It’s Practicum time again and many of us will be mentoring a student teacher over the coming weeks. Mentoring is a powerful learning tool and experience. Here are 5 top tips for making that investment of time the best thing you ever did!
It’s a Two Way Street
Think back to a moment in your professional past where you had an amazing conversation with a colleague. A conversation in which you were able to be open, honest and grow. Was it just you that grew or was there something in it for the both of you?
You could see mentoring as your moment to impart all that you already know in the hopes of influencing another, or you could see it as an opportunity to share collegial knowledge and skills and grow together. Whether that might be because you finally have the opportunity to sit back and watch your class as they interact and learn with each other, or whether the student teacher you’re working with has a skill set that you could borrow from, don’t fall into the trap of making this a one way street. You’ll both have a much better time if you can find some ways to mutually benefit each other’s learning. In fact, why not use this image (Thanks AITSL) in one of your first meetings. It’s a great way to explore how you both like to learn and how you might do that together.
Trust each other
Confidentiality, trust and the permission to take risks (and fail) are all essential to a mentor relationship. Think back to a time when you needed some advice. I imagine that you needed to find someone who you felt had your back. Who was supportive and non-judgemental. We’re all super hard on ourselves (I sometimes wonder if every teacher is a perfectionist). Perfection doesn’t really exist in the classroom does it? Let them understand that… Maybe let them see that. Let them see you as a learner too. Make sure you take the time to connect with both the personal and professional aspects of teaching. Together you want to be part of some amazing collegial conversations (6.3).
Remember, They Don’t Have their ‘Spidey Senses’ Yet.
You know how you can walk into a room and sense it… You know instantly whether or not to continue with that planned activity. You instinctively know when the class needs to be challenged or you need to go over that idea .. AGAIN.. Do you remember how long it took you to develop that spidey sense? Can you help your student teacher develop theirs?
Help them find Artefacts
Artefacts are bits of their professional work that demonstrate that they’re meeting the standards. You’ll be gathering them too – for your own reflections 🙂 Show them how you do that. Explore their marking, planning, student relationships, everything! and annotate them together. Teach them to use S.T.A.R as they do so and you’ll have the basis for some amazing learning conversations.
Use the Standards
The whole of our profession has been defined for us in a glorious 148 descriptors. Your student teacher has to meet 37 of those at the Graduate level. Grab a copy of the standards (or the rubric the university you’re working with has given you) and use them to focus your conversations. As we all submit our appplications for H.A and Lead, that’s exactly what the assessors do. In fact, they do something called “Heat Mapping”. That’s where they colour code the descriptors in the focus areas. Three different colours. One for “Yep, you’ve nailed that”, One for “could do with a bit more evidence there” and one for “ermm… can’t see that one at the moment”. You could model that same technique with your student teacher. Help them colour their heat map with “Nailed it” streaks.
Whilst you’re at it, keep a copy of those notes and the evidence of their progression. That’s hand evidence your own portfolio at H.A. level 🙂
What works well for you as a mentor or a mentee? Got any top tips to add? We’d love to hear about your best mentoring experiences. What worked well? Go on, share the secret sauce!
Either way, don’t forget that that relationship shows some amazing evidence of collegial conversation and support. Make sure you work together to document the difference your making to each other and your students in your Edufolio!