In my last post, I mentioned how my teaching situation lends its own set of challenges. I know every teaching situation is filled with its own nuances and difficulties so I wanted to mention some of the things that helped me through my first year of teaching and are helping me now in my second year. Hopefully, what has helped me can help you.
Last month, I participated in the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children’s Leadership Training Institute. I was asked to sit on a panel and answer questions about the support that CEC has provided me as I transitioned from student to first year teacher and beyond. As those in attendance can attest, I can talk almost endlessly about how CEC has supported me as a teacher. From the Tool of the Week, which I mentioned in my last post to SmartBrief, Policy Insider, webinars, and many other resources, CEC has been the single biggest factor in my professional development since becoming a special educator.
However, one of the biggest helps that got me through my first year is people. I’m sure it sounds simple to say that I have had a lot of people around me that helped me get through my first year of teaching, but while simple, having those personal connections is also imperative for me to be successful.
At the meeting on Saturday, every teacher in attendance was able to testify that the connections they made with people at the state level of CEC made them the teachers they are today. I know I am not breaking any news by saying that being a special education teacher can be an isolating job. It can also be very taxing physically and emotionally. Having a support system has been the most important factor in getting through the low points.
One of my biggest supporters is my mentor. My district pairs each new teacher with a mentor who is experienced in the new teacher’s field. I am so thankful for the mentor I was assigned. My mentor listens when I need to vent frustration, celebrates when I have an accomplishment, and guides me when I don’t know what to do. The other teachers call me her sidekick.
If your district or school does not have a mentoring program, I highly recommend that new teachers find mentors at school who have been through the same things that new teachers will experience or apply for the CEC/CEC-PD Mentoring Program.
For more experienced teachers, I would highly recommend that you be a mentor for new teachers in your area. You can have an immeasurable impact on that new teacher and on every student that teacher influences. In my opinion teaching is all about influence. Mentoring is a way to influence others that has exponential returns on the investment put into it.
My mentor recently told me she was surprised that her first grade son knew my name even though he has never met me. I think that tells what kind of investment she has made in pushing me to be the best teacher I can be. Thanks, Stacey!
What kind of mentoring experiences have helped you become the educator you are today?