When starting a new career as a teacher or even just starting at a new school it is absolutely vital that the teacher gets a mentor to model, lead, listen and help them at the new job. Sadly, I learned this the hard way.
My first job after graduation was a 1st grade teacher at my old Elementary school in my hometown in Iceland. A fantastic school with fantastic staff and I loved every minute of my job… but I nearly drowned in work and contemplated if this was worth the time.
I went to this school when I grew up so some of my new colleagues were my ex-teachers. Looking back on my first year I was working 10-14 hours every day and there wasn’t a weekend that went by without me going to school to work. I worked and worked and worked but still felt like I was drowning. I could barely finish the work that other teachers seemed to finish in 8 hours or less…
Why? I think it is partly because I didn’t get a mentor.
There is huge difference between being told: This is your mentor, he/she will work closely with you throughout the year, listen to you, observe and guide in your first year here.
and being told: Contact us if you need help.
NEED HELP???? Hello I’m drowning… is that normal?
My first year was a lot of fun, I really grew as a person and teacher but it was really tough. I remember coming home at around midnight, nervous about tomorrow because I wasn’t sure how I was going to teach a certain subject or I didn’t feel like I knew enough about something to be teaching it to others. I survived my first year mostly due to my interest in teaching, hard-work, long hours and the courage to ask silly questions and be the one that didn’t know everything. I also got help from colleagues when needed but I felt like I was interrupting them from their jobs. But it would have been easier if a mentor had been by my side from day one. I just was to busy to realize it then.
Thankfully I am not one of those people who are afraid to ask questions if I don’t know the answer. I ask, even if that means I look stupid to others. It takes a lot of courage to be the one that asks questions at meetings and only a few people are ready to ask if they don’t know because they are afraid others might view them as dumb. Please ask if you don’t know something or even if you are unsure… ask. Both administrators and the ones who don’t know but are too afraid to ask will appreciate it.
I recently came across a great list I believe can help mentors, new teachers and administrators. I got it from Mia MacMeekin’s fun blog and I think that it can really help when you’re starting the new school year. A lot of newly graduated teachers will feel lost in their first weeks, months or even the first year. I believe this guide can help to bridge the huge gap between what we learn about teaching in college and the real life as a teacher.
Have a great first year and make sure you get a mentor… not only on paper but in person.
Ingvi Hrannar Ómarsson
Icelandic Elementary Teacher