Teacher Preparation Opinion

Follow-Up: Professionally Developing Mentors

By Noah Patel — October 25, 2011 2 min read
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Noah Patel

In my previous blog, I discussed the importance of creating non-traditional career pathways for teachers by way of a Master Teacher credential earned through demonstrated classroom success. Several colleagues on this blog have joined me in advocating for mentoring as one rung on the career ladder that we hope to strengthen. After some more reflection on this topic, I am positive that meaningful professional development will be the key in taking these additional career opportunities, especially mentoring, to scale nationwide.

In the early-stage of my career, it was an expectation at my school that teachers would lead content-specific professional development with our peers. As the youngest teacher in my school, this was sometimes intimidating. I was still learning what being in a leadership role with my colleagues truly meant. However, over time those experiences have revealed themselves to be invaluable. They motivate me to try to change what I see as a flaw in our system: one-size-fits-all professional development. To this day, I still ask myself the same question after receiving anything that falls under the large umbrella of professional development: “Am I able to be better at what I do because of what I just did?”

If authentic mentoring was a way for Master Teachers to enhance their careers, we could be retaining (and rejuvenating!) excellent veteran teachers while simultaneously providing consistent feedback and support to developing teachers. Funding would no longer be an obstacle, if school districts and teacher’s unions have the creativity and courage to differentiate collectively bargained professional development hours. Master Teachers could use their hours learning how to translate effective teaching into productive mentoring, and putting it into practice. Early career teachers could use their hours to learn from Master Teachers within their content area as they continue to improve their craft. Since districts and unions would have already agreed upon these hours as a part of a contract, these kinds of experiences could take place at no additional cost.

Recently, as I sat through some required professional development, I imagined that my colleagues and I could view our negotiated hours as currency to spend on opportunities we believed were worthwhile and would help us grow. I hate to think these hours are something most of us dread and find myself dreaming about how great it all could be.

I am ready to help expedite change, and develop professionals as they advance their teaching careers. I know I am not alone.

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