(This week, as many of us are in the midst of "beginning of the school year" stuff, we thought we'd spend the week celebrating teaching and teachers in different ways. Each day this week (through Friday), we'll have a post related to teachers--book reviews, reflections, etc.)
I am mentoring an entry year teacher (EYT) this year. We never seem to have time to sit down and talk about who we are and where we've come from. This post is for my EYT.
In my first year of teaching in Dallas, the Dallas Museum of Art opened its new building, which included an entire wing devoted to educational programming. I asked my grade level team how to go about taking my students on a field trip, and they told me it wasn't done. Luckily, I bypassed them and asked the principal about field trips. He bent over backwards to help me arrange a trip with my students to the new Dallas Museum of Art. EYT, you already know you're not working with that kind of grade level team. What I want you to learn is to take risks. Also, try to connect student learning to local current events and to your passions. Bring yourself and the world into your classroom. Last of all, bask in your ignorance and self-confidence -- when I look back on taking a busload of inner city kids to the Art Museum BY MYSELF (no parent volunteers) I can't believe that nothing went wrong. But what made it a success was that the same was true at the time: I didn't believe that anything would go wrong...and nothing did. Believe in yourself. You'll make great things happen.
After two years teaching in Dallas, I came to OSU and got a Master's Degree in Children's Literature. I was lucky enough to be invited to join a group who reviewed and wrote about children's books for a now-defunct publication called The W.E.B. Sitting around a table month after month, year after year, listening to them talk about books and authors (and eventually being able to join in) was an amazing mentorship. It started me on my mission of reading 52 children's books every year. EYT, I encourage you to read, read, read. There is almost no better way to prepare yourself to teach a reading workshop where the students' independent reading is the key ingredient: know books.
When I started teaching in Dublin, my grade level team, and one key person in particular, Karen, of Literate Lives, mentored me. Actually, we mentored each other. We learned together. We bounced lesson and unit ideas off each other in the morning and got back together after school to see what worked and didn't work. We were a PLC before the term had been coined. I look forward to doing this kind of work with you, EYT. Right now I know it seems like all we're doing is putting out fires, but we'll get to the point where we we share ideas. I may have an overwhelming number of years of experience, but you are the one who is most likely to have really fresh new ideas. (Just for instance, your choice of first read aloud was BRILLIANT! If I had known, I would have so copied you!)
Another landmark mentor for me was a passionate first grade teacher. I would wander down to her room many afternoons at (or after) 5:00 and find her still working there, sorting through student work and happy for someone who would listen to her talk about the amazing thinking that her students were doing, or the amazing writing they were doing, or the amazing conversation they had during read aloud. If there's absolutely nothing else I hope that you will learn, EYT, it is to celebrate your students. Try to remember to be amazed by them every day. And tell them about it. And then come down to my room and let's tell each other about our amazing students.