Gratitude From a First Year Teacher: Seven Qualities of a Great Teacher Mentor

As the school year comes to a close, and my classroom stands vacant with not a scrap of evidence of my teaching left, it has left me wondering about all the people who have mentored me the most during my journey as a first year teacher. I believe that mentors come in all different packages, and it is hard to pinpoint exactly what a great mentor does to make them-well-great. But, the following is a top 7 list of what makes up a great teacher mentor, from my experience.

1.    Always Being There: A teacher mentor is there to listen in the good times and the bad. If you have a question, they are ready with the answer. If you had a bad day, they listen without judgement. If you had a great day, they cheer you on just because they are happy for you.

2. Never Acts Put Out: A teacher mentor never acts like they are annoyed by questions that you might have, but are always are willing to stop what he/she is doing to listen and help.

3. Offers Resources: It can be overwhelming for a new teacher to sort through all the “how-to’s” within a school. Mentor teachers help new teachers find their way without making them feel bad about asking. Also, they are always ready to offer the latest teaching techniques or books on the market.

4. Don’t See You As a Threat: It can be hard being the new kid of the block. There can be days when hardly any adult faculty talks to you at all. Teacher mentors go out of there way to make you feel apart of the team and welcome.

5. Willing to Offer a Helping Hand: Things happen in the classroom at times that a new teacher is just not prepared to handle right away. Teacher mentors know that and they are always ready to lend a helping hand whenever called.

6. Demonstrates Excellence: A teacher mentor demonstrates excellence through their professionalism, attitude, and knowledge of the field.

7. Believes in Your Abilities: First year teachers often feel apprehensive about their teaching. One day you feel on top of the world, and the next day like a total failure. A great teacher mentor believes in your abilities and sees you as a professional in the field, despite the fact of being brand new.

Personally, I feel very lucky. My first true mentor, Mrs. Hudson, told me about the Heard County School System in Georgia, and how much she enjoyed her career there. She encouraged me to apply for an ELA position. At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about Heard County, but I knew it had to be a special place, if Mrs. Hudson thought so highly of it.

During the interview, I thought, “Wow, is there really a school that asks questions like, “Tell me about your passion for teaching? How do you do things?” This was very different from the canned questions like, “Please tell me how you differentiate your instruction?” “What is your classroom management plan?” ” How do you discipline?” Having had a few interviews already I had grown to dislike those particular questions. Now, I realize that what makes the leadership special at my school is that they think outside of the box, always with the end in mind. Their desire for passionate, professional educators has brought that out in me, and has helped me to succeed.

Yes, my school, the leadership, and faculty are very special to me. I have found many excellent teacher mentors among them. My hope is that all first year teachers are as lucky as I am.

The cornerstone of our school, the principal, Mr. Mike Roberts, is also an author of an excellent book entitled, One on One With America’s Most Inspiring Teachers. Go to the following link to find it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/One—One-Americas-Inspiring-Teachers/dp/0615511856/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369166606&sr=1-1

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