and moving away from textbooks. We are not adopting textbooks for next year, so it will definitely be a year that mentors are more important than ever. I love the teachers in my department, and I consider them mentors to me, and I hope I am to them as well.

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    1. I like that you acknowledged your parents as mentors. I would agree. You have had similar experiences as I have and I can relate--especially being encouraged to read more and looking for younger mentors to help with 1:1 technology and moving away from textbooks. Even though I am a math teacher, I have never been disappointed in reading more, both in math subjects and others. Every experience, every book or article, has a lesson or more to teach that I can use eventually.

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  7. As a first year English teacher, back I the late 80’s, I was not assigned a mentor – it was a sink or swim situation, and I felt like I was sinking all the time. I had 4 preps that year, served on two committees, and led the drama club - way too much to be dumped on a first year teacher. I constantly felt overwhelmed and ineffective! My second year, at a different school, I was given an incredible veteran teacher as my mentor - WHAT A BLESSING SHE WAS!! I learned so much from her that year – especially about pacing myself, holding students accountable and the importance of parental involvement!

    I became a licensed mentor several years later, via Franklin College’s Mentoring Program, and loved being able to help other new teachers. Just taking the week long course opened my eyes to so many thinks that I needed to take inventory with in my own teaching. Being a mentor definitely affects your teaching – it allows you to give from yourself and your experience, as well as learn to take suggestions and implement new strategies from a novice teacher. Being willing to learn from another teacher allows you to grow in your profession. My mentor and “mentees” are still in my life – and we are still learning from each other today.

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    1. As a literacy coach I have been assigned as a mentor to teachers in my building. This has been a trust building situation where I need to show I am truly invested in their success! I feel like it works much better as a collaborative give and take and willingness from both sides to participate. People who are natural learners will seek out mentor ships that work best for them. I like a collaboration that takes into account similar interests will always work best

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  8. My first mentor for teaching would have been the teacher I was assigned to for student teaching. It was his 3rd year teaching. He did not have a lot of advice or direction for me. I relied on my supervising professor to help me set my direction. During this experience, I think the classroom teacher learned how a more structured classroom would operate more smoothly. The students didn't like the changes I implemented at the beginning but by the time I left the classroom I felt I had made some good procedural changes.

    The next teaching mentor was assigned by the high school principal for my first teaching job. Although she was a math teacher, we worked at a private school and she was in the junior high. I was the only math teacher in the high school. I saw my mentor a couple of times. Although she had years and years of experience, she did not share any insights with me. I felt abandoned.

    After this experience, I took a few years working other jobs to decide if I really wanted to teach. My heart always went back to teaching. After several years I found a job at a high school I had attended for a couple years. The teachers welcomed me and I had many individuals to help mentor me. I had mentors/advisors in all departments. It was a great experience. The mentoring continued during my 6 years at this school. It was a give and take for everyone.

    I changed schools after 6 years to be closer to home. Although, I found many colleagues helpful for general advise I did not feel I had anyone step up to mentor. Although, we have many informal conversations most days I feel left on my own. I use my students to help guide instruction and reach out to former colleagues. I have also found some online resources through NCTM where other math teachers share ideas and insight.

    I had the experience of being a mentor for a student teacher. I tried to point out the many positives I saw in addition to the things he needed to improve. We had many discussions and shared many ideas. We had the students give us anonymous feedback periodically so he could think about what was working, what needed to improve, etc. The students were honest and through their honesty he learned what was working and what wasn't working. I had to do a lot of thinking about my own methods in order to share. This experience helped me grow and I strive to be a better teacher everyday.

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  9. The HS I teach in is large and there are many younger teachers. Several of them keep me on my toes, encouraged to add new strategies to my teacher toolbox. I have recently connected with a like - minded veteran teacher at one of our middle schools. We are sharing like crazy, going to dinner, and even having hour long talks on the phone. I've had 2 similar relationships in my life, both with women older than me. Anyone from Muncie might remember legendary English teacher Joy Wasson who was very important to me and a mentor for years. So I do like learning from both new and veteran teachers.

    I also look to some folks online for inspiration. Two Twitter Indiana luminaries who are doing great work are Rachel Porter and Matt Miller. Often times, one post from them can lead me to something I had no idea I needed to learn about!

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    1. Matt Miller is awesome. I have been to several workshops where he has presented! I always have great ideas after listening to him. Follow him on twitter!!

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    2. I went to two workshops that Matt presented yesterday at Center Grove for iPossibilities. They were awesome, plus he shares so much! It was nice to be able to sit and try to absorb the presentation, because the webpages he created for them are very thorough.
      http://ditchthattextbook.com/conferences/paperless/
      http://ditchthattextbook.com/conferences/prev-sessions/lightninground/

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    3. He is really great. I just recently join to convention and conferences and he already got my interest.

      elearning

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    4. Thank you, Susie, for the Ditch That Textbook links. The book is great! It's a resource I will use often.

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  10. I am so happy, Catherine, that you have felt inspired by something I've posted or written! The power of a PLN is amazing. I learn and grow from others like you all the time. Thanks for the kind words. And to think... Matt and I both come from the same small, rural county! Who would have ever thought there would be edtech ideas lurking among those covered bridges!

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  11. As I look back, I have had many mentors in my life. None of these mentors were "assigned" to me.
    Besides my parents, my first mentor was my Jr High Spanish teacher. In his classroom, I developed the love of the Spanish language and the desire to become a Spanish teacher. This desire never dwindled.

    As I moved through college, I had two Spanish professors that were my mentors. They encouraged me to become the best teacher that I could be and taught me many methods to achieve my goals. My student teaching took place at Columbus East High School under my former Jr High teacher! He and his wife (also a Spanish teacher) taught me so much about being a good teacher and what to expect when I got my first teaching position.

    When I started my first year of teaching, I did not have an assigned mentor but I had some great colleagues. There was another Spanish teacher at our sister school and she became my mentor and we worked together comparing and sharing our curriculum for many years.
    My colleagues through the years have been my mentors, whether it was the art teacher who inspired creativity, the social studies teacher who inspired discipline or the English teacher who inspired high expectations of students…they all have impacted my career.

    The past two years my school has moved to 1:1 computers and we are on our way to all digital curriculum. This has been a challenge for me. Once again, I call upon my colleagues….the new teachers who know a lot about the computer, our tech team who can answer questions and teach me about the digital world, my principal who encourages creativity, and many of my "older" colleagues who are there everyday to inspire, answer questions or just listen.

    When I started my teaching career, I replaced a teacher that had been there since the school had opened in the early 60's. I never thought I would last this long at one school, but I am heading into my 30th year. I believe that I have been a mentor to my colleagues and students. I have had three students become Spanish teachers, several are police officers who use their Spanish, several have studied abroad, and one who is a lawyer whose clients are mainly Hispanic.

    I believe it is a good idea for new teachers to have assigned mentors. I think it is also necessary to seek out your own mentors. In some way, every person in your school building is a mentor to someone at some point in time.

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  12. I have had mentors assigned to me, some more fruitful than others. I am an inquisitive person by nature, and most teachers love to share knowledge, so as I have moved in and out of classroom, aid, title 1, and volunteer positions, I have seen the classroom from many different perspectives. The mentors that I have are more unassigned and unofficial but we discuss the spectrum of educational topics from how to tweak a lesson, to how to get and stay organized, to what to do with a very specific child and the unique learning opportunities and challenges that are present and how to use the strengths of the child to make learning more profitable for both of us. One of my mentors is a friend as well and we walk during the summer and talk about how to improve our writing program, how to create a community in our classroom and how to be persistent and relentless. We talk about methods that have worked, methods that need some fine tuning, and some that bombed. I always leave our conversations with a zest and enthusiasm to chase after more learning, try new things and stretch my comfort level in my teaching. It is a huge blessing to me and makes me excited to teach!
    I have other mentors who are more like firefighters, as they help me put out fires as they come up, which I'm so grateful for. There is not a regular meeting time, but there are a few who act also as a sounding board and adviser. Those who are willing to come into my room and watch a lesson to make sure that I'm not missing anything and who are willing to speak frankly with me if there are things that I'm missing. It is critical to make sure I have a great attitude in receiving that feedback. If I'm not open to some critical criticism, then I'm not longer in a place to grow and that is a place I never want to be.
    This year, I was an unofficial mentor as I share a room with 2 other teachers. I definitely felt more accountable to them and felt the deficits in my teaching which is stirring a hunger in me to pursue learning to become better as a teacher and an adviser.

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  13. When I began teaching 17 years ago, there was no mentorship program in the district I worked. Luckily I had a wonderful principal who provided guidance and was open to suggestions. My assignment was a reading teacher for the Pre-K and Kindergarten classes in a Primary School. I worked closely with the speech teacher and the ESL teacher as there were no other interventionists in our small school.

    In my current district, I served informally as a mentor to classroom teachers assigned as interventionists to whom I share a room. Sharing a room with colleagues provides a great opportunity to learn new classroom management and/or instructional strategies from colleagues. My own informal mentors were the interventionists whom I shared a room with when I first I began in my current district.

    I was lucky to share my room in my previous school with the literacy coach. We mentored each other - I provided her with my knowledge of grades K-2 literacy and she provided me with many resources and strategies. She included me in meetings with the other literacy coaches in the districts, one who would become my next "mentor" at my current school.

    As the president of my local reading council, I have the opportunity to attend workshops and conferences with some of the prominent researchers in literacy. Locally, our members converse and share successes and concerns across grade levels and many school districts.

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  14. I have had many mentors in my career. When I was a first year teacher, I was blessed to be assigned a master teacher for my mentor. She was priceless in giving advice and support. She understood how overwhelming that first year is and often helped simply by listening as I unburdened. Once that first year passed, I knew that whenever I had need of her wisdom, the door was open.

    As I have matured as a teacher, I have found mentors in many different places. As technology has become prevalent in my classroom, I have found my best mentors to be the younger teachers in our building. When I need professional help, I know who to go to. A small group of teachers and meet informally in my room everyday. I look forward to that meeting. It is an opportunity to unburden and receive advice from people who are experiencing exactly the same issues I am. I think the most important thing is to be open to what other people have to offer.

    I have had the opportunity to act as a mentor on occasion as well. I currently teach collaboratively with a gifted teacher. I love the team aspect of teaching with her. I learn from her, and feel that she benefits from our collaboration as well. I have been privileged to several student teachers. I found the experience to be very difficult. I loved the advice Meenoo Rami gave on being a mentor. I wish I had read that before I had student teachers.

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  15. I think mentors are extremely important for teachers. My first mentor, assigned to me by my building principal, could not help me navigate my role as a special education teacher but helped me learn what it meant to be part of our school community. She was helpful in so many ways that I didn't realize were vital until I transferred schools and was able to transition fluidly.
    Since then, I have had many people I consider mentors.

    I get to co-teach with an amazing teacher. We are able to talk about the things that are going well. We challenge each other to fix things that aren't working well, try new ideas, and discuss the joys of doing the job. Together we strive to keep each other positive and fresh. We hold each other accountable.

    Part of my job as a special education teacher is to be part of a case conference committee for my students. The case conference specialists, school psychologists, and occupational therapists, and speech therapists are great supports. Developing a working document that details the educational plan for a student can be daunting, so it is vital to be able to talk things out.

    I am also fortunate to have a spouse who is in education. When I have doubts or frustrations, I can vent them to the person who knows me best. He can support me and offer suggestions that work. We are each other's sounding boards and cheerleaders.

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  16. Mentors help move us through the rough patches. Some have come and gone in my life as location and other job changes occurred. A couple of qualities stand out about colleagues who have the most profound effects on my career: they challenge my capabilities and they offer opposing opinions.
    When I moved from a private to public school after a few year of teaching, a fellow language teacher, Linda, helped me adjust to the "this is how we do it here" mentality. When I didn't understand why, or more pointedly why something couldn't be done my way, Linda was patient to supply her insight and saved me from falling flat more than a few times.
    Another way Linda modeled life to me was her ability to combine teaching and motherhood. I was unaware of the need for this wisdom at the time because she had two children and I had none; however, I recall her calmness in telling me that some days she could be a good teacher AND a good mother... other days she had to choose to be a good teacher OR a good mother. She was so slick and I so naive not to know which choice she was making on any given day, but her words have rung in my ears many times in the past couple of decades. As a result, I know I am not the only one making that choice; and I hope I do it with the ease that she seemed to deliver daily.
    After I was in the motherhood business and in a different school district, I found another language teacher, Karen, who was a seasoned European traveler and wanted to lead a student tour. The first trip that I took with her was not an easy one as I left behind my own three young children; but Karen was my roommate for the 12 day trip, and she talked me through some of the decisions that needed to be made with students. Following that tour Karen convinced me to be the lead teacher in planning the student trips. We traveled together a few times to seven different countries; we didn't always agree, but we built a camaraderie that became a friendship.
    Karen died a few years ago after a sudden illness, and since then I have planned two student trips without her. When the travelers are weary and do not want to follow the plan, I think of Karen and how she would have responded, bite my tongue, and realize how much I learned from her and miss her greatly.
    The firm, yet patient, approaches of these mentors have helped me extend that to others when I sense a rough patch in the lives of colleagues. Sometimes they have needed support with their load for a few weeks, sometimes longer. It is often a humbling experience to recall the low moments in my own career and understand we all strengthen each other.

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  17. I was assigned a pseudo-mentor 18 years ago and she remains perhaps the best teacher in our entire school. Her professionalism and commitment to educating students inspire everyone around her. She set my standards pretty high from the beginning but I realized a few years into it that we were different types of teachers. I started to realize that I needed to develop my own style. I still look up to her a great deal and go to her for advice and support.

    As I've gone through year after year teaching high school students I've found mentors in many forms. In addition to the aforementioned "wonder-teacher" I've found great benefit in listening to younger teachers who have more knowledge on certain topics or strategies than I have. We have two younger teachers that have great ideas that they have fully developed. I try to emulate what they do and they seem honored to tell me about how they do it since I've been around for awhile. I look for people that are doing something well that I would like to learn. If they are open to sharing, I'll learn all I can from them.

