men·tor·ship

The caption either has you scratching your head and questioning my sanity or it has you ready to embark on the journey of mentorship and why this picture depicts what intentional mentorship should look like. Let’s face it, we have all been the young lady on the bike at some point in our career. Whether you are new to teaching or entering your stage of bowing out gracefully (by way of retirement hopefully) we have all experienced having a support team to encourage us along the way.

Mark and Brittany

“Come on. I know you got one more in you, let’s go!” was he crazy? Mark was one of my fill-in trainers when my trainer was unable to attend my session. He was the yeller. The in-your-face, I’m here to push you beyond your limit yeller. Although I thought the yelling was him trying to look the part, I appreciated the drive and the motivation that he showed during my session. “Give it to me!” he high fived me once I finished my barbell lounge squats.

“I’m proud of you girl! You have come a long way since you first walked into the door. What day and time would you like to schedule for next week? Brittany has an open schedule so far.”

“Same days and time as this week will be fine. I’m going to put in about twenty minutes on the elliptical and I’m out of here.” I said, even though I wanted to take my wobbling legs to my car and head home.

I had to get my time in. I wasn’t the only person depending on me to reach my goal. Brittany was just as invested in my goal as I. The last thing I wanted to do was let us both down. Brittany was not only a trainer but she was a middle school teacher too. She never yelled at me. She was actually very soft spoken and handled me in a precious way. She made sure every workout was stimulating but that I was also comfortable with the task at hand. She was a true teacher at heart. You got it? Fix your form. Here like this, let me show you. Girl you’re getting better. You held that plank for a full minute, it’s time to increase the time.

She was a little more subtle than what I would have originally preferred in a coach but her planned circuits yielded the same results as Mark. Their coaching and deliveries were just different.

“Sure thing. Make sure you don’t overdo it. You’re scheduled for a weigh in next week as well so keep up the good work!”

I had never been to a gym in my thirty years of living outside of middle and high school of course. I have always been very active and made a conscious decision to keep the weight off without a gym membership. The birth of my daughter is what had finally gotten me there. Truth is, I definitely wasn’t there to lose weight so that I could be bikini ready because let’s face it, you will never catch me in such on anybody’s beach or beside anybody’s pool regardless of shape or size. I was there to feel energized again. I wanted to be able to walk up my stairs at home and not get tired after climbing the sixth stair. My goal was to be healthy and energized.

Since I had never been to a gym, I decided to go with having a personal trainer because they were where I wanted to be and they had the knowledge that I needed to get to where I wanted to go. It also made me feel comfortable to know that I had a “partner” in my corner cheering me on and holding me accountable every step of the way. Every time I left the gym after a session, I felt accomplished. Don’t get me wrong, every day wasn’t a walk in the park. They tested my strength, agility, mental capacity, and so forth. With each session I managed to work up enough effort to get the job done.

The QUOTE

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Is a quote contributed by an Indian non-fiction author Rashmi Bansal and later recognized by Steve Jobs in a graduation speech he delivered. Let’s take a closer look at it.

Stay Hungry

Dear student teacher. Dear year one teacher. Dear year two teacher. Please….whatever you do, DO IT HUNGRY! (Now if you’re going to have an attitude with it, you might need to grab a Snicker first though.)

Exactly what did Steve Jobs and Rashmi Bansal mean by such words? Stay hungry?

Bind yourself to wanting to know more.

  • Don’t become complacent with being an okay teacher.
  • Don’t allow the circumstances in which you teach to define your input and output as a teacher.
  • Most importantly, don’t allow the mediocrity of those around you to infiltrate your passion and drive to want to be the best and give the best.

Realities of teaching are overhwelming. The demands of documentation and delivery are unbelieveable. The talks of differentiating for students in preparation of a test that neither provides differentiation nor accomodations for any students other than those that have been “identified” is mind boggling still to the most qualified and skilled veteran in our league. How do students make it to a grade level without meeting the proper qualifications to land in a seat that demands so much from their so little?

With such realities, it is easy to lose your hunger. It’s even easier to walk away. With such realities it is important that we recognize our mentors and trainers for who they are and for what we need of them and what they expect of us. Who is your Mark? Your Brittany? Who is your get in your face yeller? Who is your whisperer? Your motivator? Your go to? Your closet that holds your devout ventilations of frustrations?

the MENTOR

Like my personal trainers, my mentors throughout my careers have been TRUSTED and experienced individuals. They are people that have been and currently are where I desire to be. They have been sharp shooters that are quick to hear me out and slow to respond. When their response comes through, it’s with wisdom that seeps through the very crevices from which their heart functions. There are some days when they don’t respond at all. Which is great! Some days I just need someone to hear me. Not side with me. Not side with them. Just hear me!

There are also days when I need them to get in my face and just be honest. Your problem is that you take everything personal. Honey it’s education and you won’t get along with your teammates most days. You’ll have issues with parents that you’ve never seen nor been able to contact since day one until you get the right (but very wrong in their sight) note home. And truth is…your students are children and like adults, they LIE. Heartbreaking, I know. But these are our truths and there’s a lot more from whence those came.

