a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher
During last week’s Teacher’s Day celebration here in China, I heard from some former students. Sometimes when communicating with old students, I feel a little sheepish that they had to sit through a course before I figured out how to teach it. Ten years from now, I’m likely to feel the same about my current students. Development is sometimes like a long and strenuous climb.
When we’re participating in reflection on our teaching, professional development, to a certain extent, may happen naturally. However, in the busyness of life and teaching, we may too easily get stuck in a rut. How can we purposefully take steps toward growth?
One meaningful way to step toward professional development is through a mentoring relationship. The word mentor may conjure up different meanings in the minds of each reader, so let’s clarify what it means.
A sermon I heard recently examined the conversation that culminated with “The Good Samaritan.” As I listened, I noticed how the Master Teacher mentored his student (the expert in the law). He didn’t point out his faults or show him how to fix his problems. Instead, He answered his questions with questions (and a story). Only in the end did he offer advice: “Go and do the same.”
You may view mentors as observers who nitpick at your teaching, but their purpose is to support (rather than assess) your professional development in a variety of ways (not only observing). Mentors go alongside you on the journey toward excellence in the classroom. Since they’re usually farther down the path, they may at times lead, but they don’t dictate. In fact, like the Mentor of mentors did with the expert in the law, they may ask as many questions as they answer.
The “expert” asked his first question in order to test the Master Teacher and his second in order to justify himself. (As a fellow know-it-all, I can relate to his attitude.) Yet, the Mentor of mentors responded with patience, and I hear kindness in His tone. In fact, His most meaningful mentoring occurred in the context of genuine relationships. Difficult though His mentees were at times, He chose to call them friends and loved them to death. Perhaps in an effort to imitate their Master, many of the mentors in training I’ve worked with are looking for a “genuine friendship” with teachers, a “relationship:
Over the next six weeks here on Master Teaching, we’ll be taking steps toward professional development. Here’s how you can participate:
1. First, identify and invite a mentor (or a peer mentor) to support your professional development during this semester. (See “Try it out” below.)
2. Then, the following six posts will take you and your mentor through steps to identify your starting point and progress toward where you need to be–perhaps by solving a classroom issue.
3. Another step you and your mentor could take is to participate in discussions here on Master Teaching. Each week, the questions in “What’s your perspective?” will open the floor. See this week’s questions, and then feel free to jump right in by adding a comment below.
 Luke 10:25-37.
 John 15:12-17.
 Melissa K. Smith and Marilyn Lewis, Supporting the Professional Development of English Language Teachers: Facilitative Mentoring, (New York: Routledge, forthcoming).
 This template is adapted from Supporting the Professional Development of English Language Teachers.
We welcome your comments on any of the ideas in this post or in answer to the questions below.
Photo Credit: Sarah Beth Harmon