    I've played the mentor role for some time now and I enjoy it. Being the leader of a sizable PLC, it is my job to make sure the direction of our group is in line with our objectives. I do anything I can to assist younger or new teachers get acclimated to our school and department culture but I don't like to push. I make the offer and wait for others to take me up on it. I've been an official mentor for a couple of teachers over the years and that requires a different approach. I still tried to take the angle of accentuating their positives while giving them pointers on things that have worked for me. I just think there are so many ways to teach that a new/young teacher needs to find what fits their personality and style best.

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  18. Of course mentors are important to teaching. What I have learned was that it was good to ask different colleagues about different areas. I seldom asked the "mentors" in my life questions about gradebooks or copy paper. I could ask those questions of many colleagues. When you are a new teacher, it is good to develop relationships with as many staff members as possible. When I first started at my current school, the person next door was not going to be a mentor in the classroom, but he did help me as I was also a first year coach. He helped me to think through how to deal with parents and gave several good suggestions. He was one that I asked a lot of the simple questions to as well about how to set up gradebooks and processes for duties and such because since he wasn’t going to be my mentor teacher, I asked him questions I didn’t need to talk over with my mentor teacher.

    Being the only special needs teacher in the building, I looked outside of the school to people at our special education coop, but mostly to another teacher in the corporation at another school to ask questions more specific for my role. Lori was always there to talk about strategies to try with the students she had previously or to listen to me vent. She also offered suggestions to try. As she retires this year, I am still impressed with her professionalism. Her comment being as we met to pass up files being, "I won't let a new teacher fail. I am willing to help as much or as little as needed."

    Since I work at a small school full with excellent educators, I have found that although I do talk to a few more often than others, all of them have helped me to reflect on my teaching. My assigned mentor for a year was helpful. She reminded me to have a life outside the classroom and offered suggestions on the lessons I recorded for her to preview. She let me cry a couple of times and then said you’re going to try again tomorrow.

    I don’t know that I have been a mentor to fellow colleagues, but I have mentored several high school and college students completing internships. Through them, I have had to question myself about if I am going to teach a pre-service teacher, that I had better to continue to learn the newest strategies myself.

    The questions on page nine were good for me to reflect on as I move from being one of the new teachers on the staff into the middle of my career. They remind me of the teacher I want to be and to look for the people I see emulating these traits so that I can learn from them.

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  19. I think mentors are extremely important in multiple areas of life. You need those people who will help guide you to make decisions, grow, and become better. I think that is especially true as an educator. One of the best and most comforting parts about being a teacher is knowing that there are other people teaching just like I am. I think we can all learn from each other and mold each other’s thoughts and ideas into something that can work for our individual classroom and our individual teaching styles.

    I think Meenoo brings up some great points in how we should look for those mentors. I found it particularly helpful on page 9 where she asked a series of questions that suggested some ways to ask questions to help you to find those people. There may be quality people in your life, but they may not be a quality mentor for you because they don’t have the time, they see things a little differently than you, or they may not be willing to share their ideas.

    With this year being my first year as a classroom teacher, I was able to find several mentors in our small staff. I work on a team with three other fifth grade teachers. I would say all of them helped to mentor me along. We truly worked as a team. Many times throughout the year we would meet before school, after school, at lunch to discuss how to plan lessons, teach certain material, or how we should respond to a certain situation. Most of the time, it was just two of us conversing at time, but I truly believe that I would not have survived this first year without their guidance. They made my lesson plans better and gave me confidence in making some decisions in my classroom. They made time for me, which was necessary for them to be a mentor to me. I don’t know that I would have called them that until reading this book, but they definitely were mentors to me. I also found comfort in other staff members throughout the building to help me to be a better teacher. The close proximity of the 5th grade teachers on my team made them easier mentors. I also have used the aid of blogs to help for ideas on teaching. I obviously don’t know these people personally, but I use the knowledge they are willing to share to help me grow too.

    After reading chapter 1, I am hopeful that I will be able to find people outside of my school building to assist and mentor me too.

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    1. Hi Kelly,

      Like you, I was drawn to the series of questions that Rami posed on pages 9 and 10. I am actually thinking of asking my principal's permission to post those questions to our entire staff and see which names consistently show up as nominees from other stafff members. Then, I think, we could have a great database of possible "mentors." So many teachers on staff may have gifts that we never see because we do not interact with them on a regular basis. I am really interested in developing a mentoring center at my school. Thanks for sharing.
      Rhonda

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  20. For my first year of teaching, I was assigned a mentor. I remember being hired, walking down the hall with my principal to see my classroom, and wondering if I would know where to even begin!!! I was so nervous, until I met my mentor! She took me under her wing and guided me. I learned so much from her! As time went on, I felt that there was a shift from her only being a mentor to me, to me being able to share with her also; which was a wonderful feeling! During my 7 years of teaching at that school, I also had a fabulous assistant who was a licensed teacher and was hoping to find a teaching job. Throughout those years, I felt like I was a mentor to her on a daily basis; knowing that she was learning as much as she could for when she would be offered a position. When my husband's job caused us to move out of state, my assistant was hired for my position. I was so excited that she would have my position, and felt proud that I was able to share with her some of what I had learned from my first mentor as well as my teaching experience.
    After staying home with our 3 children for several years, and moving back to Indiana with my husband's job (but away from Indianapolis where we really wanted to be), I stepped back into teaching with a part-time reading intervention position; helping struggling first graders with reading. I was so fortunate to have 3 other teachers who were hired for the same position as me in other buildings. We also had a coach to assist us with this position. Our coach was fabulous, and was there for us for anything at all. We were also mentors for each other. I talked to one or more teachers from our group on a daily basis. We helped each other so much. We also were told when we were hired for this position that for the following year we would be placed into a regular classroom (because the reading intervention grant would be ending). We all became very close with the adventure that we were in together. We felt much support! This was especially wonderful for me since I had been away from teaching for so many years while being at home with my own children.
    That following year I was placed in a 4th grade classroom. I had only taught 1st and was so nervous about moving to 4th grade. It had been several years since I had taught in my own classroom full-time, and things had changed. The curriculum from 1st to 4th was a very big step and new stresses, such as ISTEP had me very stressed! I met with the members of my new 4th grade team in the summer and found out that they did not plan together. They said I could do whatever I would like to do to cover the curriculum. They were all very nice, and offered to answer any questions or share any ideas; however, I felt that I needed more guidance than this. So, even though I felt badly about it, I decided to asked one of the teachers to plan with me and guide me; at least in the beginning of the year. She had told me that she only had a year or 2 left before retiring, so I felt like she really didn't want to have to spend the extra time with me. Little by little, though, we became very close. We planned together, shared ideas, and it was wonderful for both of us. She ended up staying 2 more years and admitted that at first she thought it would be easier to just do her own thing and not have to worry about helping someone else when she was so close to retiring. She said that through mentoring me, she realized that it was giving her the excitement and energy that she needed to feel great about what she was doing in her last years of teaching. She said I gave her a renewed purpose, meaning, and new positive attitude as she finished her teaching career. She thanked me so many times regarding this; which made me feel like I was a mentor to her in different ways than she was for me. We offered each other different things; the things that each of us needed. I will forever be thankful to her for helping me be successful as I stepped back into full-time teaching with a family of my own.

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  21. (Continued from above. I did not know there was a character count until I tried to post. It didn't seem like I had written that much! Sorry!)
    ...After those 2 years of teaching 4th grade, my husband's job gave us the opportunity to move back to the Indianapolis area; which was "back home" for us. I subbed for 1 year, and then was offered a 1 year temporary family leave position; teaching 1st grade again. I couldn't believe that it had been about 20 years since I last had a full-time 1st grade classroom. Again, when I met with my new team, I found that they did not plan together! Again, they were all very nice, and would share anything at all, but just didn't plan together. I knew that some of the skills that I had taught in 1st grade so long ago would now be covered in kindergarten. It was hard for me to get a feel for the level of the new 1st graders who would be coming to me; especially after just having taught 4th grade! Again, I decided to ask one of the teachers, the team leader, to be my mentor. She seemed happy to help. She was available at any time for my questions and helped me plan for the beginning of school. Since I was only hired a few days before school, she told me to just worry about getting my room ready, that she would help make all beginning of the year copies, and then would meet with me for planning. Her guidance was wonderful. Again, a friendship blossomed as well during this time. As before, as the year progressed, I tried to share things with her as well. She always was very happy to hear of an idea that I had to share with her. This made me feel like I was giving back a little to her for all that she had helped me with.
    I am a person who is always happy to help others. I love sharing ideas and anything that I have. During 1 of my years of teaching 4th grade, I had 2 college students in my room who were doing their first classroom experience. The biggest challenge of the situation was trying to find time to "talk" with the students. I absolutely loved sharing every idea or tip that I could think of to help them in their futures. I felt like I was definitely a mentor to them. I felt like I was able to show them my excitement for teaching.
    I have had nothing but positive mentor situations. I am not afraid, now, to ask other for help. In the past, I felt badly asking teachers for help, feeling like I was asking them to take on extra work; however, as I look back, I see that as those mentor relationships progressed, I had something to give back to them as well. I would not be the teacher that I am today had I not had each of those wonderful people in my life. I consider it a blessing to have met and worked with each one of the special people I have mentioned above.
    While reading the chapter about searching for mentors, it made me feel like it was ok that I DID ask people to be a mentor to me; even though at the time, I felt like it may be a bother to them. I realize through my own experiences and by reading the other posts above that even though a mentor may be taking on "extra" work or responsibilities, being a mentor can be a very positive experience. No matter how many years I am able to teach in my future, I will always seek out mentors as the author suggests.

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  22. For me, my mentor was extremely important to my success during my first two years of teaching and was the biggest reason I survived. She was the department chair, and took me under her wing to essentially “show me the ropes”. She gave me lessons, helped me create my own, introduced me to everyone, made me feel welcome, invited me to be a part of her life outside of school and was interested in mine, and gave me many pointers on classroom management, etc. I loved watching this veteran teacher teach. She inspired me in a variety of ways. Many teachers fresh out of college don’t have the luck I had in having a mentor that wasn’t assigned to me, but stepped up to guide me in every way.

    Now that I’ve been teaching for a few years, and have switched schools, I find mentorship in many of my colleagues. From the person next door, to our school’s instructional coach, to other teachers in the building that I chat with during lunch supervision. As a young teacher, those relationships are what keep me motivated. I have found that many of the teachers close to my age and experience level have become friends and mentors to each other. I can email them about a troubled student or a lesson that flopped, and I know they will give me honest feedback. I also have kept in touch, through social media, with many of the people I graduated college with that went on to pursue teaching. I love reading about what they have done recently in their classrooms, or posting a question and seeing what kinds of ideas they have for certain novels and units. The discussion on page 4 about formal mentors stood out to me. Many of my mentors aren’t “formal”, in that we weren’t assigned each other, but that through discussion, chance, or that we teach the same subject/grade, we have found each other.

    I recently hosted a student teacher. This was a great experience for me to evaluate myself as a mentor, instead of the mentee. I found myself paying close attention to the kind of feedback I gave my student teacher, keeping in mind what I would want to hear from a mentor. It helped me think about what kinds of questions I would want a mentor to answer about my lessons, etc.

    I think that sometimes we teachers feel scared to ask someone to mentor us, because we don't want to burden someone. I feel that it is necessary for our survival to have a mentor, whether its a formal or informal. All teachers, at all experience levels, need guidance and to give and receive fresh ideas. Reading chapter 1 has inspired me to continue with the relationships I've built, and to build new ones, perhaps through this blog, and through social media outlets like Twitter. I'll save that for the discussion on chapter 2 :)

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  24. My first mentor for my education career was my own children’s principal. I decided after being a stay at home mom that I would go back to the workforce when my youngest was in first grade. I applied for a job running a computer lab. After I interviewed the principal said he would like to hire me as an instructional title one aide instead. I was not sold. I was not confident enough to teach small groups. He said he thought I would be a great fit. About a two years later I decided to go back to school to become a Teacher. During that time I met many teachers and administrators that served as mentors to me. When I did get my teaching degree and received my first teaching position it was members of my team that mentored me. It is so important to build that relationship with your coworkers. I have taught three different grade levels and each time I depend greatly on the mentoring of my team. You learn a lot in college but you grow into a good teacher through experience and guidance from others. I think no matter how long you teach you will always benefit from the guidance of a mentor. I look forward to mentoring fellow teachers throughout my career. Education is a forever changing field that you need to stay on top of new technology and strategies to reach each learner. Collaboration is key to meet all of these needs. We are all lifelong learners, we never stop learning.

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  25. As a person that enjoys learning from many kinds of resources, it has been people that have really stretched my thinking and practice. It seems that the people with the most influence have asked me to reflect on what I am doing and why. Through training for Reading Recovery and literacy coaching, I had to step out of my comfort zone and have regular observations and discussions about the choices I made and how the students responded to my teaching. The discussions with the trainers, instructors, and colleagues helped me become a more reflective teacher and know the power of talking with more knowledgeable teachers in and out of school. The mentors that have changed my teaching the most have been the people that have provided information, but more importantly have asked the right questions. I try to remember that as a literacy coach. Often the best mentoring situations are the ones where you feel free to drop in and say, "I've been thinking about this so tell me what you think". I love it when colleagues drop by my office that is conveniently in our guided reading book room. Many take the opportunity to run things past me or talk about a particular student they have been concerned about. It involves taking a risk and putting yourself out there to even say what needs to improve in your teaching. In the blog, many people have talked about the connection that forms between the people that have a good mentoring relationship. Respect is important. This involves respect for the person's experience or inexperience, time, knowledge, and philosophies. As a coach in a fairly large building, I often feel inadequate. Luckily, I have colleagues in other buildings with the same job that support me well. I think that this mentoring chapter makes me think that I can better facilitate some mentoring relationships in my building, especially by knowing the teachers' areas of expertise and by checking in with those teachers that are not asking for help to make sure they are finding the connections they need.

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  26. In my first year of teaching I was assigned a mentor. Fortunately for me, she was the teacher right next door to me. She was awesome and took the time to explain things to me, share things with me, and even give me things. She took the time to observe me teach and make suggestions to me. During the three years I was at this particular school I also sought out advice from another special education teacher in the building. Both of these teacher helped me to be the teacher I currently am.

