Participating in the Curry School Mentor Teacher Training Program began a reflective process for me during the last four months. I mentored two graduate students prior to the class and felt the partnership went well. I knew I did not want new student teachers to feel as lost as I did when I first started teaching and I thought this class could help guide me as a coach and mentor.
The class taught me a lot about myself, and the kind of teacher I want to be for my students and teacher candidates. My colleagues and I discussed various strategies for school transformation through coaching. We read work by Elena Aguilar in which she states that those of us who facilitate professional growth must “cultivate a particular way of being”. This means we must practice to convey a sense of calm and reflective space that is open and allows our practicum students and teacher interns to slow down and learn. To do so, we must be confident, compassionate, grounded, and present.
Teachers and coaches are ask to do many things each day and fulfill many roles. These skills must come with confidence and compassion. I notice that teacher candidates are excited to learn and experience everything. The mentor teacher training taught me to narrow my focus and discuss key dimensions of teaching to help teacher candidates grow. An example would be looking at the dimension of Positive Climate. By looking at one dimension, we enable future teachers to learn and focus. We then can ask probing questions to identify key understanding and to facilitate genuine problem solving.
I work with students with disabilities and when we focus on too many things at one time, my students can become overwhelmed trying to process too much information. Yet, when we introduce one item at a time and build upon that foundation, the outcome seems so much easier to achieve. Just like my students, teacher candidates need to focus on one or two components of teaching at a time. We need to be grounded and present as we help our teacher candidates focus on specific teaching practices to build relationships, problem solve, and enable themselves to learn more deeply.
Watching and listening are skills that most resonate with me every time I am with a student, a colleague, and especially a teacher candidate. I wait, I listen, I pause, and I make my brain turn off everything else that is going on so I can be present when someone is talking. This is a life lesson for all teachers.
My daughter, a freshman in high school, said to me, “mom I cannot hear what the teacher is saying when I am trying to take notes.” She did not mean she could not physically hear the words the teacher was saying. She meant my brain is working so hard to take notes, I am missing all this other important information that makes what I am writing down make sense. We all need to be present in the task we are trying to accomplish whether we are the student, the teacher, or the mentor. I know this is the best action I can take for a person is to be present and as a “way of being” when mentoring others. As Elena Aguilar said, we must be confident, compassionate, grounded, and present. This is what I aspire to be each day.