Retired educators often are unable to get out and about to the degree you did when working full time, but that’s no reason to pass up the opportunity to share experiences through mentoring those new to the profession. You can use some of the same communication tools you now use to keep up with former colleagues and students, and with your children, grandchildren and other extended family.
I’ve had the privilege of working with early career teachers across the nation as part of two different NCTE initiatives. The first was the Early Career Educators of Color Award. The second is the Conference on English Leadership Emerging Leaders Fellowship to support educators who may be in their first three years of a new leadership position. I’ve served as a mentor for both of these programs.
What is crucial to the success of mentoring from afar is the on-going communication we can maintain across long-distances using twenty-first century technology such as Twitter chats, Google Hang-outs along with simple emails and phone calls and texting. Here’s a video from one of the teachers I’ve mentored, Nina Johnson.
Nina Johnson is an Emerging Leader Fellowship winner from 2013 whom I mentored. She lives in North Carolina. I live in Michigan. We maintained regular communication primarily by email for the year of her official fellowship 2013-2014. However, as often happens when a mutually satisfying relationship is established, our unofficial fellowship did not end. The next year, an all girls’ school in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates offered Nina a teaching position. She contacted me about this opportunity to live and work abroad for a year or so asking my opinion and advice. After consulting with others in her family and professional circles, Nina accepted the job and moved across the globe, just south of the Tropic of Cancer, very near to the Persian Gulf.
Nina’s major move did not abort our communication. In fact, the move increased it. Like early career teachers who sometimes feel isolated in their own buildings, in new communities, and definitely in new countries where one seldom hears ones heart language or regularly sees people who look familiar or dress in familiar attire, Nina had some difficult days. This also is the case for scores of early career educators who graduate determined to succeed wherever they are assigned. Too often, however, these precious novice teachers become despondent, not because they are not intellectually prepared to teach, but because of personal or emotional challenges in their new environment. That’s when we veteran educators can help. We can be there as advisers, empathetic and sympathetic, encouraging them to stay the course knowing we, who care about them personally and professionally, have their back. We will be there to listen and advise non-judgmentally.
Interested in becoming a mentor? Fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!