“A mentor offers support, counsel and guidance as she helps the mentee find her ‘voice’ as an effective classroom teacher. The support, guidance, and counsel come from years of teaching experience.”
– Wheelock College Aspire Institute 5oaks mentor
Imagine some of the challenges that one may face during the first day of becoming a new teacher:
Where is the teacher’s lounge? Where am I supposed to stand during recess? Do I have enough supplies for my project? Will my students even like me? How do I know if students are learning?
There are countless things to consider! And that’s only day one, year one!
But, you survive year one, and approach your second year of teaching. Year one was supposed to be tough. Now, you’re a “vet,” and you think you know exactly what to expect – this year will be better. And then, the first day of school happens, again! You may know where the teacher’s lounge is now, but what about everything else? You wonder if you can do this, if you will be successful.
This scenario is quite common among new teachers. To address this ongoing educational challenge, the Aspire Institute has organized a group of dedicated, talented, and compassionate mentors to work with young teachers. For the past three years, these mentors have focused on advising teachers in their second year through fifth year in the classroom, because the first few years of a teacher are crucial to their confidence, growth as competent educators, and overall long-term success in the profession.
Additionally, teacher success is strongly linked to student success. The more we keep skilled teachers in the classrooms, the more schools will have the critical mass of qualified teachers essential for student learning.
In 2011, the Aspire Institute established the Educator Mentor Corps (EMC) to mobilize skilled, experienced educators to help support, inspire and retain the next generation of urban teachers. The Aspire EMC mentors have advised teachers in Boston, Cambridge, and Worcester. In January, with funding from the Kellogg Foundation, this mentoring program has evolved to the 5oaks program, a program designed with the intent to create a strong root system to support new teachers, and couple mentoring with high-quality professional development.
Each of these early mentors has more than a decade of experience and success in teaching and/or teacher mentoring. More importantly, they each legitimately care about where current teachers are as professionals, and where they will be in the future. These mentors were true pioneers for Aspire’s burgeoning mentoring program, and their dedicated efforts deserve recognition.
“The hard work and dedication of this group is to truly be commended,” said Jibril Solomon, Education Program Director at the Aspire Institute. “Many of these mentors are former teachers who only participated in this program for the greater good of quality education and access for our children. They recognize the importance that this new generation of teachers will have on the next generation of students.”
Our mentors have demonstrated true dedication to not only help teachers balance the overall challenges they must face, but to also consider each teacher’s individual needs, expectations, and career goals. Some of these challenges include managing specific classroom and curriculum structure, managing the administrative side of teaching, and balancing work and home life.
In one example of advising, a mentor describes specific strategies that she suggested to a teacher to improve classroom dynamics: “We worked on improving her communication with her students in a positive way…we cultivated a learning climate where students moved to different table groups depending upon where they were in their project. We developed a project action plan and decided on a project where students had a voice and an identity.”
According to the mentor, these changes in the mentees’ teaching style had a direct impact on the classroom: “I feel she gained valuable professional development, confidence, and growth in her abilities with middle school students. She has voiced on many occasions how grateful she was for the opportunity to have a mentor.
The Aspire Institute would like to recognize and thank these exceptional educators for their tireless efforts to support the next generation of great teachers.
Eric Burkes is program coordinator at the Aspire Institute.