One thing that has been most important to me when choosing my mentors outside of my assigned academic coach and such: they must be someone that is neutral and mature at all costs. You don’t want your “TRUTH IS” sessions to be the talk to the teacher’s lounge. One thing I have learned and was advised of before signing my contract is that, “Educators are the closest people that you’ll get to the real housewives.” Not all of us are petty. NOT even but there are some days when the banners hang high and the attitudes are very present. Professionals or not, the reality is we all have problems and we are all human and as such we must learn how to respect each other in the state in which we are in and move on to the next line of business….EDUCATING!

the PURPOSE

The purpose of your mentor is to do exactly what the above graphic displays. They should be the one that encourages you to keep the fire burning. They won’t have all of the answers, of course, and don’t expect them to. They will point you in the right direction most days, unless you catch them on a day when they too are spent. This won’t be often but they are human. Their advice is normally from where they’ve been and where they are heading. They are someone that roots for the success of your overall being, not just your career. They are the motivation that you seek when you feel like giving up.

They are one of the key players that you want to share your accomplishments with. They are your voice of reasoning and clarity when it’s needed most. They keep your goals before you. They want to help you become a better teacher and individual. They enjoy seeing you blossom, even though you probably, at MOST times, get on their nerves!

Stay Foolish

No not literally, please not literally. Each and everyone one of us has had our mentor tell us to do this without saying it to this extent. When I first saw this latter half of the quote I was like, “Nah Steve, not today!” Then my Christian roots reminded me of 1 Corinthians 1:27 and the first half of that scripture says that “God will take the foolish to confound the wise.”

Everything we say may not make sense and could be deemed as foolish in the sight of others, but it could also be the very solution that is needed to solve the problem.

So yes, stay foolish.

  • Always be willing to try and do the very things that people around you say can’t be done.
  • Be willing to challenge that which you don’t believe in with your actions more than by projecting your voice. Actions will always speak louder than your verbal art form.
  • Stay foolish enough to collect the knowledge and data to contribute a strong foundation for your beliefs.
  • Become the research behind the research.

What I have learned is that staying open and foolish will place you in a position of credibility. Staying foolish built my character as a year one teacher. Staying foolish caused me to grab hold of this not so new concept of personalized learning and be a copresenter at one of best conferences in the nation, the Personalized Learning Summit. I represented my district as a first year teacher in a major way for not only their representation but for the representation of my hard work and foolishness. Every tear that I shed as a first year teacher made my representation as a copresenter at that conference worth it. Staying foolish is building my wisdom and self worth as an educator.

My foolishness and hunger causes me to lend an ear to my mentors just as they have done for me. Only when I lend my ear to them, they always release and impart an integral part of my future into the atmosphere.

One of my most respected mentor’s favorite sayings is, “Take my hand and be my friend.” Find you a mentor whose spirit says such. Sometimes they might have to be “opinionated” and pierce you to the very core but every reality check that is given is to push you into greatness.

Don’t settle for being a teacher. Be THE teacher. Bring GRIT to the table. Have a suggested solution for the problems that are posed. Don’t be afraid to walk to the beat of your own drum while remembering to respect those around you. It is true, RESPECT goes a long way. Be sure to tell your mentors thank you and not just with your words and gifts.

You are an educator not because anyone forced you into it. I’m sure it was your passion that lit the way. Build your brand. Represent your brand. It will take you places quicker than you could imagine and without hesitation.

Truth is:

  • You were made for this!
  • There’s more fight in you than what you have convinced yourself to believe.
  • You are a phenomenal teacher that does great things.
  • Sometimes people would rather give you a hard time than commend you of your hard work and excellence. It’s okay. Let the hostility build your strength and agility mentally.
  • You are a fundamental part of the puzzle.

We are educators! We laugh together. We cry together. We SUCCEED together!

See you in the next post? Same time right?

A Game of Chance

“I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.” -Stephen Hawking

“Wait a minute what is happening?” I was frantic and panicking. The transfer list had unveiled her torch like the statue of liberty proclaiming “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Teachers were putting their name on the transfer list like it was a scene in the movie Independence Day and I felt like I was Will Smith walking outside to grab my daily newspaper. I knew the list was now available to those seeking to be relocated for one reason or another, but I’m one that minds my own business. I started to hear the whispers and sensed the shifted atmosphere that had set a tone of urgency. Look up! Don’t ignore this! Find out what’s going on crazy.

I was almost eight months pregnant trying to manage sixteen students that had a reputation of giving teachers the business when and as needed. I never saw those personalities in my classroom though. Behavior happened more frequent in the absence of my presence. Maybe they pitied the fact that I was their height with an oblong positioned mini me in my gut. Whatever the case, I thank those kiddos for not stressing me anymore than I needed to be. I was already struggling to find a coping mechanism with the fact that I was a control freak that hated to hand my class over to anyone that was not me. I still am actually. Now I had to not only figure out if I was leaving behind enough busy work for the last three weeks of school in preparation of my GREAT escape….maternity leave, but I was also being plagued with finding out why a good percentage of the faculty was packing their things and leaving!

