Mentoring Through a Different Lens

I need to start this post by giving a shoutout to Tina Cardoneand David Coffey for this conversation:
I think I’ve quoted David’s reply about a dozen times whenever I think or talk about my experience with my current student teacher.  This experience is unique for me for a few reasons: (1) she knows what I’m like as a teacher when I’ve taught the same course half a dozen times and I have it down to a science and (2) now she’s getting to experience what it’s like for me to teach a course from scratch and the planning, questioning, wondering, winning, and failing that comes along with it.

The last two weeks have really helped me reflect on my previous eight or so student teachers. Maybe I haven’t allowed some of my other student teachers to “peek behind the curtain” to make that planning visible. Student teachers normally spend the first two weeks watching us walk in (seemingly without prep) and teach our lessons flawlessly and effortlessly. Does that image set an unrealistic impression of the planning and preparation we did the first time we taught the course from the beginning?  Are we giving the impression that “teaching is easy and doesn’t require much prep” when they see us do this?
So I’m approaching this mentor experience from a different lens than before.  I guess you could say I’m trying to Zager-ize it as a learning opportunity for both of us:

(Shoutout to Tracy for writing this book! Go buy it here.)

My wonders:

If I could put applicable tools in her hands for what she’ll need to be able to do in August, what would those tools be? What planning strategies would she need that she might not have had access to in her education courses? What does “purposeful planning for understanding” look like and how to we monitor that understanding? How do we maintain honest reflection of our teaching when they don’t? And what roadblocks do we face when planning for multiple courses?

And those are the things I keep in mind every day and in every conversation we have.  However, that takes a HUGE amount of vulnerability on the part of a mentor teacher.  Am I going to look like I don’t know what I’m doing if I honestly say, “I think I’m going to teach (insert topic) this way, but I’m not sure if this will be something they will understand in one class period because I haven’t taught this before”?
Then again, isn’t that the type of conversations we should be having with our colleagues on social media and our school/district PLC’s? How can I expect her to take a risk and be vulnerable with her current/future colleagues if I am not willing to risk modeling it myself?
So we brainstorm together A LOT and I’m as honest as I can be. I tell her when I’m not sure how something will go over.  If I feel like something I taught didn’t go well, I ask her for her honest feedback on what I could have done differently or where we could readjust for tomorrow.  And this has worked well for us because she has become voracious for feedback on her own teaching in my classroom. She’s honest about where she feels a lesson did and didn’t go well and begins “rough draft talk” about next steps.
My student teacher was already checking out blogs of #MTBoS before she really understood what #MTBoS was, which is a great sign.  It’s difficult for me not to overwhelm her with all the awesome in our community, but I am trying to model/introduce it a little at a time. I have been extremely impressed with our collaboration so far, and I would like to start showcasing some of our work together over the next few weeks.  She lives for feedback and suggestions, so please give her a shout in the comments of our future posts.

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