Moving from “I” to “We”
By Andrea Peters, Teacher Resources Specialist Trainer, Full Release Mentor, Polk County, Florida
Teachers need mentors and coaches as they begin their career to help guide them from a developing teacher to a seasoned, effective professional. They need an advocate that will help them navigate their first years in education. Just as in any career, formative assessments and coaching (check-ins, actual, quality feedback and guidance) help professionals continue to grow and develop their craft. Without someone supporting them, they are unable to recognize their growth potential.
Mentors help teachers learn, develop, and succeed in their classrooms. New teachers that feel safe in their relationship with their mentor will take risks and have more of an opportunity to reach their full potential. Being a mentor has allowed me to see first-hand how trust within the relationship permits the developing teacher to take risks they were not willing to take early on. I have witnessed a developing teacher’s classroom management blossom through the use of gradual release and whisper coaching. Gradual release shifts responsibility from teacher to student and is easily viewed as going from “I do -> we do together -> you do with assistance -> you do alone”. Whisper coaching is just as it sounds, the mentor whispers suggestions and ideas to the teacher as they are working together.
Looking back over this year, one teacher in particular stands out. When they first began in the program, they were all about following the curriculum guidelines of the school. Completion of the lesson was more important than the processing and learning for each student. We began meeting and working on planning and integrating higher order thinking questions as well as quality formative assessments. One thing to note is there was not an ounce of resistance with this new teacher. Their willingness to grow was refreshing and intimidating at the same time. They were willing to take risks, try new things and then would reflect on the activity or their practice. The introspection was a key in what moved them from a true novice to a good teacher. They took suggestions as well as constructive feedback and put all to use within their planning, implementation and assessment. I would love to see where they are within their professional practice in a few years, as I believe they will have moved from a developing teacher to a seasoned, effective professional. It is exciting to be able to watch the growth over time and to envision the future.
Effective coaching is important within the relationship framework. When new teachers know that their mentor is going to provide both positive and constructive feedback, they grow and develop the skills that allow them to succeed. NTC taught me that coaching is facilitative first, then instructive and collaborative, which I use to empower my teacher mentees.