Teacher Leadership

Mentors In All Shapes and Sizes

Year 32. And I have so much to learn.

The start of every school year evokes a variety of emotions in me.  I am excited to meet the students new to our school. I am enthusiastic about implementing new initiatives the summer gave me time to develop.  I am apprehensive about how teachers will receive our professional development plan.  I am energized by the physical and mental break June and July provided.

Even with this roller coaster of emotions, the positive energy I feel far surpasses any unease I might experience. This isn’t entirely my own doing.  It is a direct result of the professionals I surround myself with.  And, these important people are not simply colleagues.  They are my mentors. They come with varying experience, teach different ages of children, and have expertise in a variety of content areas.  Each is essential to my success and to my ability to stay focused on what matters most to me…providing instructional leadership so that every student in our school finds success.

You may be surprised that I have more than one mentor. By definition, a mentor acts as a trusted advisor, and if teaching and leading were single faceted, one mentor might be enough.  However, teaching and leading are complex and to be successful, we need many trusted advisors- all with different strengths. On any given day, I might tap into the expertise of 5 or 6 mentors.  Jill mentors me in my work as a whole group facilitator.  I seek Mike’s expertise when I am thinking about building culture. Lisa is my mental health accountability partner. Brock is my inspiration on Twitter.  I need each of them- and several others- to help me stay balanced and to stay reflective- so I grow. So I continue to learn.

As I begin our new school year, I make the time to recognize my strengths- areas in which I could serve as mentor to others- and my weaknesses, areas in which I can grow.  In both cases, I am purposeful about finding time to connect with those who have similar interests and could perhaps serve as my mentor or those who I could buoy professionally.  I encourage you to do the same.  Challenge yourself to create a list of colleagues you consider mentors and ask yourself how those individuals support you in your work. Tell them how important they are to you.  Your relationships will flourish.

When you’re assessing your strengths and weaknesses as part of your new year goal setting, consider identifying someone who either shares similar goals- and you could learn together- or identify an expert in your school, district or social media circle.   Fight the voice in your head that tells you this person won’t want or doesn’t have time to chat about their expertise. Reach out and share your ideas.  Ask your questions.  Find colleagues who will stimulate thinking.  Invite them into your conversations.  You will be amazed and pleased how these simple steps change your work and most importantly impact your students’ thinking and learning.

Whether a rookie or a seasoned veteran, we still have a lot to learn.

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