Starting something new is always difficult. Change is hard. Often times, doing both is a requirement. This fall, I am doing something that I never thought I would do. Something that I was sure was not going to happen when I entered my classroom for the first time (a book storage room with desks). And while I have never taught in the same classroom for more than one year, I am leaving the classroom (with students) this fall.
I have accepted a full-time position as an Instructional Technology Specialist at a school district in Michigan. My teaching will change to mentoring and facilitating, as I assist teachers in implementing technology into their classrooms. This is a role that I did not know existed when I entered my classroom, but one that I feel is a great fit for me. I am beyond excited to do this full-time this school year.
At my previous school, I was given the opportunity to do a similar role, but was still in the classroom part of the day and was being pulled in multiple directions. The ability to focus on working with adults and impacting children on a full-time basis is something that I was immediately drawn to. As I approach the school year, there are a few things that I know I must keep in mind during the school year.
The first of those is relationships. I was at my previous school for five years. I had relationships all over the building, so I did not have to work very hard on building the relationships, they came naturally. This year, I will be the new guy on the block looking to build relationships. One of the things that I must keep in mind is my role. I am no longer a fellow classroom teacher, but instead, I will be a mentor/facilitator. Through the MACUL Special Interest Group focused on Professional Learning, I have had the opportunity to read Sir Ken Robinson’s (@SirKenRobinson) book, The Element. Throughout the book, he has discussed in detail finding and following what drives you, your element. Chapter 8 focuses on the relationships between mentors and mentees and his message is loud and clear. Sir Ken Robinson insists that you must do the following four things:
- Recognition – recognize the talents of the individuals you are working and reinforce those talents;
- Encouragement – find ways to motivate and push your mentees to the next level, finding what they are passionate for and allowing them the opportunity to follow those ideas;
- Facilitate – I am not there to just show someone how to do something, instead, I am there to see what they know, question, support, and help them navigate to where they need to be in order to fulfill their goals and jobs; and
- Stretch – find a way to stretch to new heights, new objectives, and break barriers and limits.
Sir Ken Robinson also suggests that we always remember that the mentor/mentee relationship travels in both directions, it is a two-way street. For instance, I was presenting at a conference this week and working with an individual that was not strong in computers taught me something about deleting text boxes in Google Slides. I would constantly click out of the slide and try to get the edge to delete it. She simply hit escape and delete and did it in a quarter of the time that it would have taken me. I thanked her for showing me something new.
As I start this new adventure, there are a few more things that I must remember. First, I cannot wait for issues to come to me. I must be proactive in finding the issues, helping the issues, and continuing to help the staff grow. I cannot start with the sit and wait approach. I need to be thinking preventative maintenance, not stepping in when everything is broken. Second, I must find a way to make myself available to staff. I will not be effective if I am not available to them. This means that I must seek alternate times, sometimes beyond school hours to assist those individuals that are busy and in need. With the capabilities of working in a Google Apps for Education building, we don’t always have to be together to meet. Next, I need to stay fresh and continuously check on them. One thing that I have done in the past is set calendar reminders to follow-up on something that we have done in the past, which allows them to talk with you if it worked or they have not gotten there yet. Either way, you begin to realize what you are working with. Fourth, I must always approach every situation thinking of how this will impact the students. What I am showing, teaching, reaching for, what will it do for the students in the classrooms of the school. How will it impact their learning environment? I must answer that question before doing much else. Finally, I must remember that I must care for myself and my family. It is important that I continue to grow professional, continue my learning, and continue (read: start) taking care of myself if I am going to be successful.
The new challenges that face me are exciting, and I must keep these thoughts in mind as I strive to find a way to help my new coworkers reach new heights.
Poster of the Tips for Being an Effective Mentor from Sir Ken Robinson (@SirKenRobinson).