Saturday, July 16, 2016

Now that I'm a mentor...

...I'm looking for ways to help my mentee. I have not been assigned a mentee officially for this year, but I am excited to move forward in my career into a leadership role. I was doing some research into mentor support when I stumbled across a page from They posted twelve questions that people should be asking their mentor and I thought it would make for an interesting blog post!

1. What do you wish you knew at my stage?
Pick and choose what you are going to do in the classroom - you cannot do everything. It will take time to add stuff to your bag of tricks, and that's okay! Start with what you are good at, then build from there. For example, I am quite good with integrating technology in my classroom. I integrated tech from the very first day of school. My tech integration has changed over the years, but it's something that I incorporate because I think it is important. Even though I am tech savvy, it took some time for me to use Twitter. I was really resistant to blogging until this summer! For my curriculum, it took me a long time to come to terms with giving students choice. This school year, I will have more choice for my students than ever. But like I said before, start with what you are good at and are comfortable with, BUT, keep growing and keep building your arsenal.
2. Who else would you recommend I connect with?
It sounds silly, but you first need to connect with your classroom janitor and with the secretaries in the front office. They will be your go-to people when you need something, and a smile and a please/thank you can go a long way. I have rarely argued with these people because of the foundation I created when I first started teaching at SMS. I would also encourage you to find a mentor whether it's the mentor that you were assigned or just someone that you can go to for advice. I would lastly recommend that you find someone to talk to whether it's a psychiatrist, a friend, a family member - someone who can listen to you and help you work through the problems that you will go through as a teacher. You might think that your spouse or partner is the perfect person for this, but they will get sick of you talking about school all of the time. Find someone that you can blow off steam with that understands what you are going through.
3. How can I work smarter?
This will take some time - after 10 years of teaching, I'm still trying to figure this out! Find ways to build in quick, formative assessments. Find ways for the students to provide feedback (*cough* Google Apps!) for each other; even grade each other! And remember that you do not have to grade everything and not everything has to go in the grade book. 
4. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I wish that I would have studied backwards design from the get-to. I never realized how essential it would be for my lesson planning, and how helpful it would be to better integrate the Marzano tools that our district is implementing. When I started teaching with the iPads, I wish I would have spoken up about how necessary training was. I needed support, and I did not get it. I also wish I would have known about Capturing Kids Hearts training when I first started teaching. These three things could have transformed my teaching from the start instead of me figuring it out as I went.
5. What are you trying to accomplish this year?
I want to make sure my classroom Marzano scales are strong from the start of the year. This way, I can have my students "grade" themselves on the scale and reflect much more this year. I was inspired at the ISTE 2016 conference to have students create their own projects and rubrics which I will start second semester. I also want to continue to stay positive throughout the year - I always start strong at the beginning of the year, but it tends to wane second semester. I need to find a way to keep myself going!
6. Am I being crazy?
Yes! You're a teacher! But for all of the crazy moments, you will find those special moments that make you smile and laugh. 
7. What should keep me up at night?
Your job is to not be kept up at night. I've been there, and it's not fun. It's not fun replaying conversations with your colleagues or rereading angry parent e-mails in your head. You are a teacher - it is what you do, but it is not who you are. You cannot do it all. Find something to do and be outside of school so that you can sleep at night - it could be going to happy hour with friends, reading a really good book, learning a new language, or doing yoga. Find something that makes you happy and helps give you perspective.
8. What were your biggest failures?
My biggest failure as a teacher was four years ago - the first year I taught with iPads. I had a rough group of students and was completely unprepared to teach with iPads. There were numerous complaints outside and inside my classroom. I honestly thought I was getting fired. While it was the worst year I've had, it was the most growth I've had as a teacher. I learned a lot about HOW to teach. I learned to be less sarcastic, more engaging, and how to smile. I realized that no one was going to train me, and I had to really figure out how to teach with iPads. Now I have a good handle on what I am doing and no longer worry about getting fired - I really reflected and made changes.
9. What has been your most rewarding accomplishment?
My most rewarding accomplishment has been becoming the teacher that people can go to. I love having that reputation! I also love it when students come back to tell me that I supported them beyond my class - that means what I am doing is WORKING! It supports my curriculum and tells me that I am not shooting blind.
Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)
 - Rachel