#reflectiveteacher – 9/6 – What Does A Good Mentor Do?

Reflective Teacher Blog Challenge

Note: I am participating in a 30-day blog challenge as part of Reflective Teacher Month at Teach Thought. I am looking forward to learning more about myself, my pedagogy and my colleagues.

Day 6 Prompt: Explain: What does a good mentor “do”?

In my career as a teacher, I have looked high and low, in four different school systems, for good mentors. I can tell you up front what good mentors do NOT do:

  • Give bad advice
  • Tell me that all my ideas sound good
  • Make vague suggestions
  • Spend more time dreaming about your retirement than mentoring
  • Offer to observe my class, but never show up

I’m sure all these teachers meant well, but for whatever reason, just couldn’t step up to the mentoring plate. Perhaps they thought they were helping. Some teachers haven’t really thought enough about their pedagogy in so many years, they can’t put into words what they do. Some teachers think they’re giving good advice, but it doesn’t work out so well for me.

Those teachers who have been invaluable to my quest to become an excellent teacher had a few things in common. If you want to be a good mentor, this is what you should do:

  • Listen
  • Observe the teacher you’re mentoring and offer specific, actionable advice
  • Tell the teacher when she messes up — and help her figure out how to fix the mistake
  • Look at the teacher’s process and procedures and make specific suggestions on how she can improve
  • Talk with her (or him!) about your experiences as a teacher, what has worked for you, and why
  • Encourage the teacher when you see success (sometimes new teachers don’t realize they have made progress — students aren’t always going to voluntarily tell the teacher that they have just learned something)
  • Listen to the teacher’s concerns and discuss pedagogy, the state of education, the meaning of the world — whatever the teacher needs in order to make sense of this thing we call education

These are just my thoughts as someone who has voraciously sought mentoring from any teacher who would listen, until she found the select few who met her criteria for a good mentor.




Related topics: Reflective Teacher

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

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