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Main #: (831) 466-5840
Educational Services Division
The Santa Cruz/Silicon Valley New Teacher Project
Mentoring By the Numbersby Annameekee Hesik
Mentor, Santa Cruz/Silicon Valley New Teacher Project
As a writer and English teacher, I've always preferred words over digits and metaphors over data, but now that my third year of being a new teacher mentor with the Santa Cruz/Silicon Valley New Teacher Project is coming to an end, I've begun to reflect on the numbers of my experience and I'm surprised at how much fun and awe-inspiring numbers can be.
So, what makes me so sure that we are indeed making a long-lasting positive impact? For the answer to that question, I'll turn to the numbers again: 6, 10, 60, 15, and 12. On average, I meet one on one with each new teacher for six hours a month (some much more than this). There are ten months in a school year, so that means we spend over sixty hours a year together analyzing student work, celebrating successes, problem solving challenges, meeting with principals, collaborating on lessons and units, planning parent communication, studying the needs of students, and more. In addition to our weekly meetings, our new teachers meet with subject and grade-alike colleagues from across district lines in our six Collaborative Learning Community (CLC) professional developments. For a total of fifteen hours a year, they receive expertly-developed PD on topics that matter most, when they need it most: classroom management, differentiation, lesson planning and the Common Core, social and emotional learning, and how to address equity in the classroom. Also in these CLCs, teachers are given time to further discuss challenges and reflect on solutions, take on leadership roles, collaborate with colleagues, and hear best practices from others who share the same grade and subject. I've seen teachers use strategies that were shared in CLCs the very next day in their own classes, making impressive shifts in student behavior, engagement, and teacher confidence. When I think back to my years as a veteran teacher, the only chance I was able to really spend time with colleagues on topics like these, topics that were most urgent and relevant to me, was in my carpool. Other than that, I was on my own. Lastly, there's the number twelve. On average, I observe my teachers in action about twelve times a year (and some more than that). Much different than a principal's two-time evaluative observations, our observations allow us to pinpoint future areas of inquiry and discussion, celebrate growth, and help the teacher recognize small adjustments that can increase engagement and student and teacher success. In most cases, my new teachers request MORE mentor observations. Because, again, no one wants to travel this bumpy road to teacher success on his/her own.
In my weekly meetings with new teachers, epiphanies are frequent (I should have kept track!), but more importantly, self-attained. Just like when I'm working with my students, I want to build their capacity so that when I'm no longer there, these new teachers know how to find the answers and seek the support they need. We are non-evaluative, but we are skilled in guiding conversations and using formative assessment tools to help new teachers be reflective and see, for themselves, what is working and what could be adjusted. We help build resiliency, creativity, confidence, and we help our new teachers find the light of joy in their days even at dark and challenging times. That's the impact I know each of the SC/SVNTP mentors has on new teachers.