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Mentoring New Teachers

The UCDS Resident Program provides a powerful learning experience for the whole school community! 3/4s teacher Jenn Drake shares what it’s like to mentor a resident teacher. -Ed.

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Every year, UCDS invites a group of ten aspiring teachers to join the faculty as Resident Teachers.  These teachers range in ages and experience, but all share our vision for educating students in a collaborative and innovative environment.  This year we are paired with one resident who teaches with us full-time.  This has been a powerful learning experience for both of us!

So what does it take to mentor new teachers?  To answer that question, I first thought about what it takes to coach my students.  I have to be observant.  I have to notice changes in attitude, stamina, and effort throughout the day.  I have to overhear conversations about what fires them up and use that information to spark their enthusiasm throughout the day.  I have to know what’s hard, what gets them frustrated, and figure out the right thing to say to get them past that point.  Basically, I have to really know them, believe in them, and expect them to succeed.

There’s really nothing basic about that list!  In order to mentor a new teacher, you have to do the same thing.  You have to know them, believe in them, and expect them to succeed.  Whenever I have the chance, I make my own thinking audible to the residents — sharing what I notice about their work, stating their strengths, and encouraging them to use those strengths in the classroom.  I find that having a time to meet formally, once per week, is helpful in setting the tone.  And any chance we get to be informal and just chat is also powerful because it helps us get to know each other and create an atmosphere of trust.