    When I arrived at my second school (in a different state that I taught in before) I wasn't assigned anyone. I had to muddle my way through all the new information I was being thrown. Fortunately, again I had two co-worker I could rely on and ask for advise and guidance, and I frequently did.

    Now I have just finished my eleventh year working, sixth year in my third building. In my first two years working in this building I relied heavily on two fellow special education teachers. I found out quickly that one of them didn't want me "bugging" her with questions and I stopped seeking her out. The other I learned in those two years that although we shared like ideas and wants for our students, she was not a teacher I wanted to be like. As I come to the end of my eleventh year teaching I have found three great mentors in three other special education teachers. I know I can seek them out when I have a question or need some guidance with an issue.

    A fourth mentor of mine is my own mom. I have no idea if this is normal or not, but I know when I have something going on she can be a great sounding board and give me good advice.

    I have never sought someone out and asked them to be my mentor. I have learned over the years who I can and can not go to when I need advise and guidance in my career. After reading chapter one, I have come to realize that I should be taking more advantage of my own administrator for guidance as well.

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  27. Within our corporation, in the first two years of teaching a new teacher is assigned a mentor. I have found those relationships to be extremely supportive and valuable to the new teacher. I choose strong teachers to fill those mentor roles and I find the new teachers find great value in those relationships. Our corporation continues to pay a stipend to those mentors which also helps the new teachers not feel like a burden on their mentors. The new teachers express appreciation for the mentor not being an "evaluator" of them. Although the mentor does observe the new teacher, the new teacher does not feel the pressure of an evaluator observing. This chapter reminded me of the need to continue to seek out strong mentors for my new teachers and reminded me to "make" the time to continue to foster mentor relationships for myself. In the busyness of administration it is easy to not take time for those important dialogues. Continued happy reading to you all...

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    1. So glad to read that you pay your mentors a stipend. Allowing for time for collaboration is also important for both parties to benefit from the relationship.

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  28. As an educator I have had mentors that have encouraged and supported me. I have also had a few that did more damage than good. The mentors that have encouraged me were only a few years older than myself. I found that the best mentors have been the ones that know and understand my students' and their background. I work with disadvantaged, low income, below level readers in meddle school. A teacher who is teaching an Honors English class has little to offer me on a day to day basis. I have also found the teachers who really enjoy teaching middle school have the most to offer.
    Mentors that are much older or who do not have a clear understanding of the students' I work with were more defeating and their strategies were not helpful. I have also found that once a teacher stops loving what they are doing and is critical of the generation that they are teaching, they are critical of any teacher who is trying to help them.
    I have mentored several young girls that are now your women. It is very easy to pour your heart, time and energy into someone when they are very receptive. However, when you have to hold them accountable for something they have done and turn on you it is difficult. Over the years I have learned about personal and professional boundaries. Some people you let get closer and some you keep at arms length. I have also learned that when you are going to a mentoring relationship you need to know and expect that the person will disagree, praise, disappoint, and love you all in one breath. Each person has choices everyday and we do not all agree all the time. I have found that I seem to learn just as much from being a mentor as I am trying to teach.

    I think it is very important to learn from a mentor and to be a mentor. Classes and books are great, but experiences can only be shared by the person who was there. Times are changing, life is rough. Talk to someone who has been through it before and share your experiences with others.

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    1. Currently my school is working on PD in writer's workshop. It has caused us to seek out mentors through outside PD, book studies and conversations with colleagues. I have seen positive growth in our staff even though we are all in different places on the spectrum of our knowledge and comfort zones. I have been able to learn from colleagues at all different places and hope I have sparked their thinking with my input as well.

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  29. Upon beginning my teaching career 9 years ago, I was assigned a mentor that was also the head of my department. She was always great to bounce ideas off of, as well as someone to proofread my dreaded portfolio! The best advice she ever gave me was "never eat lunch in your classroom", which I was guilty of quite a few times early on in my teaching career. I always was behind with papers to grade, grades to enter, etc. and worked through lunch, making it that much more difficult to want to stay after school and work. Taking that 30 minutes (ok let's be realistic, it's more like 20 minutes) to have adult interaction is needed. We all put so much in to our jobs that we do not take time for ourselves during the day to recharge. Even though she often had to drag me out of my classroom, I am so glad that she did and felt much better after the fact.

    Throughout the years I have learned quite a bit from various teachers. I pick a lot of my ideas up from the lunch room! Listening to other teacher's stories, frustrations, and positive outcomes has been so helpful, as I "borrow" their ideas and modify them for my own classroom.

    This year I am a mentor to a first year teacher in my department. It has made me realize how far I have come as a teacher, and how much I still have to learn. She and I talk daily about various situations in her classroom, how to deal with specific issues, lesson plans, and parents. It has also been a relief to have her, because she is teaching me some fresh ideas on incorporating technology.

    In any case, I feel like we are all each other's mentors. I hope that my collegues learn just as much from me as I am learning from them. It is great to teach in a building that welcomes collaboration and I am truly thankful for my collegues!

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  30. I have found mentors to be invaluable in my teaching career...although the mentors that have had the most impact are those that were not assigned to me, but I stumbled upon. In fact, as I read through Chapter 1 I added many people to my mentor list. It was useful to reflect upon my teaching career and colleagues and categorize them in such a way as Ms. Rami.

    As I reflect upon my mentors I have found that many of them are people that I was proud to call my colleagues. There was something about them that got my brain working. Either they stimulated me to think in a new way, encouraged me to try something new, or supported philosophies that I firmly believe. At the core of each of my mentors is the notion that all students can learn and are worthy of being taught...those that regard students as human beings with emotion, stress, and baggage...those that seek to try things a new way.

    I have been an "official" mentor to two colleagues and am hopeful that I have served many times as an "unofficial" mentor. Mentoring in an official capacity means that I step back and take a look at my own beliefs, practices, and theories and assess whether or not they are ready to be shared...can they be of some benefit to someone else? Mentoring in an unofficial capacity reiterates to me that what I am doing in the classroom is having an impact and is useful to not only my students, but to my colleagues as well. Mentoring is moving beyond your classroom students and impacting your pedagogical community.

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  31. I have definitely found mentors to be an important part of my career. When I first started teaching, our licensure program "forced" us to have a mentor to help us through our first years teaching. I was very lucky that I had caring mentors who really had time to check in with me and talk to me daily to help me through. I never really felt threatened by their presence and was very lucky to always be close enough to them in the building to be able to see them during a passing period or chat with them during lunch. This helped me tremendously. As I moved on to a new school after teaching for several years in middle school, I was once again felt like a "new" teacher but did not have a delegated mentor to help me through. It felt sometimes akin to being "thrown to the wolves!" My first year in the high school setting was very isolating compared to the close-knit group of teachers I was used to in the middle school. I spent much of my time never seeing anyone except students all day. Eventually I was able to seek out other teachers who could serve as a mentor to me in some way; experienced teachers in any subject who were willing to share, or willing to just listen to while I vented, teachers who taught similar level students, and teachers who often make a lasting impression on students because of their compassion and passion for teaching.


    I have not been in a position yet to be someone else's mentor but I am hopeful that I can be. There is a young teacher in our department who I think could use a little help getting settled in to the school and I hope that I can at least try to reach out to him and see if he needs anything. I covered for his class this spring and I found out he had no batteries for his DVD remote--probably because he didn't know the "right" person to ask. So I went and got them for him and then let him know that if he ever needed to know who to ask for something that he could ask me. Later that week he came to me to ask for something else, it doesn't seem like much but I had an answer for him.

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    1. I think it is a great idea to have a mentor your first year. First year teachers are so overwhelmed with everything. It is critical to have a positive. Experience your first year

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  32. I started my career in a teacher-training program and was required to meet with my mentor regularly. He was kind and helpful but we had very different teaching styles. When I completed the program and got my first "real" teaching job a thousand miles away, I was shocked that this bigger, more established school did not have a mentor program. I found a few women in my department who were happy to help me out and get me through my first couple years and still look out for me ten years later. One of them is a member of this club as well!
    I have really enjoyed being a mentor as of late. I have had two student teachers, most recently a student I taught for three years several years ago. This definitely made it clear that I am a mentor to all my students whether I realize it or not. I also make it a point to reach out to new teachers, especially once the school year is in full swing, because I remember being there myself.
    As for current, hand picked mentors, I see a lot of good candidates when I go to professional conferences. I never thought about seeking these people out as mentors, especially if they live miles away, but now I know this is an option. And, it sounds like most educators are more than happy to fill this role!

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    1. It's great having colleagues who are willing to share; I just wish we had more time for it. I agree with your insight about us being mentors to our students. You just never know who you are inspiring in that way. I went to the iPossibilities conference this Tuesday and realized there is a teacher there that I have met at other conferences who would be a great AP Stat mentor. Like you, until I read this book, I hadn't considered seeking her out as a mentor, but will now.

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  33. My first professional mentor was an older, experienced special education teacher who was invaluable in helping me get started. An informal mentor, was a classroom aide that knew the 'ins and outs' of my particular classroom and program. I think it is important to be open to mentors in all shapes and forms, whether it be a colleague, classroom aide, or an outside peer. All can have a tremendous impact on one's life and career. As my career progressed, by mentor became my friend and even after her retirement, I keep in touch to bounce ideas off of her. My new project for the upcoming school year is to mentor a first year teacher. I am very excited about this prospect. The difficulty will to be adjusting to the grade level difference. I am a high school teacher and I will be mentoring an elementary teacher. However, we are the only two moderate/severe teachers in our school system. I hope that I can develop a relationship with this new teacher that provides her the support that she needs to feel successful and confident in the classroom.

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    1. It's exciting you are able to mentor this new teacher! You will be a wealth of information for her-- she is lucky to have you. :)

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  34. I agree with all of you that mentors are so invaluable. When I graduated from college I took a job as an aide in a multiage classroom. The teacher was a master and I learned so much from her. She gave me the chance to teach and helped me with many projects I was doing with the kids. She also entrusted me to take over the class when she had an unexpected family emergency that took her away for a week or so. That wonderful lady is now in her 80s and we are still close. She actually recommended me for my first teaching job in the same system. My first year "on my own" I had a fantastic mentor. She is still a close friend even though she has since retired. Back then, Indiana had a required mentoring program. She had times to come and observe me, and I had times when I would go and observe her. She has a very different personality than I do, very quiet and calm. I am a little high strung! :0) but that experience taught me so much. That mentor relationship continued for 5 years and we are still friends today.

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  35. When I started teaching I was hired on a Friday and school started on Monday! It was a split 4th/5 the class and I was in way over my head. My principal was great and had years of classroom experience, she was my first mentor. I also have found mentors on my own that I will go and bounce ideas off of or just discuss school issues. I have found that many people are very willing to talk about what they do in their classrooms. I will be getting a new teaching partner who is brand new to teaching. I know that I will be her mentor and I've already thought about how to mentor her without being overbearing. I am looking forward to helping her have a great first year!

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  36. I've never had a mentor. My first school district didn't have a program and I suppose after you have a few years under your belt everyone assumes you don't need one. As a special education teacher you are often your own little specialty and even with other special ed. teachers in the building you often don't have quite the same group of kids or accompanying issues. I suppose it would have been nice to have had one, if they were good. But it's kind of hard to second guess how things could have been different. So, this chapter has me wondering.

    Is this something I want to pursue now, this far into my career? If so, who is out there for me? As an FLS teacher the field is pretty limited, especially locally. Aside from my co-teacher (who is terrific) I really don't know anyone else well enough. I never really leave my classroom, as we have students to feed, no prep periods etc. It can be a very isolative position and makes it very difficult to get to know other teachers well.

    I'm thinking I would need to make a more concerted effort to really go beyond my own building or district. The suggestions made in the book have me thinking. I had a college professor that really seemed to know his stuff, in the age of technology would a long-distance mentorship work? Who is it that is out there that could help with some of the new issues we are facing? Sometimes I feel my co-teacher and I are facing some issues that are uncharted territory for us, who might be able to help us with that?

    This chapter definitely has me thinking......

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    1. I feel that due to the current age of technology that we are currently in now you could most certainly find a long-distance mentor-ship that would work! Technology and social media have come so far that you can find someone, anyone, in the far reaches of the the Earth that can prove to be somewhat beneficial to you. Not to mention the various means in which we have now to share valuable information; whether it be via email, voicemail, texting, video chatting, online conferencing....the list goes on. With all these modes of communicating the only thing that would prove the mentor-ship to be long-distance would be the fact that you cannot physically shake the person's hand that helped you. Now, it's just the manner in which you find them. Who knows...you just might find them here!

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    2. Thanks for you feedback, much appreciated. Yes, I have considered that. The long distance aspect has its pros and cons. It certainly opens up the pool to a much wider range of people, but it limits the scope of what that person knows about you to basically what you tell them. Since they never get to "see you in action" so to speak. First I need to decide what it is I need or could benefit from most I guess, then go in search. It has crossed my mind that I could find someone right here, that would be terrific. Help often comes when you least expect it and from places you would never have imagined. I am definitely keeping an open mind.

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  37. I have been very fortunate in my teaching career in that I have worked with a core group of friends of various ages and from various levels of experience. The dedication shown by these individuals has impressed and inspired me. The teachers in my school help each other by sharing knowledge of computer usage and technology. We talk to each other about our successes and our failures. There is a healthy atmosphere that trying new things won't always work and that is alright, because the educator tried. Along with encouragement, different groups of teachers also get together socially. Our staff enjoys the energy and the connections we have with each other.

    I have supervised several teachers over the years. I try to develop a relationship with these individuals by stressing that our teamwork will benefit both of us. Student teachers keep me updated on new techniques and current educational theory while I try to give them the benefit of my experience.

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  38. This week I am in North Carolina participating in the House of Delegates of my professional organization-The American Physical Therapy Association. This conversation about mentors through the years could not be more appropriate! People are here from all 50 states, from all practice settings, and from all stages of practice. Many of these people are the icons in my field, but I know that many of those icons would have no clue what to do in my practice setting--well, there would be a learning curve! Over the years I have selected many mentors from the pool of my professional association.

