Mentoring: Formal and Informal

I am sure we can all recall that moment in our career….you know, the one where you get the call offering you the job?!?! It doesn’t matter if it is your first job or your 6th, the moment you get that call you are overwhelmed with a mix of emotions.

If you are anything like me you are immediately overwhelmed with joy, excitement, and relief, the hours of resume building, applications, and nerve wracking interviews all paid off! However, the moment you accept and hang up the phone the reality of it sits in and you begin to wonder:

Am I ready for this challenge?

What if I am not qualified for this job like I thought I was?!?!?

Oh, no what did I just do???

Aenne Brielmann // Noun Project

But, you move forward nervously and remember that no one expects you to know everything, you are the new hire after all.

As you settle in you find an overwhelming number of people introducing themselves (watching you from the doorway as you set up your classroom or office). Everyone smiles nicely and offers to help if you need anything. But who do you trust? What are the politics of the building?

So here is my advice, surround yourself with colleagues who are in the position you strive to be, seek them as your mentor!

I have been blessed countless times throughout my career with amazing formal and informal mentors, all of which I am sad to say I took for granted at one point or another

Yes, years ago, I was assigned a mentor as a new teacher through my building’s state funded mentoring program, per the requirements of the program we met monthly, completed our checklists, observations, etc. But what made the difference was the informal pop-ins after school, saving me a seat at meetings, driving with me to district institute days. Those moments that we shared together (that yes, I took for granted) are what made me feel like I was part of the “family”, she taught me so much more than the checklists required, she taught me who else to seek out as mentors for different aspects of my career.

My mentor always prefaced her suggestions with, “This is what worked for me, but I also encourage you to talk to others to see what they do that may be more aligned with your teaching style”. This was the best advice she ever gave me. She had her areas of expertise for sure, but she also knew who to point me to when she thought others were more knowledgeable or could provide a different perspective.

This is where I have truly been blessed. I have been fortunate enough to not only have my “program” mentor, but mentors for what I call sub-categories. I had different people I would go to with different needs. Such as grant writing, administrative leadership, technology, curriculum, special education, union leadership, etc. you name it I had a person I could seek who knew more than me to help guide me. Did I mention how lucky I was?!?!?!

But I soon found that these mentors were now stepping down from their leadership roles and were looking to me to fill their spots….back to the feeling of getting the new job. I could never be as successful, knowledgeable, or passionate as they were!

I felt obligated to try though! I had such huge respect for these mentors, if they thought I was capable I had to try, after all they would still be there for me if I needed them right?

Well, long story short of course they would and they did! I went from being the “new kid” on the block to vice-president of our union, on the negotiation team, recipient of 7 grants, innovator of technology, Assistant Principal, and now the Director of Innovative Professional Learning because each mentor had faith, patience, and supported me on my journey – I could not be more thankful.

So, I encourage all colleagues to find mentors, it doesn’t matter if you are in your 1st year of teaching or 21st year, we all have someone we can learn something from! I also beg your more veteran teachers to be a mentor to others, this does not have to be a district given title, be someone who takes the time to genuinely care and supports others, you will get just as much from mentoring as the mentor will!

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning
(t):630-444-3044
(c):630-675-4447
(e):kalgrim@kaneroe.org

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