Day 6 of the Reflective Teacher Challenge: What does a good mentor "do"?
I think without a doubt the best thing a good mentor does is inspire confidence. Mentorship is about validating strengths while giving suggestions for improvement. We see this all the time for teachers in training and those beginning to embark on their career, but we tend to forget that ALL educators could use mentoring on a regular basis. As I mentioned in an earlier post it is a given that no teacher can ever achieve perfection; translated, all teachers can always find ways to improve their practice. Unfortunately veteran and skilled teachers are often overlooked for this. Administrators spend the bulk of their time mentoring new teachers, which is as it should be. But this means that veterans don't really get much in the way of observation and mentoring. Over the last five years I don't think I've seen admin in my classroom more than a dozen times, and most of that was for evaluation purposes or as part of a campus-wide effort.
What does this mean? It means that veteran teachers need to actively seek out their own improvement. They reflect, a lot. They identify their own areas for growth, and they actively seek out suggestions for improvement. Sometimes from colleagues, sometimes from educational experts, and sometimes from the world of social media, but always looking for new ideas and new things to try. There's a reason effective teachers refer to the "teaching practice", because it is constantly being refined and improved. A good mentor is part of this process - encouraging and suggesting all the way.