    One of the topics of discussion this year is the value of collaborative interprofessional learning. I feel that this dialogue can be expanded to include the value of interprofessional mentors. When I first entered the public schools after ~20 years in the medical setting I looked to experienced teachers to show me the ropes, and to prevent me from hanging myself in this new and different world. More recently I have found myself in a position to mentor new teachers. I hope you all will consider yourselves my new interprofessional collaborators!

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  39. As a first year teacher seven years ago, I was assigned a school mentor as part of the Indiana licensing requirements. I loved that mentor as a person and as a teacher who wanted to be as effective as she could be. The school we taught at was an inner-city school in a very rough neighborhood with rough students. As a first-year teacher who grew up in a small town in Indiana, I was extremely unprepared for dealing with my students. My mentor wasn`t someone who was often able to give me advice for how to handle my students or my classroom, but she was my emotional support during a time when I was very down and struggling to get by. She would meet with me every so often, but I also ate lunch with her everyday. She would encourage me to do my best and to hang in there on the days when I wasn`t sure I could stick with it. She was what I consider my emotional support mentor, which at that time was what I needed most.

    Since then, I have had many mentors throughout the years. I worked as a special education aide for four years before receiving my special education license and becoming a teacher in that area. I have worked with numerous teachers throughout the past five years and have had the opportunity to see how all of them run their classrooms, share their content area with their students, and express their love of teaching. I consider all of these people to be mentors in one way or another. I have asked all of them at times questions that I felt would better my own teaching skills and have received many helpful answers and advice. I feel as if being a special education aide and teacher has made me a far better teacher in my own classroom. As a student teacher, I worked with two teachers and was therefore limited to their teaching styles and modes of classroom management. Over the past five years, however, I have been able to experience dozens of different teacher`s styles and have been able to choose what I want to adopt as my own style and what won`t work for me. Some of these teachers I still seek out for advice as a mentor, even though I may no longer be helping in their classrooms.

    People that I have sought out over the years as mentors are those who will listen to my insecurities and know when to simply listen because I`m venting or give advice because that`s clearly what I need. I seek out teachers who have the qualities of teaching that I admire, and I look for their advice and support. I appreciate constructive criticism from these people and always hope that they will be willing to tell me when they notice something in me that I could work on to become a better teacher.

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  40. My first mentors were my parents and grandparents. What amazing role models they are/were! As they helped me with homework and dealing with problems, they always modeled two of the most important traits I have adopted and expect from my students- respect and responsibility.

    Mentors in the educational world are imperative!. When I got my first job in Kokomo, I was assigned a mentor. She was an art teacher. I was teaching "at-risk" students. It made absolutely no difference- she was the consummate professional and we still keep in touch. I also was blessed to have two gentlemen who took me under their wings and coached me in the intricate paths of educational politics. The one mantra that stays with me to this day is to "Work with the living". At that time we had many teachers who had stopped caring many years before, and he had learned this lesson the hard way.

    When I came to Crawfordsville, I was informally adopted by an English teacher. I was hired to teach science. She became not only my friend, but my second mother. She was always available to listen my insane ideas, always supportive, gently scolding me when I really screwed up, and was the most loving person I knew.

    Since then I have joined many professional organizations, met many more mentors, inadvertently become a mentor to others all the while pushing me to continue learning myself.

    In my opinion, mentors are not always the ones that are assigned to you- but the people we seek to make us better teachers and human beings.

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  41. When I first started teaching almost 30 years ago, the idea of assigning mentors was not popular. i graduated in August and started teaching 3 weeks later in a town where I did not know anyone. Luckily the teacher next door to me was a Godsend. Even though she was not assigned nor paid to be my mentor, she definitely was. She helped me plan activities and gave me teaching strategies that she found successful. She even helped me connect with other people my age to socialize with. I don't know how i would have survived without her help.
    As I have gotten older however, I have lost having that type of relationship with any of my colleagues. Reading this chapter made me yearn for this type of relationship. As I was reading the chapter, I found myself thinking about people that I would like to have as possible mentors. The ideas on how to approach a possible mentor were very useful. My goal for this next year is to approach some of these people and hopefully develop close mentoring relationships with them.

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  42. I just wrapped up my first year of teaching, and I utilized mentors as much as possible. Walking into the classroom at 24 years old, I was very intimidated and really didn't know what to expect. The year before I worked as a para-educator under the direction of two different teachers with different teaching styles. I learned many techniques that I was able to implement into my own classroom. I was thankful to have Mrs. Fine throughout the entire process of being under her supervision the year before and co-teaching our third period class together this year. Having her for questions or stressful situations as a first year teacher, helped me survive my first year with more confidence. Mrs. Fine is the 8th Special Education teacher, and from her expertise, I was able to build positive relationships with my students and create a comfortable learning environment.
    I was fortunate to have not only a supportive mentor, but I had the support from many other colleagues and my administrators. I felt more than comfortable approaching my principal with questions or concerns. There are many requirements outside of planning and being in the classroom as a first year teacher. Questions dealing with all of our paperwork, goals, and PGP points, I would talk with my principal and always leave her office feeling at ease. She has had the confidence in me from day one, and she has established an encouraging morale with all of the students at our school.
    I think going in to my second year of teaching I want to challenge myself to be more outgoing and confident with mentoring others. One way that has helped me build that confidence is by coaching. I am going into my fifth year of coaching dance and my second year teaching at a dance studio. In the chapter, it mentions looking “beyond your own school” to find mentors. I think this year I learned from my students, the team I coach, and the participants at the dance studio. Also, I have met many other coaches that share the same challenges. Using a mentor with coaching has not only strengthened my ability to lead at practice, but also in the classroom I have found that I am implementing similar strategies.

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  43. In my first year of teaching, my mentor was entering the final years of his career. He checked in with me a couple of times to make "official" visits. Since we were piloting the "middle school concept" at that time, grade levels had shared prep for meetings and collaboration. My mentoring really came from those opportunities.
    Mentoring can be a valuable tool for anyone who wants to be truly reflective of their own practice or that of their colleague. When we mentor, we are forced to analyze how we do things; are we really doing the best we can to reach our students. Sometimes, the mentoring process reverses itself by guiding the "master" to higher levels of professionalism. I think I learn more from our teachers than what I share with them!
    Maybe some of our PD time should be spent in mentoring...

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    1. Some of the opportunities currently given during PD time such as differentiated instruction and ways to use new technologies in the classroom provides a way to introduce teachers to these practices and "experts" in these areas. It would be great if there was some sort of follow up that might provide some mentoring opportunities for each teacher to be able to effectively use these new tools in the classroom. :)

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  44. Over the 30+ years I've been teaching, I've found that the value of mentors never diminishes, just changes in the types of questions or supports that I've personally needed. Most of my most enriching partnerships developed at times when I was starting a new challenge and couldn't quite even articulate what my questions are. Some of these relationships have lasted for years. Some were very situational, but I learned from all of them when I was the one actively seeking the answers. Sometimes the mentor appeared when I least expected it, but something they said or did made me realize that they were good people to ask for insights. Now I need to ask myself how I can use this personal insight to assist mentoring in my school for new and experienced teachers?

    Until this moment of writing this comment, I had not connected my own experiences with great mentors with how I assist new teachers' transition into my school. I had assumed that matching good teachers with new ones would be enough. I now realize that my approach has been too vague and needs to be more direct to support new or struggling teachers, encouraging them to take an active role in the relationship. They also need to take the initiative to reach out beyond the "assigned" mentor, especially of the partnership doesn't click. The mentor is only half of the team. A great mentor cannot do a great job if the mentored professional doesn't take some initiation to pose questions. I like Crystal Mart's in the comment just before mine "Mentoring can be a valuable tool for anyone who wants to be truly reflective of their own practice or that of their colleague." Mentoring must be a two-way effort.
    So now as an elementary principal, I realize that I need to be more specific with initially assigned mentor-new teacher partnerships with more direct coaching until the mentor partnerships are thriving. I need to deliberately address the benefits of mentoring for new teachers and experienced teachers alike as on-going professional development. Expanding and cultivating in-school and out-of-school mentorships can only make for a school climate conducive to risk-free PD and professional growth for all levels of experienced teachers.

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  45. When I did my student teaching I was lucky enough to be assigned to one of the best teachers in southern Ohio. She had more of an imprint on me than any other teacher I have come to know in my couple years as a teacher. This to me shows the influence a cooperating teacher can have on new teachers and how vital they are. I use many of her techniques in my class and they have really helped me with classroom management.

    I have just finished my second year of teaching and have looked to many different colleagues of mine for different types of mentorship. I have specific people I go to for different aspects of my teaching that are not necessarily in my content area. Some are inspirational and push me to do better. Some I go to for classroom management ideas. Some even help me vent and deal with my emotions on bad days. There are even some that I use as mentors that exemplify the type of teacher that I do not want to be. The biggest thing I would tell any new teacher, is that things get a lot better when you are not afraid to ask for help from someone you potentially look up too or that you think could learn from. I believe that is the hardest part to get over.

    I have also learned that you can have mentors you have not even met. I have used many different resources online using twitter to lead me to inspirational people of all backgrounds and professions that I have used to aide in my teaching.

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  46. My best mentor my first year of teaching was the other new teacher across the hall. She had taught somewhere else first, so she had some tips for me. My second year of teaching, my dept. chair was very helpful, and I went to HASTI. HASTI and NSTA were my best sources of ideas.

    Fast forward after 23 years of teaching science and I became a media specialist. It's very different when you are only person in a discipline in your building. There were others in the district, but most of them were soon cut. Once again, my professional organization, AIME (now AISLE) came to the rescue. Others have mentioned online influences; often today, that may be one of the better sources for your discipline, but I still think it's very important to have a nearby human to help.

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  47. I have found mentors to be incredibly helpful in my area. Since I teach alternative education (all subjects) to the same group of 7th graders all day, it's difficult for me to find people that can fully relate to the challenges I encounter. I originally was around teachers who shared common methodologies because of the types of students we worked with, but they were high school teachers. I had mentors that I turned to because I found our personalities to be quite similar, which meant that our academic approaches were similar as well. Now that I'm in a middle school setting, I find it satisfying to have peers to call on for advice in the various subject areas. Since they are different teachers, their approaches vary. It's nice to get differing perspectives.

    I have found many of my mentors through talking with them personally to get to know them first. If I have something in common with them outside of the classroom, I find that I can more easily talk with them/ask for help. I have found that all of my colleagues have something to offer, even if their subject areas are not ones I teach. I try to do things a little differently, so I'm always trying to expand my mentoring pool.

    I mentor students from Purdue University. The students are encouraged to observe and interact with the students. They are expected to teach a couple of lessons during their experience. Since my classroom is a bit unconventional to other choices they may have had been assigned to, I try to build a rapport with them, like I do with my students. Hearing their questions and their ideas about lesson planning, evaluations, classroom management, and many other topics, helps me to re-evaluate things I'm doing in class. Modeling things for them and discussing their lesson presentations also helps me focus on the art of teaching, which I sometimes forget to analyze in myself. The chapter gave me an idea of something that I can do with my future students by asking them what specific things they want help with/feedback on when presenting their lessons. It would certainly help me give them better feedback, but it would also make them analyze their concerns about presenting.

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  48. I have had experience with both official and unofficial mentors. My first two years of teaching were as an adjunct at a community college in New York, and within my first couple of weeks I befriended a veteran who was invaluable to my success there. She had retired from public school teaching after over forty years and enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of adjunct work. Her willingness to help and share was fantastic. It started with helping with the day-to-day business of working the copier, completing paperwork, and handling office hours, but we soon began to discuss more philosophical matters of teaching. Some of the issues were particular to our situation, such as how to motivate nontraditional students taking night classes to earn an associates in criminal justice to get excited about analyzing poetry when they’ve already worked an eight-hour day and just want to get home to their kids. But she also shared lessons and ideas for how to lead discussions. After my sink-or-swim experience as a student teacher in Chicago, I was thrilled and very grateful to develop this relationship. I learned a great deal from Kay.
    Once I began teaching in Indiana, I was assigned a mentor in an official capacity, but his role was primarily to help me through the process of developing my portfolio. While he was helpful in this, we really did not discuss teaching practices in much depth. By contrast, my department chair became an unofficial mentor, quickly becoming accustomed to my entering her classroom while saying, “Quick question.” They were almost never quick questions, but she was very patient. Eight years later, I don’t ask as many questions, but she is still the person I go to first for most things. As I’ve gotten to know my colleagues better, I seek input from the “specialists” on some matters. Questions on grammar, poetry, composition—each is directed at the teachers with those strengths. But for the “big” questions about the craft of teaching, I still seek advice from the chair.
    I took on a student teacher this last semester and had the experience of being his mentor. While I believe I’m generally pretty reflective about my teaching, having to articulate my thoughts and philosophies to someone who hasn’t been there yet was challenging at times. I really tried to convey that self-doubt continues to be an aspect of my teaching and that I still consider myself something of a rookie ten years in, but at the same time I realized that I have formed some strong opinions about what a good teacher should do. So I do think the experience of being a mentor was rewarding for me. It helped me to realize that I have more confidence about some aspects of teaching than I would ordinarily concede.

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  49. Most of mentoring came from student teaching. I had 1 teacher who gave me a lot of formal feedback and another who was not as detailed, but they both helped me. I find that I learn a lot more and retain short, brief lessons from mentors than long,evaluative conversations. I also learn more when I ask questions about specific ideas. As a mentor, I would really want to allow mu mentee to learn for themselves by interpreting classroom experiences.

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  50. My entire teaching career has been unique in that I have been an “only” the entire time. My first teaching position was as the only science teacher at an Adult Education Center. While I was assigned a mentor, she was the English teacher who happened to be in the classroom next door. While she was very helpful with the basic logistics of the school, she didn't have much to offer when it came to teaching Science.

    When I moved to Southwestern, I became the only Library Media Specialist at the Middle and High School. Again, I was on my own to figure out the how to move forward.

    Luckily, I was able to find mentors outside of school by accessing the bigger community. [I know that we will be discussing networks next week, so I will save my story for then].

