Dear Sarah,

Do you think older teachers have a responsibility in coaching or mentoring new teachers?

Sincerely,

Mindset for Mentoring

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Dear Mindset for Mentoring,

I’m intrigued by your question because it makes me think a lot about where I started 18 years ago. I was determined and energetic, equipped with a fantastic teacher preparation program, and still full of fear and uncertainty. I had wonderful days in my first year where students wrote boldly and spoke passionately. I also had days that were desolate and left me questioning my ability to be effective in a classroom. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was never an afternoon of professional development or a fantastic new strategy that got me through the tough days. It was always a person. It was Susan, the veteran teacher who embraced her own tough days transparently with me. It was Donna, my professor who kept encouraging me from afar. It was the people in my professional organizations who listened to my neophyte tribulations with gentle reassurance and compassionate advice.

So, perhaps, the question is less about the responsibility of older teachers mentoring new ones and more about how we build communities that nurture and support each other. The truth is that, on any given day, I can feel like that first year teacher again: ineffective, tired, and unsure.

As a person who has assembled a mighty collection of mentors, I always see one thing in common among their presence: there’s a bit of me in each of them. In fact, it’s a bit of a better me in each of them. It’s Michelle’s forthrightness, and Kate’s clarity. It’s Lora’s vision and James’ passion. It’s Paul’s incisiveness and Byron’s wisdom. We all need mentors because they help us see a better version of ourselves than we can see without them. They offer for us both the ephemeral guidance to get us through today, while instilling in us a conception of what we can grow into.

So, is there a responsibility to mentor? Yes. But it’s not just older teachers to younger ones; rather, it’s flattening the hierarchies of mentorship to recognize that this profession will carry on in better ways because we were willing to not only look to others, but to open our practice and ourselves to the betterment of us all.

Teach openly,

Together with Teacher2Teacher

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