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The Importance of Mentors and Meaningful Professional Development

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Lisa,

In your last post you shared  4 Tech Integration Tips for New Teachers which gives new teachers the essentials to keep in mind, such as starting with pedagogy and seeking out help by asking questions with mentors or on social media. You also gave me some questions to reflect on, and are giving me the opportunity to share more about my journey with HOW I came about acquiring my knowledge and experience with integrating technology (and other things with teaching).

These are the questions you asked me:

I'm curious how long it took you to feel confident about adding tech integration into your classroom? Did you have great mentors? Is it a skill that came naturally? Did you have some meaningful professional development opportunities that launched your skill set?

I definitely did not walk into my teaching career knowing it all (and by all I mean technology integration and everything teaching). There are two big factors that have contributed (and continue to contribute) to the skills and confidence I have as an educator: the mentors I have had and the professional development I have taken upon myself.

The Role of Mentors

I think back to the mentors I have had so far in my teaching career. To me, an EXTRAORDINARY teacher mentor is someone who have challenges you, shares their pedagogy and makes it transparent, and plays an active role with you in the classroom (whether that be you trying out ideas or strategies they shared or teaching with their pedagogy in mind). I stand firm on a mentor offering all three things, because all the mentors I have in mind offered me ALL of those things EVERY TIME. I also think a mentor is one who is OPEN to learning more WITH you and expanding their knowledge.

So just where do you find a mentor? I have joked with one of my mentors, how it would be neat if there was like an eHarmony but with finding a mentor; a platform that would help you find a perfect match for a mentor. Since something like this does not exist (or please share with me if there is), you have to find a mentor within other means. Sometimes you work with people who are placed with you (through a teacher education program), or you connect with another teacher on campus that you can trust and feel comfortable with, or maybe you connect with another educator at a conference, or you meet or within a learning community, like on Twitter. You have to keep your mind open and be WILLLING to grow WITH someone. Everyone has been a new teacher before. I believe many educators have a soft spot for new teachers, because they remember what it was like, and many are willing to lend support. When you have an open mind to receiving support, you will find someone who you can feel safe with and open up in sharing the challenges of teaching and ask all those little questions.

Something neat with education, is that many teachers have a passion for teaching and working with kids. That passion ranges differently for teachers. What I am trying to get to is that there is a chance for YOU to find someone who shares your teacher heart, who has that same drive and passion that you do with teaching. Perhaps you find a mentor that ends up becoming more of a friend as well or a partner, and you start working more closely with "everything teaching." Maybe you lesson plan together, or analyze data, or go to PD conferences together, or read teacher books, or blog together...ANYTHING to do with teaching; there is a chance of you finding someone out there who you can pursue and grow WITH you ,and together you discover MORE as educators. Again, this can only happen if you put yourself out there a little by sharing your ideas or reaching out to others. Take that risk, it's worth it! This year (my second year of teaching), I found a teacher who I am doing SO MUCH with; she is filling in my gaps and helping me to growing the areas that I need. She is also allowing me to share my ideas and knowledge and I am helping her to grow too.

Your teacher life will become so much easier, so much better, if you find an educator or a tribe that you can connect with. Teaching is too hard to do alone.

The Role of Professional Development

Oh professional development (that comes with a sigh). I have gone through the teacher certification program, gotten my Master's, attended staff development days, and am ALMOST done with California's Induction process. I know there are teachers out there who have gone through all of this as well, and don't feel like anything meaningful came from any of it. First, it is all about perspective. As dry and lacking as some university programs are, there had to be SOME SUBSTANCE that came from it...at least exposure into the education world. I am fortunate to say that I can see the alignment with my district's values and staff development time, but I know this is not the case for everyone. The truth of the matter is, we as educators NEED professional development. We HAVE to be lifelong learners.

For me, the most meaningful professional development has come with ME pursuing MY teacher interests. I often turn to Twitter, and see what's "out there." I look on hashtags to get ideas and who to connect with. I tweet out questions or ask educators physically around me to help me FIND OUT where I can acquire more information on an interest I have. I have also read a number of books from the Dave Burgess Consulting Inc which have an array of powerful messages/mindsets and ideas to take into your classroom. Additionally, I have attended a number of EdTech conferences, mostly as a presenter, but had opportunities to network and meet other educators.

Lisa, I know this is where you can offer more information to our readers. Where are some other places, organizations, or conferences that are out there that offer meaningful professional development? I look forward to hearing more from you!

Talk soon,

Christine

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