    Here at Southwestern, I try to be a resource for all teachers and staff members. I am not necessarily a “mentor”, but I do serve as a sounding board for anyone who needs. I make the library a “safe place” for teachers to come when they need to ask questions, discuss classroom ideas, seek resources, set up collaborative projects or just vent a frustration about a student, fellow teacher or other job situations. Every year, I tell my teachers that my job is to make their job easier and that I am available to help them in any way they need. I make sure to approach all new teachers as soon as school starts and try to check in with them as the year goes on. Many times, new teachers are so focused on their classes, they forget that there are resources outside of that room. I remember how difficult my first years of teaching were and strive to be a resource for my teachers so that they never feel that they are alone in this adventure. While ultimately it is up to the teacher to step out of their classroom and seek the resource, they know that they can always count on me and I will do anything in my power to help them achieve their goals.

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    1. Library Media Specialists are invaluable to any school community. It is good for staff members to develop good relationships with those who are in the Library/Media center because they truly do make the job of classroom teachers easier.

      I worked for 7 years in my previous teaching position and I miss the Librarian there very much. She was a great resource for recommending new books for me to read as well as my students and I was always eager to send my students and/or classes there to seek her advice.

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    2. Jodi..great to hear this. My relationship with my teachers goes both ways. I learn lots from them and they help me support my Rosie (High School reading) program by reading the books and discussing them with our students.

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    3. Angy you are absolutely the best! you devote a lot time and effort to make our school better for everyone. The Rosie program allows me to open a line of communication with many students.

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  51. For the most part, my mentor relationships have been pretty typical. I was completely lost my first year. I was teaching 7th grade and five teachers were teaching the same thing. The others helped, but no one was really "assigned" to me. they were very helpful when I asked, but I had to know what to ask.

    The next year I moved to the hs to teach chem. I was assigned one teacher, but another teacher took me under his wing. I was grateful for the guidance, but felt bad that their styles weren't mine.

    Over the last few years, I have been trying to find teachers who are similar to my style, but will push me further. Luckily, our school's instructional coaches are excellent. They not only have a great wealth of knowledge of techniques, but of the teachers in our school. They are able to set me up with teachers with specific skills that I want to work on.

    Through this collaboration in our school, I've been able to assist other teachers. This has helped me to look at my decisions and classroom procedures further.

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  52. My first mentor was assigned to me, and luckily it couldn't have been a better fit. She was a good listener and offered guidance and advice without judgment. Among her many words of wisdom, she told me once that it was never too late to change something or start over -- even if it was late in the year. She stated that if something isn't working, you don't have to feel compelled to stick with it just because it was how you said you were going to do it. That has always stuck with me and it has influenced me to constantly be reflective. I am forever revising the lessons, management techniques, and rubrics I use with my students.

    For me, my mentors have always been my colleagues that I work closely with. I have been extremely lucky to work in teams of teachers that strive to improve and are eager to share. When I was in the classroom, we met regularly during our prep times to plan lessons, share resources, discuss professional readings, share our concerns about students, and reflect on our practice. Not only did we leave eager with new ideas and a plan of action, but we laughed a lot along the way. For me, I think the key with mentoring relationships is being honest and willing to share our weaknesses and "flops" as well as to share strengths and encourage others to try what is really working for you and your students.

    Now as a coach, I try to be a mentor to others. I think I am pushing teachers to share their strengths, reflect on their practice, and learn from others. I try to be a good listener and share my own struggles because I think it is important in developing trust and respect. The best part about my role as a coach is the fact that I get to learn from all the teachers in my building. They have all been mentors to me as I go in to observe. If I ever go back to the classroom, I know I will be such a better teacher because of all I learned from them.

    When I read the author's description of being observed by her mentor, I couldn't help but cringe. Now that my role is both evaluator and coach, I strive to maintain a trusting relationship that fosters learning. I feel it is going as well as possible, but I am always aware and concerned that my role as evaluator couId interfere with the mentoring relationship. I also worry that my dual role has limited the amount of time I can spend being a true coach and resource for the teachers. I have truly relied on the other coaches in my district as mentors. They have been a support system and guided me as I continue find my way in this new role.

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  53. I have met three significant mentors in my teaching career. I met my mentors through opportunities provided to me by the university I attended, networking, and the classroom. My first mentor was my cooperating teacher from my student teaching experience. She constantly challenged me to refine my practices. She also inspired me to stay current in the English classroom. My second mentor is the guidance counselor at Crawfordsville Middle School . She has such a contagious positive attitude. I go to her for encouragement and advice. Lastly, there are the students who mentor me on the teenage psyche, technology, and current events.
    I was a mentor to two seventh graders in College Mentor's for Kids. I tutored the students and helped them through behavioral conflicts. This experience enabled me to see the inner workings of adolescent girls' minds. My teaching became more relevant and engaging after mentoring the two students.

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    1. I believe we share the same wonderful mentor in the counseling department at CMS! ;)

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  54. Sixteen years ago I entered the teaching profession as a second career. I actually began in the classroom while working to find a path to become licensed. Needless to say, I had much to learn, so I turned to my memories of quality experiences from my own education and other educators in my building. I was guided into teaching by an experienced teacher, and his mentoring that first year was invaluable. While we taught different disciplines of science at a smaller school, he graciously (and patiently) shared the wisdom he had acquired over his career. He retired one year ago, but I still enjoy conversations with him.

    I agree with many of the posts here, the value of a mentor and collaboration does not lessen over time. For the last ten years, I have been at a larger school, and I enjoy opportunities to learn from others through work with our instructional coaches (last two years) and with colleagues teaching similar content. Many times, though, it is when I hear something outside my discipline that challenges me to broaden my perspective. Whether working with a "veteran" teacher or someone in his or her first year, I always find exchanging ideas with colleagues to be a valuable learning experience.

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  55. My first mentor to teaching was my father who was a 4th grade teacher. When I was first interviewing for my first job, I had a couple options, both with different teaching loads and different situations. I called my dad and actually stopped by his school to talk with him during his prep time. He never gave me an answer or told me what to do, but otherwise asked me questions, offered thoughts, but ultimately encouraged me to make the decision that I thought was best for me.

    I student taught under three different teachers. They all were mentors in one way or another, but one in particular not only was a mentor in my teaching career, but also in life. It has been 15 years since I student taught, and I still talk with this mentor daily. She and her husband has become part of my family on a daily basis. Although she teaches 6th grade now and I teacher high school, we discuss discipline issues, classroom ideas, behavior management. and share new technology tools that have worked for us.

    As a new teacher my first year, the mentor teacher I was assigned was not what I would say very encouraging. I felt at times when I struggled with anything from student behavior, class discipline, or just the stress of being a first year teacher, I was putting her out. Fortunately in the three years I was at this particular school, another experienced teacher came in to fill a biology position, who became a mentor to me and now a friend. Although we are both at different schools now, I continually talk with him via email or phone. He has been a great help in my upper Biology classes.

    I continue to seek mentors at the current school I teach. When I see something that a teacher is doing that I like or is successful, I am not afraid to ask. I know that helping each other will make us all better. I am fortunate to be in a school where the administrators and teachers are very supportive of one another. I feel that all the teachers want to help each other and mentor each other as needed. There are certain teachers in particular that I will seek out for particular situations, but in general all the teachers I teach with are supportive of each other.

    I have had one particular teacher at my school who I seeked out for advice on being a full time teacher and a mother. I had her children in class, and I really liked how her children was well disciplined, respectful, and great students. I wanted to know how "she did it." I wanted to be the mother I saw in her children, and a great teacher I saw in her students.

    Another resource I have found to be helpful is being involved in our local state science association. Each year HASTI (Hoosier Science Teacher Assoc) has a conference in Indianapolis. Several science teachers from around the state gather to attend sessions presented by teachers sharing ideas and content to each other. This is where I have met several teachers around the state to collaborate with.

    As far as be being a mentor, I currently have found a particular learning system I use in our 1:1 teaching. Currently our school has not told us what learning management platform to use, but I have really jumped into a particular one. I have had several teachers that have come to me with questions that I have been able to help. This makes me feel good that I have something to offer to teachers who seek my help.
    One other teacher from our sister school and I have been mentoring each other the past three years. This has been helpful as well as relieving to share ideas, teaching strategies, assignments, etc...It has even been a great help two both of us when we needed an "emergency" lesson plan because one of us was sick or one of us was not necessarily comfortable with a particular content lesson.

    I think mentors are a wonderful asset to each of us as teachers. We all want to be successful. We all want to be the best we can be for our students. The best way to do that is to learn from each other.

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  56. Working as a graduate student at Purdue Calumet, I was assigned a mentor. This professor held bi-weekly meetings with those students assigned to him. He was a wonderful mentor in the way that he conducted these meetings. He challenged us with his insights and when you left his office, you felt smarter for having been in the room. Although he could be intimidating at times, it was worth any discomfort because he also had such practical teaching strategies. This relationship ended when the scheduled mentorship ended.

    My best experience with being mentored was when one of the professors selected me to be her TA. She took me under her wing. It was not a formal assignment but rather one that was beneficial for both of us. During the course of our working relationship, I learned to read student work like a reader rather than a teacher, to be a facilitator of learning, and to listen and learn from my students. She included me on planning sessions, talked through issues, and suggested reading materials. Meenoo Rami mentions this as an example of “how you might work with a mentor.” Over the years, I have maintained a friendship with this mentor.

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  57. When I started my career as a guidance counselor. I came to it with experiences in child protection, juvenile probation, and medical social work. I really didn't have a "mentor". There was another counselor in the building but she was just starting as well and we both realized that we needed some help. I remember going with this other counselor to Judy Cottrell's office at Southmont and "picking her brain" for guidance programming. Yes, we received information about career fairs and advisory classes etc, but the biggest lesson that I absorbed from her was that: students and teachers need the same things. They need to be listened to, supported, encouraged, engaged, challenged, included, and loved, especially when they are unloveable.

    Since that time, I haven't really had one formal "mentor". I have learned that each student, teacher, parent or administrator has a "lesson" for you. It's my job to be open enough and humble enough and observant enough to learn something from that encounter and then to apply "that lesson" appropriately when needed in the future.


    When it comes to mentoring others: I have been blessed with many opportunities to supervise school counselor interns and practicum students. I can truly say that I have learned just as much from my experiences with them as they have learned from me. I can only hope that those students left with an understanding that they have to be passionate about their career and that learning "how to teach, and how to reach" the people in our lives will be a lifelong investigation.

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  58. School corporation 1: I was assigned a mentor teacher my first year of teaching, but she was only there with me for one semester. My department chair was gone on maternity leave. I felt very alone. I moved out of state and worked outside of education for the next two years trying to decide if I really wanted to re-enter the classroom.

    School corporation 2: My second and third years I relied heavily on my department chair, who was a great role model. She is the best writing teacher I have ever worked with and she inspired me to remain in the classroom and encouraged me to earn a masters degree.

    School corporation 3: My fourth through tenth years of teaching I was not assigned to a mentor. My department chair was supportive, but occupied. The administration was adversarial at times. Fellow colleagues offered help with technologies, grade book and some classroom materials but much of my teaching experience was isolated and alone.

    School corporation 4: My eleventh year teaching I participated in all new staff workshops, etc. There were others in my department who were very helpful and also busy with their own classes. Then I received an email from an "instructional coach." This is someone who is an experienced educator but is not currently teaching. I made an appointment and found someone who was able to help me with anything from technology, to the RISE process, differentiating instruction in the classroom, etc. This person was available several times a month by appointment and always by email. The smooth transition into my new position was made possible by the instructional coaches who can act as mentors to experienced teachers as well as novice teachers. I am grateful that this school corporation supports this need and provides this service to all faculty members.

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  59. I received my teaching certificate through a Transition to Teaching program and did not start teaching until I was in my late 30's. I completed two semesters of student teaching, but was older than both of my supervising teachers. When I obtained my first teaching position, I was assigned a mentor, but again I was older (and we taught in different subject areas). Although it was no one's fault, I think this created an awkward situation and much of my learning took place through trial and error. I was offered my current position about five weeks after school had already started and it was a very challenging situation for both me and my students. My colleagues really stepped up as a sort of "mentoring unit" -- they gave me lesson plans, teaching ideas, old quizzes and tests, classroom management advice, etc. They could not have been more helpful. Out of that group, one particular individual emerged as a long-term mentor and friend. She has had a tremendous impact on my teaching.

    Now that I am approaching my fourth year in the same position, I feel very fortunate to work in a department full of people willing to help each other. Teaching can be a very isolating profession at times; but I have found that if I stick my neck out and ask for help, someone always has an idea.

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    1. Beth..I agree. Our fellow teachers and media specialists are more than willing to help, but we have to be willing to ask.

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  60. I think mentors can either make or break a teacher. Mentors can not only help a teacher with curriculum problems/questions, but they can also give emotional support! Knowing that someone is on your side and wants to help you be successful can make a person feel secure and safe.

    I think the best way to find a great mentor is to find someone that you feel comfortable talking to and someone who you respect. My first mentor was assigned to me when I began my first year of teaching at my first school corporation. She was not only a great teacher but she also a great person. I felt comfortable with her with both career and personal problems. She was someone that would give you her opinion....but not push you to agree with her. She was a great sounding board. Since then, I have tried to team up with other people in my school that carry similar values as I do and who also have a great sense of humor. Anytime you teach middle school....you have to have a good sense of humor.

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    1. Thank you for mentioning the emotional support. A great mentor mentors the whole person!

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  61. I have found that mentors have been extremely important in my career. The most meaningful mentor relationships have been ones that I found on my own rather than those that were assigned to me. The mentors I found have been my teachers and also fellow colleagues. These have been the people that I have turned to with questions or to bounce ideas off of them. At times, they have also been a source of strength when I have felt down or discouraged.

    I have also had the privilege of being a mentor teacher for four student teachers. Being a mentor for them has forced me to re-evaluate why I do things the way I do and why I teach certain concepts the way that I teach. Often through these discussions, I learn and am able to refine my teaching through the collaboration with my student teachers. I find this relationship to be extremely useful in keeping my teaching fresh.

