New Faculty Mentoring Workshop: Looking for a few good mentoring tips
Tomorrow, I start a two-day workshop at my school for faculty mentors, where we will work together to revamp our mentoring program for new teachers. I was selected to be the mentor for our new physics teacher (who is going to be awesome). I’m trilled to be taking on this role, because my I owe my current teaching career to two incredible mentors that shepherded me through my early teaching years. My formal mentor was E, who was a true expert in teaching physics—he was the type of teacher who planned out every single day, and gave me a binder filled with activities, homework and assignments for the two physics courses I was teaching that I often clung to like a life raft. During my first few years, E and I had dozens of conversations about physics and physics teaching—I can remember discussing how wheels roll in the dining hall until well after everyone else had left. These conversations and my work with E helped me to see how much I still had left to learn in physics, and gave me motivation to learn it.
My other mentor, T, was an informal one. He and I slowly became friends over my first year of teaching, and though we didn’t teach the same subject, he was instrumental in helping me to navigate the world of boarding school procedure and politics. Never having known the world of private school, T shared countless bits of wisdom with me, including suggesting that I apply to the Klingenstein Summer Institute for new teachers, which turned out to be a pivotal moment in convincing me I wanted to be a teacher.
I now count both E and T among my very closest friends, and it’s wonderful to stay in touch with them even though we no longer teach in the same school.
As I start to think about how to be a good mentor to A, I hope I can find ways to merge the best of what I gained from both the formal mentoring of E, and the informal mentoring of T. One of the things I’m dying to do is try to get the new faculty blogging and tweeting as soon as possible, since it’s made such a difference for me. Of course, what makes a difference for me might be a waste of time for someone else, and often, when I talk about this to other faculty, they look at me like I have 4 heads or something. What do you think? Should all new faculty be encouraged to blog and tweet? And of course, I think the real key isn’t to require a new faculty member to do something (I certainly would never do this), but instead show a variety of options and ideas that have been helpful and encourage new faculty to give them a try.
And as we work to redesign this mentoring program from top to bottom, I’d like to toss the more general question out:
What are the characteristics of a good faculty mentor? What sort of structures at a school help ensure quality mentoring? What is the mentoring program at your school like?