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Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Just Got a Teaching Job... Now What?!- Meeting Your Mentor Teacher

In one week, I will be in Texas hanging out with my husband. Woohoooo!

As much as I'm not ready to go back to school, I am SO ready for mid-August when he comes home!

In the meantime, if any of you are near Dallas, let me know- I might be able to hang out for a bit next weekend!

The next part of my new teacher series will hopefully be useful to new teachers, but also some of you who are on the mentor teacher side of things. (And please, even if your school doesn't have official mentors, help a newbie out if you get a chance!)

New teachers, your mentor teacher (official or unofficial) is going to be hugely important to your success on that first day of school. The more they are able to share with you, the easier your job will be that first year!

  • Curriculum
    • What's available?
    • What's required that I do? (subjects, styles of teaching, how long)
    • What's useful? (Suggestions of websites, materials, how to plan, etc.)
    • What does your basic schedule look like?
    • Do you have any curriculum planning documents I can have a copy of? (Long-term or short-term. Get digitally, if possible, so you can tweak as needed without starting from scratch!)
  • Parents and School Population
    • What are the parents and kids really like here?
    • How do you communicate with them? Does it work?
    • What are the challenges, and how do you address them?
    • Is there a Parent-Teacher Organization? How can they help me?
  • Teachers and Staff
    • Are there any co-workers to be especially, uh, "diplomatic" around? (Be careful here- opinions are that of ONE teacher- but still, sometimes it's good to know where you might like to start out tiptoeing!)
    • What is this principal's "style"?
    • How does the administration handle discipline? At what level does the office want me to get them involved? Do I have special forms for that?
    • Do I have any allotted budget for supplies?
    • Who do I go to when I have a problem with a student? (Academic, behavioral, emotional, suspected abuse, etc.)
    • How does all of the special education stuff work here? (Paras, special ed, RTI, ESL, Title I, etc.)
  • General School Stuff
    • What's the dress code? (staff, kids, what to do if it's not followed)
    • Are there any school-wide procedures? (getting quiet, hallway behavior, attendance, etc.)
    • What are the emergency procedures I need to be prepared for?
    • What assessments will my kids have to take this year?
    • What computer systems and technology stuff do I need to know?
    • Will we have an open house or back to school night?
    • What do I do if I need to be absent? (Trust me-- figure this out NOW!)
The best way to find out how your mentor teacher does things (without following them around and bugging them with constant questions) is to ask if you can see their parent packet that they hand out at the beginning of the year.

(Again, get it digitally if at all possible!)

The parent packet will tend to cover their policies for homework, lunches, discipline, and so much more. They will give you ideas of what works, and you can always ask if it's something that everyone has to do a certain way, or if you're allowed to change it up.

You're also going to want to meet your team, or send them an e-mail. Pop by their rooms in the weeks before school if you haven't met them face-to-face yet (and find something to compliment in the room, if you can!)

Schools and grade levels can be so different- in my school, the kindergarten team meets weekly to plan together, divide up copies, and then they all teach a very similar curriculum. In the grade level where I was, though, we never once met to plan together. Sometimes we'd work together on a project, but not often, and very rarely did everyone join in.

Ask someone from your team:
  • Are there any units or projects that you all do? When in the year do you do them?
  • Do you have any grade-level field trips planned already?
  • Are there any special school events to put on my calendar? (music programs, carnivals, reading or math nights, etc.)
  • Do you all share the same policies? (homework, parents, conferences, open house, etc.)
  • Will our grade level share any responsibilities and resources?
  • Can I see your planning documents and parent packets?
Yes, you already asked your mentor teacher that last one- but it's great to have options and see how different people do things so you can pick your favorite!

Now, if you don't have a mentor teacher or anyone else willing to lend you copies of their parent packet or curriculum planning, don't worry- I'm planning on sharing mine, and some templates, next week!

Because hopefully some mentor teachers are reading this, too, I want to end with some tips for mentor teachers when they first meet their mentees! (By the way, how cute is this doodle frame from The Scrappin' Cop? I am loving it lately!)

Mentor teachers,
  • Make a copy of just about anything you make for the beginning of the year and offer it to your newbie friend. It might not seem like much, but having a basic template for all of the things you put out at open house, send home for parents, and do with your class the first few days will give your newbie SO much valuable information. 
  • Remember to think about telling your newbie things that might be run differently at other schools! Attendance, lunch, beginning/end of the day, recess, etc. are the easiest things to forget to tell someone about!
  • Stop in, call, text, or email every once in awhile just to ask how it's going. Some newbies won't want to bother you a lot, but still have questions- and if you start the conversation, it helps! If you bring chocolate, even better!
  • Be positive! If your mentee is anything like me, they're kind of freaked out at this stage in the game. Give them a compliment here or there, smile, and be encouraging when they need it!
  • Please, please don't act like your way is the only way to do things- but gentle, optional-to-take suggestions are almost always welcome!
Now, I've never been a mentor teacher before... so please, share your tips for mentor teachers if you have them! :)

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