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  62. I don't think I would have made it past year 3 in the teaching profession had it not been for valuable colleagues who became unofficial mentors to me. They shared their ideas, materials, information, and a shoulder to cry on. At the time that I began teaching, there wasn't a mentoring program and the friendship and support given to me was crucial to my survival! I found it interesting as I began to think about people that I consider mentors how it has been a continual journey. Some older that have shared their vast wealth of knowledge to those that are much younger who teach (and teach again) the ways of technology and new ways of thinking about things. Even the internet has become a mentor of sorts! One of my biggest joys in my teaching career has been helping younger teachers learn the craft of teaching. I'm sure I learn more from them they do from me.
    Two things from this first chapter spoke to me:
    -I haven't ever really considered a mentor being someone outside of the teaching world. My eyes are now open to the new possibilities of what others have to share from the wider community that will help me to nurture and grow stronger life-long-learners.
    -The questions on page 9 were wonderful stepping stones to finding mentors. Thank you for sharing them.
    Have a great week! Hopefully most of us our now done with make-up snow days!

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    1. I'm thrilled you had supportive colleagues. Those relationships are sometimes the only thing that keeps you focused on doing what's best for your students. It's awesome that you are now able to offer that same support to others.

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  63. My first year of teaching, at Westlane MS, I was assigned a mentor. She was a seasoned science teacher & extremely helpful. She observed me teaching throughout the year & gave me valuable feedback. If I had a problem or concern, she was always available to talk. She not only helped me in the classroom, she helped me navigate the school community. I was also on a team of grade level teachers & each team member mentored me the entire time I was at Westlane (5 years). Each grade level had two teams & I co-taught summer school with a very experienced math teacher ( 20 years) on the other grade level team. Turned out, we both learned from the experience!

    I'm starting my 15th year of teaching at Klondike MS this August. From my first day, at KMS, I've had the privilege to co-teach a class (every day) with the best teacher I've ever worked with! As a special education teacher, she teaches everything. It would take me too long to list all I've learned from watching her teach, communicate with parents, & be a positive role model in the KMS community. She is truly in it for the students. She is always willing to discuss plans, strategize new ways to connect with students, & analyze what worked &/or what didn't work.

    I've never thought of my students a my mentors, but I learn something new from them everyday!!

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  64. Mentors have been vitally important in my teaching career. In the first four years of my six year career, I moved from one grade level (and classroom) to the next, four times. I felt as if I would never find my bearings. Help from a few brilliant colleagues that I considered mentors kept me sane. These people supported me, guided me, and helped me to stay positive during the most trying times. They helped me develop lesson plans, introduced me to new forms of technology, suggested great professional books, and, most importantly, helped me to discover who I am as an educator.

    The mentorships I found most beneficial were the ones I sought out on my own. The people I consider mentors have been colleagues working within my building, but over the past couple of years, I have sought mentorships in other places. After the birth of my son, the time I was able to spend at school dwindled drastically, leaving little time for meetings before or after school. Social media, Twitter specifically, has given me the opportunity to see inside the worlds of teachers from all over the nation. My goal is to start reaching out to those I admire from afar on Twitter. Reading about how Rami introduced herself to someone on Twitter, an individual she now considers a mentor, gave me hope that it could work for me as well.

    Although I have never been labeled an official mentor, I would like to think that I have helped other teachers in one way or another. I am always open to sharing my ideas and materials with others. Many people have inspired me over the course of my career, and I hope to do the same for someone else.

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  65. My personal experience with mentors can best be described as "uneven," and perhaps that was due to my nontraditional entry into the teaching profession. I began when I was thirty-one, and my first year was under a temporary contract for a teacher who had taken a year of sick leave. I was assigned a mentor, a wonderful person and excellent teacher, but her classroom was located on the other side of the building, and we rarely saw each other. An additional issue with my mentor was that neither of us felt she couldn't identify with the problems I was encountering in my classes. She taught college prep and AP (and had for years), while I taught....not. Absenteeism was high, ability was low, motivation was lower. And their were non-academic concerns that my mentor and I were both shocked by. For example, the vice principle informed me that one of my freshmen might seem friendly, but I shouldn't make him angry and then turn my back on him because "he's the type to stick a knife in you." He then added with a chuckle, "If you leave your lunch at home, ask M-- for some money. He's a crack dealer and he's loaded." As he left my room, the VP tried to comfort me. "Don't worry; we're watching him. M-- will be gone soon." And he was.

    The next year, I began teaching at my current school. It was also under a temporary contract and was only for half days. Instead of being assigned a mentor, I was simply told if I had any questions, I should see the department chair. Lucky for me, the chair, Lottie, was a magnificent teacher and an excellent resource of information. My schedule was three classes, three preps, three different grades, but Lottie's wit and encouragement helped me make it through first one, then two years of half-day schedules. Finally my corporation turned the position into a full-time position, and for that, Lottie had to become my official mentor. We were both quite comfortable with the mentoring relationship by then.

    In the time since, though, I have discovered that I learn more from everyday interactions with my colleagues and from time spent discussing various topics with other teachers in professional forums. A one-day class observation and critique simply can't compare to the give-and-take exchange of ideas of a round-table discussion, of working with my counterpart across the hall or at my sister school (hey, Southwood). I can say, "I have this issue in class..." and suddenly there are 3-4 suggestions on how I might fix it. Or "What do you think of this idea?" is met with a chorus of "Awesome!" or "Ugh!" (Well, they're usually more polite than that, but you get the picture.)

    When I am the one mentoring, I try to remember all those early experiences and make myself available and approachable. And I never assume that the mentoring is one-sided. I remember on one occasion when I shared some information with my mentor, and she was quite surprised. "I didn't know that!" I don't know everything, and sometimes the mentor can learn something as well.

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  66. I was also assigned a mentor during my first year of teaching. I was teaching special education in the Indianapolis area. My mentor was an English teacher in my building. I thought this to be very strange since we were not teaching the same thing. We began by meeting and logging our time. Then 1/2 way through the year she left for maternity leave and I was assigned another English teacher as my mentor to finish out the year. I did not find this to be very helpful at all. I wasn't able to build much of a relationship with either of them and they were not able to help my on any special education issues that I had such as paperwork or documentation. And since I had all of the special education students in my English class, they were not even able to draw on their own experiences for help or advice. I felt that this was a waste of a year as I didn't get the support that I thought I needed.

    As I have already mentioned in my introduction, I have moved around a lot during my 13 years of teaching. I never really felt that I stayed long enough anywhere to build many mentoring relationships. However, at one of my brief stints at a school, I did have a mentor in my special education coordinator. She was always available for advice and help. She would often just drop my my school to check in on me and the other special education teacher. She would go to the principal with any issues and she would support us in any situation. We knew that she always has our backs!

    After reading chapter 1 of our book, I now realize that I should have been more aggressive in seeking out the help and support that I needed. I also realize that I still need to do this even though I have 13 years of experience under my belt! To this day I still consider myself to be a "newbie". In the ever changing world of special education, I never feel as though I completely know what's going on and I constantly need to seek out information and advice. I also realize that I need to do a better job of looking for "mentors" in the areas that I want to and need to improve on in order to improve my students learning.

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    1. I never gave much thought about how much MORE change special education classrooms and their teachers go through until I read this. It has always been apparent to me how much everything else has changed. Thanks for the insight. Yet, it also makes me think that in your field it seems even more imperative that you have a mentor who is knowledgeable in special education and the needs of the students, as well as one who consistent and stable. I wish you luck in finding these mentors. Keep in mind that they may just be found in the most unlikely places outside of the school system.

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    2. Glad I could shed some light on a new area for you! I've always thought it would be helpful for a special ed teacher and a gen ed teacher to switch places for a day. I think it would be enlightening for both of us!! Our jobs are very similar but very different as well. And thanks for the well wishes!

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  67. One of my best mentors was both an administrator and teacher in our building. He was always so excited to share with me what he was doing in his classroom and I learned so much from him. He has since moved to another school, but I can still call him and get help.

    I had a wonderful student teacher this spring and really enjoyed sharing both ways with her. She had lots of technology skills that she could help me with and she had resources that I wasn't familiar with. Similarly, I had ways of dealing with parents and students, and classroom management techniques to share with her. We could discuss individual students, or how lessons went for the whole class, and focus on daily or weekly goals. It was eye-opening for me to see my students reacting to her--sometimes in positive ways, and sometimes in challenging ways--and it gave me new strategies to consider using. I also felt validated in things that I do well in the classroom and realized just how far I've come over the years. I loved the experience.

    I have an administrator now that is a mentor. When have a difficult parent situation or a challenging student, she is great about giving me not only professional advice, but sharing a parent's heart and perspective. She lets me vent and then helps me step back from feeling attacked so I can find positive ways of responding. She also makes great suggestions, without overwhelming me, for professional goal setting, and holds me accountable to these.

    I was assigned as a mentor twice in the past. Both mentees(?) became friends, but did not seem very interested in the mentor relationship. I can't say that turned out to be satisfactory professionally. I liked the questions in the book that guide us in finding good matches for mentors. I think those really help. I think one of the biggest obstacles in building a good mentor relationship is finding the time on a regular basis to build it. I enjoy every opportunity to collaborate with teachers in my department, but the time for this is rare and much too short.

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  68. Truly, the best mentor I have when it comes to teaching is my cooperating teacher from my student teaching experience. I have since taken over her position when she retired. However, during that interim period, while I was at a different school miles away, I would be on the phone with her nearly weekly brainstorming, bouncing ideas for lesson plans, papers, projects, etc. With over 30 years of teaching experience, I knew I could trust her (and still do to this day) to help me with decisions and ideas.

    Another mentor that I really rely on now is my principal. Once an English teacher herself, I know that I can trust her to give me her own insights to ideas I have and share alternative ideas or concerns that she may have that I may have not even considered while planning. She is also a wonderful resource when dealing with parents and community members who want to be involved in students' lives as well. I feel that is the most intimidating part of my job, and she is so collected in how she communicates with them, so I continually use her as a main resource for that interaction.

    I have never actually been assigned as a mentor to another teacher, but in the past years of teaching, I collaborate quite a bit with other English teachers in my building. With those teachers who share the same subject as myself, project ideas and other lesson plans are always out in the open mainly to keep all students in the same grade on the same page in English.

    Having mentors in all areas of life is such a strong and vital part of teaching. I agree with the idea that it doesn't matter if your mentors are also in the teaching profession. Being able to bounce ideas off of anyone in your network, especially outside of the education realm, is a great way to see things outside of the box, and maybe add in ideas that would normally not have come to your mind to begin with.

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  69. I find it very difficult to choose a few mentors who stand out since I entered education. In my introduction I mentioned I am a new teacher. I earned my teaching degree as a 43 year old woman leaving the dental field to pursue a life long dream. I am now 44 and still looking for my first full time position. I was blessed with amazing education professors at IPFW that were willing to spend limitless hours sharing experiences and ideas (several were practicing elementary teachers). Student teaching was an incredible experience, my internships to this point had been upper elementary, 4-6 and I decided to request primary to broaden my experience. I will forever be grateful for the amazing mentor teacher I had. Since student teaching I can honestly say, while I have not had formal mentors, I have, through discussion found a large group of teachers who are willing to open their hearts and minds to discussion. I find this to be the greatest joy of an education profession. Collaboration among teachers is amazing. In my quest to find mentors through discussion, I am often happy to learn that I have returned the favor during our discussions. We each bring a set of life-skills to the discussions, a fresh perspective and valuable input. I am continually inspired by so many teachers that I would have to say, at least for me, in my life, education as a whole has been a mentor. I feel fortunate to be part of a field where so many are experiencing growth in many ways every day. It's a challenging time to be entering education but, also a very invigorating time to be entering education. I think the invigoration comes from the open mentoring I have received from the majority of teachers I encounter every day.

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  70. Some of my most important mentors as a teacher are my parents, my grandmothers, two cousins, and one aunt, all of whom are teachers. Education really is the family business, and I count myself very lucky to have grown up hearing about the rewards of teaching and also seeing how veteran teachers deal with various challenges at work. I talk to my parents quite a bit and ask for advice with classroom management issues, and they always have great perspective and nuggets of wisdom to share.

    When I began teaching at the high school six years ago, I was very fortunate in that the two teachers who shared the ENL position before I took it full time stayed on in their own departments-- one is the English department chair, and the other is the World Languages department chair. I think one of them was officially assigned as my mentor, but I wore a path to both of their doors to ask lots of questions and get feedback about how I was doing. I had not done student teaching , so these two ladies were instrumental in helping me transition to high school and learn all the things I needed to know.

    In the book I like how Rami handles assigned mentors. For me and for many new teachers, assigned mentors are wonderful lifelines who can really make the difference between staying in the profession or not. But I can understand how that model isn't enough and how assigned mentors can be less than what someone needs. I agree that seeking out mentorships is something we should all be doing.

    Next year I hope to meet regularly with a new ENL teacher in a different building. I am really looking forward to it and to doing anything I can to help her transition to teaching.

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  71. I have had a many different mentors since high school when I taught my first class which was a summer swimming class of first graders. Since then I have had some very good mentors and some mentors who just went thru the motions. But I have to say the best mentors that I have had are the teachers I have worked with. These fellow teachers listen and give great suggestions on how to fix either lessons or behavior problems because they know the students that I work with. They also know the family life of my students which effects the classroom.

    Nine years ago I went thru the process of becoming a mentor. Since then I have been assigned many teachers by my principals and have learned that each teacher has their unique way of teaching and helping each of these teachers have to be handled in unique and individual ways. I do not regret mentoring any of these teachers because I have learned far more from them then they have learned from me. I have become a better teacher because of them. Thank you.

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  72. Unfortunately, I cannot offer any good stories about mentoring or being mentored due to my current position as a long-term substitute. However, after this past school year I can now see how important having mentors can be. There were a couple of teachers whom I came to on numerous occasions to ask for advice or direction in an upcoming lesson. Without them, I don't feel that I would have been able to accomplish as much as I had or to be as successful as I was in teaching new concepts to the students. The school corporation that I have been working for does in fact offer mentors to first year teachers, but after reading chapter one in Thrive I have come to realize how important it is to continue having mentors throughout your entire career as an educator, as well as looking for possible candidates outside your district. Always having a means to receive new, fresh perspectives does in fact help one to accomplish many feats and accomplish many goals.

    After reading this chapter I created a list of those who I work with that I may turn to for possible mentor-ship and even a couple that I don't work with. I truly enjoyed what Meeno Rami had to offer her readers in Chapter 1, Turn to Mentors because it has opened my eyes to see the importance of finding possible mentors even before my first year teaching. I look forward to embarking on the journey to get meet with my potential mentors and sharing with them what I admire about them and/or their work.

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  73. Oddly enough, the first corporation I was employed did not have a formal mentorship program in place. It was sink or swim, and unfortunately from my perspective, the wasn’t many staff members who would throw you a life preserver. The school corporation I am currently employed rallied around and supported the newbie. One of the aspects I enjoyed was the monthly discussion panel for the benefit of all the corporation’s first year teachers. I learned so much from the dialogue and conversations during those meetings.
    After the initial year in the corporation, there are still opportunities for mentorship within the curriculum teams and level teams. It’s exciting to hear what is working in others’ classrooms and see student engagement increasing with the implementations of collaborative ideas. Currently I am involved in a reciprocal mentoring relationship with a veteran teacher of 35 years. I am learning so much from her as it relates to differentiation, reading strategies, and parent communication. I am guiding her through the world of technology and online learning environments. It’s a win-win!!
    Prior to reading this chapter, I hadn’t considered going outside of my district for mentorship. My mind is spinning with all of the incredible educators I know that I can pursue for mentoring opportunities. I am looking forward to reaching out to an area educator who I admire. She was one of my children’s favorite teachers, and transformed reading for my children into an exciting, hands-on experience. I appreciate Meenoo’s examples on how to reach out to potential mentors (pp. 10 & 11) and the conversation examples you could have with your mentor (pp. 13 & 14).

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    1. Tasha…So glad someone else from JEO is participating. I am so glad you and Deb have each other.

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  74. I have found mentors to be extremely important in learning the ins and outs of teaching. At my current school we do not have a mentoring program but all of the teachers are supportive to one another. I have been blessed to work with a great 3rd grade unit where we can share our ideas, ask questions, and offer advice to each other on a weekly basis. I also have mentors outside of my school.

    I have found these mentors through joining different committees and becoming Orton-Gillingham certified. My most important mentor has been my mother, who is also a teacher. She has been my biggest supporter in helping shape me to be the teacher I am today.

    Since I have just finished my 3rd year teaching I wouldn't say I have been a mentor but more of supportive coworker to my unit. As I mentioned previously we are a tight knit group and share our thoughts, ideas, and troubles with one another. We try to help each other improve in areas we are weak and push each other in our strengths.

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  75. I have enjoyed reading all the comments so far. The one that stands out in my mind deals with informal vs. formal mentoring. In order to certify my initial license, I had to go through two years of required mentoring. My mentor teacher was in my content area and happened to be my Spanish teacher in high school. Needless to say, he knew me very well. We both thought that the mentoring program required by the state was a very weak one--too contrived. The best and most effective mentoring moments come from those impromptu talks. My vote would be informal mentoring over formalized mentoring. Like many of you, I am considering really delving into establishing PLN and really looking into my dormant twitter and ning sign-ups. On to chapter two! Best, Rhonda

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  76. Oh no…something just happened…I typed up my entry…and hit publish…and poof…it was gone. Where did it go?

    Here we go again…(this is a much shorter version of what was lost)

    Mentors have been and continue to be a huge part of my teaching career. When I first began teaching, years ago, I was assigned a mentor. She helped with the little things, the things like how to make copies and where to find the supplies I would need for my classroom, and when and how to fill out the forms for this and that. But when it came to teaching practices, we were just so different. I relied on those teachers who were hired at the same time I was…the teachers who had the same questions I had…we would meet and talk and figure things out together.

    It was maybe a year or two or three…I really can't remember, that I met three amazing teachers (Lola Schaefer, Connie Fullerton, and Kathi Hurni) from a neighboring school corporation. They led these once a month Saturday sessions in our county. On these Saturdays, there would be anywhere from 20 to 30 of us listening to and working with these women. They shared their beliefs and teaching practices with us. They shared their approaches to teaching with us, they shared the books they were reading to their students and the books they were reading professionally with us. They challenged us all to move beyond our comfort zones. They introduced me to amazing writers, I think Reggie Routman, might have been the first one. They gave me a purpose for reading professionally…and I continue to do so today. Since those early years…I have found writers like Katie Wood Ray, Ralph Fletcher, Lucy Calkins, GaySu Pinnell and Irene Fountas, Debbie Miller, Staphanie Harvey, Donalyn Miller, Franki Sibberson, and so many others. I may not be able to sit down with these mentors one on one…but through their written word, they have been and continue to be mentors to me.

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    1. Holly..sorry to hear that you lost everything. I always type my posts in a writing program (pages on my iPad) before I copy and paste it to post. I learned from experience to have a back up before I hit publish.

      Now for your Saturday morning meetings, this idea really intrigues me. I always lead a book group in the summer, but never thought about extending it into a year-round group lead by veteran teachers. I think this is something I will explore and maybe start with my teachers next year. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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    2. I learned my lesson…needless to say this week I did things differently. I made sure to have a copy before I published. Thanks for sharing.

      I have been thinking about this Saturday morning meetings as well. It's something that I miss. It might be something I begin to think about for the future as well.

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  77. Teaching teaching FLS is very isolating, there aren't many teachers with this experience. Finding others who understand not only the needs of the students but my needs as an educator & colleague has been difficult. My first year of teaching, I was assigned to someone who was totally clueless. I relentlessly pursued help from other special ed. teachers; I felt like a huge pain. I was promised training, but did not receive it. I'm finally in a position with a co-teacher who is amazing, and she is a great mentor. Over the years I've relied on service providers for input, especially our OT and the SLP. These two ladies had a lot of experience and always took the time to talk to me and give me valuable input.

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  78. I have found mentors to be vital to staying fresh and current in teaching. For the most part, I have sought out advice from fellow English teachers throughout my career. Some relationships I consider very one-sided: I see myself clearly learning from them, not sure how much reciprocity there is. However, other relationships it seems are like a dual mentorship: we help one another,challenge one another, support one another, and actually that is how I've come to learn, most mentor relationships work. Both teachers gain from the collaboration. I also have found my principals to be wonderful mentors. I have mentored student teachers and/or new teachers in the building. I find these experiences to be rewarding. I think that being a mentor causes me reflect, judge, and evaluate what I do as a teacher. This is a good thing. Mentoring requires that I stop and ask myself why am I doing what I'm doing. I find great benefit in this.

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  79. Finishing up my first year of teaching seems like such a huge relief. I am so excited to begin planning for the next year. My summer will be full of looking back at what I did and deciding what I can change to make my next year even better. A lot of this drive comes from my mentor. During my student teaching I was paired with a wonderful teacher. She is the literacy department head, takes on ELL curriculum development, and even oversees school literacy development. She is always on the go and never stops. To her, everything is for the students. I am so grateful to have her in my life. Fortunately, I was hired after completing my student teaching and was able to teach in the same school as her. She is always helping me think of new and exciting ways to do things. She makes planning fun for me. It doesn't seem like a task. She is willing to spend all the time she has to help me build a strong foundation in my beginning years of teaching. She believes that by believing in me she is believing in the future. I don't know where I would be without her. She checks up on me often and is always looking for ways to me to enhance my curriculum. I have seen several of my friends struggle in their first year because they haven't had the support I have had. I would definitely say I was "spoiled." I would also say I am a better teacher for it. She guides me in professional development, allows me to borrow things she has used and gives me suggestions, and also looks over my plans and assignments. I believe that having a mentor is very beneficial as long as you have a good support system. Everyone needs something different. However, everyone could benefit from a mentor. Even with such little experience, I have had the opportunity to mentor. I have kept in touch with several of my friends and pass along the suggestions that my mentor gives me. I found that by keeping in touch I can also get ideas from them. This also allows for great discussions about what works and what doesn't. It requires reflection that helps me prepare for the future.

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  80. I have found mentors very important to my career. My first mentor was my mother. She was an elementary teacher as well. As I was growing up, I would watch her at home preparing lessons during the summer and during the school year. One of the most important things that she has taught me is to never stop learning. Throughout her career she was always taking workshops or taking classes. This was an important lesson because she has a life license and never needed to take any of these workshops or classes. Those actions showed me how important it is to learn new things from the beginning of my career up until the very end. I was also lucky enough to teach with her for a year and now currently teach at the school that she taught at while I was growing up.

    I feel that our direct teaching partners can be our best resource for mentors, whether they’ve taught longer than us or shorter than us. I’ve never sought out specific mentors but I definitely will be doing that now.

    A few years ago, I was a mentor to a first year teacher. I think that experience helped me grow as well as her. She would ask my advice on certain situations and it would make me think of different solutions and be creative. Even though this was a set up situation, I believe we all have mentors that we don’t seek out as such but they end of being that way.

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  81. As I look back, my first mentor was my elementary and middle school band teacher. He was an excellent musician and expected us all to be as well. He was the one who inspired me to go into teaching because I wanted to share the gifts of music with young people.

    In my professional career, I was assigned a mentor as a first year teacher as part of the first year teacher orientation in the state of Florida. The teacher was supposed to be someone from the same discipline but since there was only one music teacher (me) I was assigned the art teacher. This was elementary school and he had been forced to take an elementary job when he moved to the state because there were no middle or high school positions open. He was a bitter man. Most of our conversations left me feeling like I was getting absolutely NOTHING out of the mentoring relationship. Overall it was a waste of my time and probably the art teacher's as well. The only positive thing that he brought to me was the fact that he felt very strongly that I belonged in Middle School or High School. In that, he was correct and I'm very glad that he badgered me into applying for a High School job for my second year of teaching.

    Now that I'm back in the classroom after many years raising my children, I am again in a position to be mentored. In fact, are we ever in a position to go without mentoring? Not if we're smart! My mentors included colleagues and my principal and assistant principal last year. I had a challenging group of 8th grade General Music students and at the beginning of the year I was ill equipped to keep them reigned in and engaged in order to share my passion for music. Through conversations with my assistant principal, my friend the band director and some of my colleagues on the 8th grade team in my building, I built a set of strategies to address the behavior issues I was having. I was sinking a bit on my own and getting frustrated so I was very happy to be able to bounce ideas off others and to have the reassurance that I wasn't crazy, my job was a bit hard but I was capable of tackling the task at hand AND get some teaching done.

    At the same time, I've needed a ton of mentoring on incorporating technology into my classroom. If you think about where we were with technology in 1998 (the last year I was full-time teaching) we have come a LONG way. I have relied on tech support, colleagues and my husband to help me with new-to-me technologies. I am thankful for those people who take their valuable time to be helpful to me and without them, my teaching life would be much less productive and far more frustrating.

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  82. I have found mentors to be extremely important since the first day of my career 21 years ago. I was not assigned a mentor then but found myself seeking them out. My position as a Title 1 teacher gave me the opportunity to work in the classrooms of amazing teachers, and I learned so much by seeing what worked for them. I was always looking in classrooms as I walked up and down hallways. Today my position as a literacy coach allows me to frequently visit classrooms and I still find my selfs learning in them!

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  83. I was blessed to begin my teaching career with a wonderful teaching partner and mentor. She was an experienced teacher, and I was fresh out college and in my first year of teaching. I appreciated her honesty, her willingness to help with whatever I needed, her practical advice on the workings of our particular school, her support in areas both in and out of school as I began my family and balanced work and children. I owe her so much and she has greatly influenced the teacher that I am today. She is retired now, but remains a very respected mentor to me. Now, 20+ years later, I find myself being the mentor, trying very hard to be a positive example and a source of support and practical knowledge to my young teaching partner.

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  84. I was never given a formal mentor but my supervising teachers during student teaching taught me much. Over the last 29 years I continue to find mentors. I have had the privilege to work in many different school settings and grade levels and at each place and time have found those who have given me so much. I have been so blessed. I too feel blessed to help those who struggle with children labeled as emotionally disabled.

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  85. Mentors are an important part of teaching; sometimes even if it is someone who is simply listening. Teaching FLS can be very isolating because there aren't many of us out there. I was first assigned a mentor; she was totally clueless. I reached out to countless other teachers and felt as though I was a pain to some. However, I was very fortunate to have great service providers who gave me a lot of positive input that I will always value. Now I am fortunate to have an awesome co-teacher to continually bounce ideas off of. I am more than happy to mentor others as well. I have tried to start an EdModo page for FLS teachers but haven't had any interest, which is disappointing. I continually ask my district for opportunities to collaborate with other spec. ed. teachers, but haven't had much success either. Outside of my district, I found a lot of help from peers during my Master's program. We were all in the field and it was exhilarating to talk face to face twice a week.

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  86. This first chapter made me ponder several things. First, who were my current mentors? How did they become my mentor? Was I getting the most I could from that experience? Second, did I need or more appropriately, want any additional mentors? How was I going to get them and what was my effective plan? Third, did my previous mentor experiences shape my opinion of mentor ship so that it was inaccurately skewed. If so how would I then go about making those changes? These are things that during the school year I do not take the time to consider. I have students, lesson plans, paperwork, meetings, parents, emails.. The list goes on. Yes, I do have a few mentors but I certainly feel like I could benefit from a few more! My new task for this coming year. Thank you!

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  87. When I first started teaching in 2008, I was fortunate to have a mentor assigned to me. This teacher was in her last year of teaching and was able to acclimate me to the building and answered any questions I had. She was able to help with classroom management, and I was able to help her with technology. I like that the author pointed out that the mentee can contribute to the relationship, because I think this is important. We all have different areas of strengths.

    This chapter really has me thinking, though, of who my mentor really was that first year. It's actually one that I really had not thought of in such a way. Now I realize he was, in fact, my mentor. He was the teacher across the hall who was hired the same day I was. Everyday after school we would reflect upon our day by meeting in the hallway outside of our classrooms. We spent hours discussing strategies and ideas that worked and those that needed adjusting in some way. Looking back now, those conversations really made me grow in my career. It allowed me to bring enthusiasm into my classroom even though I was weary physically and mentally from trying to manage everything and be the best teacher I could be.

