January is National Mentoring Month

January has been proclaimed National Mentoring Month - a time to celebrate and honor educators, administrators, coaches, parents, community leaders, and others who support and help individuals reach their full potential.

Marian Wright Edelman, an American activist for children’s rights, noted, “It is the responsibility of every adult – especially parents, educators, and religious leaders – to make sure that children hear what we have learned from the lessons of life and to hear over and over that we love them and that they are not alone.”

Mentorship goes beyond simply adults mentoring youth, though. As a new teacher, you may have been assigned to an experienced teacher as part of your district’s mentor/mentee program. My first formal mentor, Kay, was highly respected by colleagues and students. She supported me and pushed me during the inevitable challenging times and celebrated my successes. She shared and modeled tried and true best teaching practices yet was open to and appreciative of “fresh” approaches that I provided as a newly minted teacher.

In my opinion, Kay had all the qualities of an effective mentor:

  • She was a good listener.
  • She was trustworthy.
  • She was a strong leader.
  • She inspired me.
  • She challenged me.
  • She supported me.
  • She had a positive attitude.

Whether it’s a formal or an informal arrangement, mentorship can be powerful and beneficial for both the mentors and the mentees. Throughout my years in education, I sought out meaningful partnerships with colleagues who had characteristics like Kay’s. I eventually began to host student teachers and college practicum students in my classroom and experienced the value of mentoring up-and-coming teachers.

Being a mentor prompted me to be more mindful of my professional practices. As I observed my mentees, I also reflected more on my own instructional approaches and interactions with students – and modified my approaches as necessary. I was often inspired by the mentees whom I worked with, and I grew as a leader.

From soaring demands and expectations and a lack of resources to severe student behaviors, teaching can be challenging - especially in today’s world. Whether you’re a new teacher or a teacher with decades of experience, you can benefit from having a mentor who can truly understand what you’re going through.

How might you find a mentor? First determine what qualities you are looking for in a mentor, as well as the goals you hope to accomplish with the support of a mentor. Then consider beginning your search within the school where you teach. Having a mentor in the same building provides convenience and he/she will have a solid understanding of the nuances of how your school operates. If you’re unsure about who might be a good match for you, ask a co-worker or an administrator for suggestions.

You don’t need to limit your search to your current school, however. Other places to consider finding a mentor:

  • Schools where you previously taught
  • Schools you attended as a student, including universities
  • Professional organizations to which you belong
  • Online social networks for educators
  • Local organizations within your community

Best wishes for your search! Remember, mentorship can be a win: win for both the mentors and the mentees involved.

Looking for additional information and resources about National Mentoring Month? Check out https://www.mentoring.org/campaigns/national-mentoring-month/.

Jill Rockwell
Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices. Together with her husband and two young boys, Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin. 

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