My Experience as a Mentor
by Maureen Newey
I have participated in different types of learning communities for a long time because I believe that the experience can be exciting, fun, and valuable for those involved. My commitment to these programs started with the alternative school, parent participation classes that my sons attended and I taught in. I saw how wonderful it could be that trained teachers and experienced parent/teachers shared with new parents the skills and techniques of working with and teaching elementary school children. When the cluster program for first year students at Cal State started, I eagerly, but admittedly with some apprehension, became involved with working with instructors from other disciplines. So our English department mentoring program sounded wonderful to me, and I became involved as a mentor teacher. I realize it is new, and I have only one quarter to judge its effectiveness, but I feel that both the mentor teacher and the new teacher can benefit.
I enjoyed being able to work closely with someone else, sharing ideas and plans, but there was more to the experience that I found valuable. For me, the experienced teacher, having someone new to teaching provided a different perspective from which I could examine and evaluate what I did and why I did it. Now I realize that I assess my teaching methods fairly frequently, but this was different. For example, when my co-teacher, (which is how I referred to her in the syllabus and to the students), began working with me, I already had the syllabus and some of the schedule written. Knowing that after a short time, my co-teacher would be presenting some of the lessons herself, I looked at the schedule more critically and realized that there were so many different ways that we could present the material or frame the assignments. Was a particular lesson effective the way I normally presented it? Had I lost some flexibility in my teaching because of my familiarity with what skills my students needed to be taught? Was I being clear enough in my assignments and instructions? Could I be more creative? These were some of the questions that arose for me because of working with someone unused to teaching.
When it was my co-teacherís turn to prepare the lessons and teach, this gave me opportunities to observe anotherís methods and how well the methods worked. One day I sat in the back of the class among several young men who often did not participate as much as the others. Watching the students was in itself a useful experience. After that, my co-teacher and I devised a few ways to encourage more involvement from those students, including moving them more toward the center of the class. Although my small changes in that classroom may have been obvious ones, I donít think I would have implemented them if I hadnít had the chance to observe my own students and how isolated they were. I know that in planning for next quarter, I will take into consideration all that I have learned from mentoring this last quarter and make some changes.
I did find one drawback with mentoring, which was a self-consciousness or maybe just a holding back since another person was with me the whole time I was teaching. I didnít feel that I developed as close a rapport with the class as I usually do. Maybe I just wasnít as relaxed with the students as I normally am after I get to know them. It may just be that with more experience mentoring, the self-consciousness will go away, but I will need to work on this problem because it definitely is important to me to be myself in the classroom
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