Mentoring Educators for This Century
Mentoring programs usually set up one educator as mentor for one or more new teachers. Mentoring educators get to know the new teacher(s), go over school and district procedures and policy, share best practice ideas, and help with lesson building. The idea is a good one, but it relies on the abilities and expertise of that mentor teacher. What if the mentoring teacher is a direct-teaching pro, who stands in front of the classroom lecturing, or sits at a desk the entire class time, or worse, is a teacher who is fearful of technology in the hands of student, and has never thought of connecting technology to a lesson?
If the mentor doesn’t have 21st century skills and a well-rounded teaching approach, even new teachers who had pre-service teaching training at university level may never have a chance to try out those possibilities in their own classrooms. If the mentor teacher doesn’t have those “this century” skills, or use digital tools, the new educator doesn’t have a chance. What new educators observe may certainly play a large part in the veteran teachers they will become. So, at the beginning of a career, new teachers need mentors that have been chosen for the 21st century skills they practice and can share, and not just for best practice in classroom maintenance. Many districts are working at this, as well as the new teacher evaluation processes.
Maybe a team of mentoring educators is the best scenario to launch new teachers in the best of all professional development directions, even if only two mentors make up the team. One of them should be an educator who is a master teacher that uses technology in teaching and with students–not a teacher who just knows how work a computer, but instead, an educator who is a teaching talent, who leads and engages students in their own learning, and uses technology appropriately and often with students that do the same. Other members of the mentoring team can have different, important expertise to share. The point is that new educators need to hear teaching style and lessons from more than one mentor, and a team makes perfect sense. A new teacher can then add to his/her own expertise, and create a unique style, by having a larger choice of best practices and advice from which to choose.