5 P’s to being a graduate mentor

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I was both delighted and honoured to be selected to be a mentor for my new Year 4 colleague this year. He is a graduate, but has more life experience than me, as this is his second career. For the purpose of the exercise, let’s call him Bradley.
I remember as a graduate feeling so unprepared. My four years worth of classes, assignments and placements were barely visible in my mind as I came towards actually putting it into practice. Even though the school year has only just started, I have been emailing Bradley with what I feel is useful and practical advice, plus a few resources that I have found helpful. Lying in bed last night, my brain was ticking over again as I mentally started scribing a list of more things to mention to him.

1.  Planners –

I’ve passed on a Yearly Overview to Bradley for him to gauge what type of content we will be covering. I felt it was important to give him a copy of my Term Planner as well, but I have stressed that he is more than welcome to try and implement new things that he has learnt at uni, or seen on placements, or is simply curious about! I haven’t graduated to doing my weekly planner on my iPad yet, so I just print out a blank template for each week, just to jot down quick notes about lessons. Bradley thought this might be useful as well, so I emailed him the digital copy.

2.  Parent Communication –

I must tell Bradley about methods of parent communication. At our school we have a fortnightly whole school newsletter, as well as a fortnightly classroom newsletter on the opposite fortnight. Bradley may feel more comfortable if we combined our classroom newsletters into just one Year 4 newsletter, or he may like to send out his own. At the beginning of the year, I send home a Parent Information Booklet (mentioned in this previous post) to share my routines and guidelines within the classroom. This always includes my email address at the top of the classroom newsletter as my preferred contact method, which I will be encouraging him to do as well, to avoid parents spontaneously dropping in and catching the teacher by surprise. Alternatively, our parents call make appointments with teachers via the Student Reception Office.

3.  Professional Development –

I mentioned casually the other day to Bradley that I got a certain idea from something I had seen on Twitter. He told me that he’s always been interested in Twitter, but doesn’t know much about it. Little does he know that I will be (not-so-forcefully) recommending that he join and try and use it. Hashtags like #ectchatOZ (Early Career Teacher Chat) and #pstchat (Pre-Service Teacher Chat) have both been invaluable to me regarding new experiences and ideas, although there are so many more chats and hashtags that have guided and supported me too. For a graduate teacher, I can think of no better instant PD. Definitely be talking to Bradley about this.

4.  Patience –

Bradley is already a few steps ahead of me in some ways, as he is both married and a father. But the patience you show towards family membership can be quite different to the patience you need to show towards your colleagues and students. We’ve already had a chat about different possible discipline strategies and one of the biggest pieces of advice I gave him was ‘Pick your battles’. I think this phrase is used often in education, but if never fully appreciated it until last year. Showing patience towards those battles that we choose not to pick helps the classroom to remain calm, and with those battles that we do choose to pick, patience is still the overarching key to the approach we take.

5.  Pride for positives –

Not every lesson goes well. I have had some absolute doozies. Despite this, it is important to be proud of your efforts and the time you give to the students. Being proud means celebrating each lesson that you have poured energy into. To track my successes, I began using a highlighter to circle the lessons in my planner which I felt went well. At first, it was just lessons that worked, but I built it up to lessons that I would do again, recommend, or include on our class blog. It’s great to flick through your planner and see lots of bright colours, reminding you that you should be proud of your teaching and learning. I’ll be telling Bradley to do the same. Focus on the positive lessons, not the ones that went a little awry. Be proud!

As my mentoring journey is only just beginning, I’m excited to see what it brings to me as a professional and what it brings to Bradley as a graduate.

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