By IslandWood Graduate Program Alumna, Kellan S, Class of ‘22
My experience with mentorship was truly one of the most supportive, challenging, and joyful things about the program for me. A few of my reflections after having graduated…
My experience with mentorship during the IW graduate program helped me articulate and understand what my teaching values looked like in practice. Or at least better understand how to work towards putting those values into practice – it’s a process!
The mentorship experience helped me do an introspective deep dive into the nitty gritty, detailed interactions with students, and allowed me to (usually!) clearly see what I was doing well and what I could improve on. For example, my mentor suggested I look closely at a video she took of one of my lessons and asked me to consider why I made the group of students get in a circle before I started instruction. Through watching the video, reflecting, and chatting with my mentor in our one-on-one meeting it became clear to me that asking my students to form a circle in this instance was about my comfort as an educator, and not about what was most supportive for the students’ listening and learning. This example and others were important for me understanding how these micro, in-the-moment interactions can support or not support what’s in the best interest of students as well as what my values are as an educator.
I think something else I learned about mentorship is that it’s self-directed. I realized early that I needed to be in the driver’s seat, with my mentor supporting or challenging the roads I chose to turn down, but not making the map for me. In my experience it worked really well to bring up questions, challenges, or successes to my mentor and ask their opinion or experience on them, rather than asking my mentor to take the lead in the conversation. There were of course specific things my mentor brought up – potential safety concerns they noticed, that circle situation, etc – but for the most part I directed our conversations.
Another thing I gained was how important it is that my lessons have clear goals and that the activities in the lessons have a clear purpose. The students deserve lessons that are cohesive, well thought out, and have a goal that they are working towards (while also being very flexible!).
It was also great to have someone to check in with if there were moments that went badly or at least not the way I expected, and to have someone else weigh in on them with their impressions. Especially someone with a ton of teaching experience and perspective on how things might work out. There were many situations over the course of the year that became much more manageable after I checked in with my mentor about them. This included things like chatting with chaperones and parents, managing the diverse needs of students in groups, and the structure of lesson plans.
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