“WE’RE GETTING NEW ADMINISTRATION. (Well duh, one was retiring.)I don’t feel like going through this again. If I’m going to get two new administrators, I want a new setting altogether! And there’s talks of possible state takeover. Who wants to deal with that?” Just a few of the reasons that were floating for people choosing to move on.

But really? That was what the fuss was about? That serious? (Thought the naive newbie.)

At least they could put their name on the transfer list…I guess. I was a new hire that had recently graduated in December. (I just so happened to have received a job offer from the same school I student taught at, lucky me!) Since I was considered an end of year hire and I was soon leaving on maternity leave without earned time. Can you say penalty? I would have to be rehired. I would not receive a contract to sign until summer.

I had the beginning of summer to figure out if I would accept the offer when it came. The problem with that is that I also had to reapply into the district. Imagine my face when principals started calling me out of the wahzoo for job interviews. Wait a minute! Did our new administrator not want me back!

I was happy that I was being sought out but I was aggravated because I so dearly wanted to return! Why did they keep calling? That’s it! I picked up my phone and called the school. “May I speak with an administrator please?” my voice crisp and to the point. “This is she.” I gulped. She sounded so sweet and pleasant. There’s no way she didn’t want me to continue my stead or did she? “Yes this is Mrs. Straughter. Unfortunately I left on maternity leave before having an opportunity to meet you. I was told that I could potentially return to my position for the upcoming school year but I have received countless calls from other schools that I’ll only be interested in if I no longer have my position here.”

“Whew!” she let out a sigh of relief or so it seemed. “You had me worried. I have heard nothing but great things about you and was eager to have you to return if you were still interested. I have been getting a few of those calls myself and figured you had possibly had a change of heart. I’ll get my recommendation in to HR as soon as we’re done!”

Wait she sounded too excited to have me. Very happy! Carefree. Too good to be true? I thought to myself. I began to overthink everything. What if she’s a micromanager. What if I suck at teaching. Wait a minute I’ve never taught a full year. What if? What if? What if? What if the brief interaction that was exchanged over the phone really too good to be true? Was it?

Not at all. I made it through my first year because I had oustanding administrators that pushed me into my greatness and that are still doing such. I’m proud to be a part of such a great team. The love and support that they have provided to me as a first year teacher is somewhat unheard of and someone somewhere is probably wishing this was their story.

I say that to say this. Teaching is and will always be a business of taking risks. You put your name on THE LIST and you get what you hope is a better opportunity to enhance and grow. You stay at your school…you wait patiently. You pray. And hope that the upcoming year is good to you. In this profession as with any other, people come and people go. Sometimes changes and requirements will dicatate the next move you make and sometimes they won’t.

I took a risk and stayed regardless of the packed boxes and great escapes. By far, it was the best thing I could have done.

Wait! What is that I hear….dinner is ready!

See you in the next post? Same time?

Educator Ice Breaker

Come on, we’ve all done this before. You’re in a crowded room full of people you don’t know and you’re ready to bail out of the nearest exit.

“I will be conducting your new teacher orientation class today. Everyone come. Gather round!” the facilitator moves about the room with excitement to ward off her own sense of uneased consciousness. She grabs her Icebreaker ball and smiles as she is eager to hear about who you are, what makes you unique, and what brings you to her district.

You squirm into the circle with a grimace on your face. You give her eye contact but in an effort to use this as a tactic to get her to do the complete opposite of what she decides to do! Throw you the ball first. Your thumb lands on….

One interesting fact about yourself?

Well let me introduce myself.

  • I am an elementary educator. I just completed year 1 with great success. (Yeah…I just gave my horn a TOOT.)
  • I’m starting my career in what I would like to think is a little late in the game. Truth is, this is my second career. My first love belongs to marketing. I worked for almost a decade at a theme park in my hometown.
  • Growing up I wanted to be a teacher but once I got to college I realized at the time, I didn’t care for children as much as someone that teaches should, or so I thought. That’s right! I didn’t care for them but for some reason at church I was a magnet for them.
  • Marrying my husband, who is a music teacher by the way, is what caused me to revisit my childhood pleasure of playing teacher with my sister, dolls, and imaginary friends. (Oh and the fact that when we married I had to relocate to a town that had a zoo and no theme park probably played a major factor as well!)

Six years happily married, with two kiddos of our very own, and a master’s in elementary education, I’m here! The elevator has made it to the floor. Time feels as though it has stopped. This my friends is my moment. This is my chance to share with you the journey that I began without a major audience or platform besides my closest friends and family.

My thumb could have landed on….

Why now?

PERSONALIZED LEARNING pervaded my first year experience. It came in like a whirlwind and took my classroom by storm. All I had to show for it was red ruby slippers and my dog Todo when the year was over.

Well….

Actually it wasn’t that bad. Personalized learning changed my initial approach to teaching and I honestly don’t know what my first year would have been like without the demands that came with it.

I actually walked away in disbelief of my accomplishments and the position my hard work and dedication had placed me in.

I’m sure you’d like to know more but unfortunately my time is up! I told you I am a wife and mommy and (un)fortunately…duty calls!

I hope to see you in the next post. Same time?

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