Find a Mentor
Sometimes at dinner parties, I've asked my guests to name every teacher they had during their K-12 experience. I'm delighted when people can do that--and some can name all of them without any hesitation. Remembering these names proves that my guests' teachers were memorable. My guests are generally spontaneous in sharing the reasons why.
When I work with education students and ask them about the decision to become a teacher, they often mention a favorite teacher from their past who influenced their career choice. What I think that students sometimes miss is the opportunity to utilize these favorite teachers as mentors. As Career Service professionals, we may also miss suggesting this practice.
What can these teachers do for their former students?
* A mentor is a good sounding board for student teaching issues. They can lend a sense of reality. As a student teacher, I often wondered if what I experienced on certain days in the classroom was "normal." Were other teachers having similar struggles and successes? A mentor can provide a valid overview to the ups & downs/ins & outs of teaching.
* A mentor may alert them to potential job openings. They may hear of a job opening long before it is advertised. This concept of networking is proven to be beneficial.
* A mentor can be another set of eyes to peruse the early draft of a resume. The mentor can make suggestions to help the student teacher begin to think about what the resume might reflect before going to a Career Services professional for further review.
* A mentor may be a reference who will write a detailed letter about the applicant's interest and knowledge of the field of education.
* A mentor is also a valuable resource in preparing for an interview. Most applicants dread the interview part of the job hunt, but a mentor is a person who can sit down and talk about what the important issues are that a hiring agent will ask about. Sometimes an applicant will know what issues will come up, but he/she may not realize why the issue is important. An experienced teacher can provide good input about "the big picture."
A good mentor has experience, wisdom, patience, and the desire to watch a fledging teacher take off and find the way to success in the classroom. I would encourage education students to seek one out and ask for that person's cooperation in developing this critical professional bond. The communication may be in person, by phone, or by e-mail. Whatever the mode, it will be a valuable association.
Becky Faber, Ph.D.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln