Tonight's #edchat dealt with the topic of what every first year teacher needed to know before stepping into the classroom. The early discussion centered on more practical experience, more theory, "my program didn't prepare me", and "no program can adequately prepare you". Suddenly the topic of needing a mentor came up and this dominated the discussion for the rest of the hour. The discussion began to take two parallel paths - how a mentor can help a beginning teacher and how everyone should have a mentor.
It is that last path that motivates this post. Every teacher should have a mentor. Or several. Really expand your network and get a PLN. Underlying this need is a prerequisite attitude that must come before having a mentor or PLN will be effective. It is the attitude of having a teachable spirit, seasoned with a desire to continue to learn. If this isn't present, your wasting a lot of people's time, including your own.
Here in North Carolina we have NCCAT. It's free and was set up just for teachers. It was established while I was in college. I could not wait to go there when I became a real live teacher. I was shocked at how all my colleagues, the much more experienced ones, pooh-poohed the idea. I was dismayed at how most of my fellow teachers saw conferences as "vacation days" or even worse, not worth it because of having to make sub-plans. Where was the desire to learn?
I know that for some the desire to learn is there but the pride and fear of appearing incompetent keep them away from new things. So an ancillary (am I using that word correctly - I teach math and science, not English comp) attitude would have to be a willingness to fail or at least look incompetent. I constantly seek the guidance of others, even those that don't like me or I don't like myself, if they know something I don't know. I don't care what anyone thinks - I need to do my job the best I can.
I'm bummed that I'm going to miss out on mentor training this summer. I would love to mentor a beginning teacher. For now, I'll have to do it unofficially. I'm hoping my principal will let me do a workshop for the faculty on developing a PLN this fall. I'm sometimes amazed at how important this is to me. It's not because I think I'm some expert. I guess I've become a PLN evangelist because of how it changed my life.
Every teacher needs to learn and grow. Every teacher needs a PLN.