    I agree with some of the comments made here that our mentors change throughout our careers and as we grow professionally. Technology has allowed us to have easier access to mentors as I have many that I follow on Twitter.

    I really appreciate the author reminding me how important the mentor relationship is in order to be successful. I look forward to sharing with others.

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  88. The mentor assigned to me during my first year of teaching really never became a mentor. She answered questions if I had any, but other than that...the guidance or feedback never really manifested. In hindsight, she realized the inadequacy and has apologized countless times in the years since she retired for not being what she could have been. No harm, no foul. I was clueless as to what a mentor was at that point in my career, so I did not realize what to seek out in a mentor to make it better.
    The second year of teaching, the new third grade teacher had 20 years of teaching experience in the field of special education. She became my strongest mentor, and the 17 years in third grade we shared helped me become a stronger teacher. We would plan together and offer feedback to lessons and ideas. She retired this past June, so next year will be my first "solo" year. However, I'm hoping to become to a younger teacher what she was/is to me.
    How I happened upon Mary as a mentor was merely chance. I felt quite isolated my first year in teaching. I was the only gen-ed class downstairs that year, and the other 5 third grade classes were all upstairs and together. I decided, based on that experience, that every "new to 3rd" teacher would at least receive an offer to plan or visualize the journey together. From that decision, I have developed several friendships and a couple have become mentors.
    Outside of my grade level, I seek out those with expertise in areas where I lack or am seeking improvement. For instance, I enjoy integrating technology, so I will dialogue with teachers I know use it effectively in order to improve my instruction. Likewise, I converse with special education teachers when seeking out improvements in differentiating for learning disabled or emotionally challenged students.
    As far as "official mentoring", I have been assigned to three teachers in the past. Back in the days of the "new teacher binder" when mentors had to go through several training workshops, create a mock portfolio, and become certified, I was one of only three in the building. So anyone who as 3rd grade and below was assigned to me. Because of this, I was assigned to two kindergarten teachers. I did not even get an endorsement for kindergarten because it is not an area I see me "fitting", so mentoring those teachers was difficult. I tried to schedule times to meet and dialogue about what was happening in their classrooms and offer feedback. When they were uncertain how to proceed, I helped them to talk it out or to seek out someone with more expertise in the area. The third teacher was our high-ability specialist, and again I felt I was lacking. So "officially", I've been an ineffective mentor three times.
    However, unofficially, I mentor with whomever the opportunity arises. Whether it is discussing technology, differentiating, or inquiry-based science instruction, I enjoy sharing ideas and giving/receiving feedback and suggestions. That cheesy motto "Together Everyone Achieves More" is true. Cheesy? Yes. But still true.

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    1. There have been so many times that you mentored to me. What I love is that I know when I pick up the phone to call you about something, you are always there. You do a dynamic job teaching those ED kids. Working with you has been blessing.

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  89. Although my teaching career is still relatively in its beginning stages, I've found myself seeking ways to be a mentor to others because I have had great mentoring in my professional and personal life. My student teacher mentors were phenomenal, and next year I'll have the opportunity to mentor my first student teacher. I was pushed out of my comfort zone during student teaching...being put in charge of We the People prep and welcoming the Lithuanian Minister of Education into my supervisor and I's classroom. Much of my fearlessness with lesson planning and technology implementation begin with those simple lessons as a student teacher.

    As a Peace Corps volunteer, I feel like the world was my mentor. I learned from my country director, counterparts, students, English camp directors, etc. My Peace Corps group called me "Teacher Tara" because I was one of the few with an Ed. degree. I learned, then, that regardless of age or experience I had a lot to give and mentor with based on my pedagogy and approach to teaching. I can't wait to be a mentor next year, but I like to think I've been one already in an informal sense. I hope that my colleagues feel like I empower them and share all the things that work for me.

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  90. When I first started teaching, I was paired with an older gentleman and we had many of the same interest. Most of our conversations took place on the golf course. We spent at least one day a week golfing during the spring and summer; a round of golf usually last three hours so it gave us plenty of time to discuss teaching strategies, classroom discipline, and a plethora of other topics. I also have a friend at school now that I look to for guidance. She is very knowledgeable in her field, and I respect her opinion. I would agree that not all mentors have to come from the same department. This chapter did make me think about who my current mentors are and where I can find more. My department is really good at sharing ideas and discussing school matters. Sometimes we get more accomplished at lunch just discussing issues with one another.

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  91. I began my career in teaching where I was assigned a mentor for my first year of teaching. I remember that being a very good thing as I had many questions my first year. When I changed my focus in education and became a teacher-librarian, as the only person with this responsibility in the building/corporation, I didn't have a mentor locally. I began to seek out mentors online. These TLs didn't realize it, but they mentored me with their blog posts, list serv answers, and social media sharings. I've just completed my fifth year as a teacher-librarian and I've found that by seeking out mentors, I have been able to grow and learn immensely. The majority of my connections have been made on Twitter. I love that we live in a world now where it's possible to be mentored by someone in another state! I don't think of myself as a mentor, but as I've become more confident in my career and skills I've volunteered to share with others. These sharing sessions have led to me mentoring other teacher-librarians who seek me out for my areas of expertise.

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  92. I have never had a mentor assigned to me. However, in each school I have taught at, there have been so many people who have coached me and helped in many different areas. In the first school I taught at, we had a literacy coach who held professional development meetings to discuss best practice strategies such as QAR. I asked her to observe me in the classroom and give me tips. She helped me tremendously. Also, other teachers I have worked with have been so supportive. I have also been lucky enough to work with some amazing principals who have been extremely helpful and supportive. I think mentors can come from many different sources, and it is very important to have people we can turn to for support and to share ideas with.

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  93. As a beginning teacher I was assigned a mentor by my building principal. She was the most supportive and knowledgeable person. It made my transition to my own classroom much smoother and less stressful. She shared wonderful ideas and helped me think through situations. I have since been able to give back by being a mentor myself. Our corporation offered a mentor training program a few years ago and I was able to go through the training. The corporation now has a greater turn over of teachers than the few of us who were trained are able to mentor, but all new teachers our assigned a mentor within our corporation. A mentor serves as a go to person for support and to share ideas. They are a great resource for collaboration and for reflection. As a mentor, I can say that I also learn a great deal from the teachers that I serve as a mentor too. In my eyes, having a mentor is one of the best and most important things we can do for a beginning teacher.

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  94. As I read this chapter it occurred to me that in my 27 year career I have never been assigned a mentor or mentored a colleague officially. I'm not really sure why I have not been assigned a mentor in the three corporations I have worked. I do think that I will probably not ever get a chance to work with student teachers or mentor a new teacher since my days are spent in a self-contained classroom with multiple grade levels! However, that doesn't mean that I haven't learned from bouncing ideas off of teachers, counselors, administrators, and even friends. The most exciting moment for me in my current position was when the alternative program was moved from a site off campus to the middle school building. The support I received and continue to feel every day has made a huge difference in my teaching and my confidence to continue to work with at-risk students. Also, the opportunities our administration provides to collaborate with fellow teachers is priceless.

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  95. When I first started in this corporation, which was my first public teaching job, I asked for and was assigned a mentor. She was with me every day in the classroom for two solid weeks and helped me learn the system here, gave me veteran tips on how to deal with an unruly student during the first week, and how to live as a "very visible public servant" in a small town. She had retired from teaching the very same class I was teaching and had been there for over thirty years. Having her there helped make my transition a seamless one.

    A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to be a mentor to a new teacher who was a visiting teacher of Chinese for 6 months. During that time we formed a friendship and still keep in contact.

    I've also had a few "life mentors" who took the time to take me under their wing, and I've been the same for a couple younger women. I wish more of this went on not only in the educational setting, but in society as a whole.

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  96. Right now I really have to think my teaching career so far as a mosaic. As I said before, I am truly lucky to have had all of the mentors or models I have had. It starts out with all of the teachers I had that impacted me in my formal education but is not limited to my grandmother, my favorite college professor, and a former boss not in the field of education. I really felt after asking myself the questions posed about what we want to strengthen in our career my response was that I feel totally comfortable with my organization, my repoir with students, my background knowledge, I need someone to help me fuel my fire by being positive and helping me focus on the benefits of even the most trying situation. This can only be done by different sources. I have different people I look to for areas of expertise and I couldn't do it with out different perspectives. For example, my best friend is a new teacher too and she guides me in the use of technology in the classroom, but a co worker is excellent in helping me streamline management. I love how we can always take a learn from one another and it's infinite.

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  97. While traveling I had a great deal of time to think about the mentors I have had in the past and what a mentor means today for me as an educator. When I first became a teacher 24 years ago, I was the youngest person on the staff. During that time, it was only logical that those vetran teachers had more knowledge about teaching than I did. I have always been the type of person to seek advice from others and established a variety of mentors. I established relationships with several in the english department that helped me with my writing. I would often go to my prinicpal for professional guidance, my department chair to help me with the science curriculum and sought out those that served as a sounding board when I was frustrated professionally and even some who served as mentors to me as a young woman making life decisions. As these people have retired over the years and become busy outside of education those mentor relationships have gone away and I miss them. But as one of my students said to me as we were walking and chatting in the Amazon recently about the retirement this year of one of my biggest mentors, the language arts teacher on my team who I have been with for 21 yesrs, she said "well, you just have to find someone else that you can go to" and she is right! However, I think establishing mentors can be a little more difficult now than in the past. Only because our time during the school day and even after school is so filled with things to do it is difficult to etch out time to meet about one more thing. However, I see the importance in taking a good look at what I need most and finding someone who is willing to collaborate with me. There are so many young teachers that understand things like technology that I could benefit from greatly!! I think that with all the changes in education, the idea of creating mentors is also evolving. I need to keep my mind open to seeking mentors outside of my school. Staying connected to my friend who retired through technology should also be a priority. My husband is also a teacher. He is a math department chair in 8th grade ande I am lucky as he continues to be a valued mentor to me outside of school!

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  98. Mentors are great!! I was hired 2 days before the school year began and would have been absolutely lost without my mentors. I went to them for everything and they were so wonderful to me. I look forward to being a mentor for others in the future. My mentors played a vital role in me surviving my first year of teaching. :)

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  99. I came into teaching many years after getting my degree. Although I worked in the school setting two years before renewing my degree, facing a classroom students for the first time as their teacher would have been a bit daunting without my mentor. My mentor also happened to be the Director of Special Education for our very small district, and a woman whose beliefs were very similar to my own. Mentors "happen" so to speak as we meet more people throughout the years in our own teaching communities as well as those outside. I have had the opportunity to host several college students in my classroom who were doing observations for their ed classes. When you have someone observing how and what you teach, it makes you really aware of what you are doing and how you are doing it. You find yourself evaluating yourself as a teacher and how someone else sees you. I do think it makes you a better teacher.

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  100. Mentors have been important as a Family and Consumer Science (FACS) teacher. Those mentoring me to go beyond a h. s. diploma and select my major would back be my parents, my mom that taught me some homemaking skills & my workaholic dad. I definitely owe success in my life to a h. s. teacher, my speech coach and my best friends in h.s. which ended up being public educators. I didn’t want to take on some of the teacher’s teaching methods but he had a way of making you work hard while instilling confidence & he produced not only winning teams but also successful individuals. My best female friend always did well and had confidence. A guy that I met near the end of my junior year turned out to be my best friend, by husband, that taught 4th grade a few years, but 3rd grade most of his career.

    Several department teachers I taught with were older or same age, but most often less years experience. Some left FACS wanting to find a more rewarding field in education, be a stay-at-home mom, or retire early. When I started at my current school the only ones in my hallway were myself & other FACS teacher, but now there are 3 classrooms across the hall. One FACS co-worker, a few years younger left to go to the sister school. We still mentor, collaborate & support each other in many areas of life. Although they teach something different, mentors I have come to appreciate are those in my hallway and one at opposite end of building. Sometimes we just remind each other of meetings and deadlines. With the advances in technology, new evaluation system, 1:1 computer we find we need each other even more.

    When it comes to technology, I will ask anyone that is available. A gal that is young, but not a novice is always willing to help me. I will even ask a “techie” student. I have used student evaluations, students, & depart. lab assts to help guide me on other issues, they often know of things that happen when my back is turned, so then I wait until I can catch the problem students to maintain student confidentiality.

    My mentors can be found in the most surprising places church, subs. community, parents, & while shopping. My mother-in-law inspires me to risk trying new recipes & patterns. My own kids have mentored me not only when they were my students, but also now as adults. I go with my cadets to the elementary and I have found mentors in the elementary. My mother-in-law, my husband, sister, and daughter were elementary teachers. Some of the things might be simple like my husband’s suggestion to use post-it-notes on seating chart. My daughter also taught in a school for students placed by the court system, where I gained behavior ideas. Classroom guest speakers and places I take my students on field trips have mentored to me. When I am feeling lazy, blue or exhausted my 94-year-old neighbor lady can put me to shame. Her skills, task lists, attitude and work ethic should mentor to anyone.

    I have mentored to my students and those above. I agree with many things Meenoo says on a good match. I see often teachers seeking mentors that don’t meet some of these important characteristics: passion, spirit lifer, trustworthy; students trust them, attentive students, etc.. The following is something I noticed when getting my formal education, in my corporation, and other occupations. Those people that make themselves sound perfect and their weekly creative ideas they talk of and their bragging makes you look inferior, probably are not going to continue to be my “go to” mentors. In education, teachers are too busy for you to just focus and monopolize time of one mentor. I suggest using many mentors; it can even save your time. Those that teach close to me and former students, some that have become teachers even in our own school district not only do I still mentor them sometimes, but also they mentor me. They are there when I need a slap in the face or a high-five.

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  101. I was an older teacher when I started. I had a middle school student at home, so classroom management was never an issue. Sadly, I have never had a mentor. The people who have influenced my teaching, have usually been coworkers. I did have the opportunity to watch a mentoring situation last year. This did not work for either party. This was for a first year teacher. She was supposed to be under the seasoned eye of the department head. How ever their personalities clashed. The new teacher was full of new and exciting ideas, the seasoned teacher, not so much.
    I see how mentors can be a huge help. There are times when I wish I had a mentor that was open to new ideas.

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