Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to mentor Teacher Candidates (TC). When asked this year if I would mentor a TC, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I thought it would be great to support a TC who is probably experiencing a variety of emotions starting off their career in the middle of a pandemic. At the same time, I thought of how I have been feeling – tired, impatient, uncertain – and wondered if I would be able to provide the level of support needed. Needless to say, I agreed to mentor a TC and I’m learning a lot.
Remembering My “Why”
We all got into teaching for a reason. For me, it was the opportunity to work with some of the greatest and most creative people on the planet. Kids have an incredible ability to make sense of the world and make me realize that the work that we do, matters. My journey to education is one that has taken many turns, in part because of some of the teachers I had.
Early on in our mentorship relationship, I asked the TC in our classroom why she wanted to become a teacher and she emotionally shared her experiences as a child and wanting to be a teacher she wished she had. Now I’ve been at this for the last 11 years and you would think that I am pretty firm in my “why” but I have to say that this was a conversation that I needed at that moment. I happened organically and it has served as a reminder of my “why” through this incredible time of uncertainty, tiredness, and honestly, fear. After having this conversation, I took some time to really sit with and write about my “why”. On days when I don’t feel like I’m having an impact or I feel like this pandemic is beating me down, I look back at and reflect on my “why”. While it doesn’t make things easier, it’s my anchor through all of this, in hopes that we’ll get to a better place in education, where these incredible people will be centered.
I’m a fan of clear and explicit communication and I’m often quite frank. What you see, is what you get. For some it’s overwhelming. For others, I think it’s appreciated. When meeting new people, I sometimes try to juggle this but honestly, in the midst of a pandemic, I find I just don’t have it in me. I’m working on speaking the truth from a place of love. In our mentorship relationship, we’ve gone the route of clear and open communication and it’s working. The TC knows what to expect from me and vice versa. That’s not to say that we’re not patient with one another but I think that there is mutual growth because we’ve chosen a position of being open with one another and talking things through, without judgment. At a time when people are experiencing so much, we’re growing in our empathy and I think that’s helping us as a class.
Going With the Good
When students are engaged, there’s a buzz in the air and things are good. The TC has chosen to teach one of the most challenging subjects (in my opinion) – French as a second language – and I have to admit that things are good. The students are eager to learn from and with her and I’m seeing her engage more and more with them as they learn. At a time where everyone is really exhausted and in need of a break, it’s refreshing to see that the students are giving it their all. We were reminded of the importance of centering students and teaching from there. As we await the April Break, we continue to find what interests our students and collaborating so as to keep the learning engaging.
As I stated at the beginning, I had mixed feelings about mentoring a TC during a pandemic. 3 weeks in, I have to say that I’m so grateful for the time to reflect on my “why”, my practice, and myself. It’s been yet another learning opportunity and I’m glad that I said yes.
As we approach April Break, I hope that you continue to stay safe and take care of yourself. I know that this has been a challenging time for us all. Please take care.