Often when we think about teacher mentors, we visualize older teachers with decades of experience behind them. Personally, I feel that there is a lost opportunity when we limit mentor relationships in that way. I have several mentors and interestingly enough, they are at different stages of their careers as well as working in various capacities within education. As a result, I have numerous perspectives and opportunities; this makes for a well-rounded network!
Included in this amazing array of strong teachers is a lateral mentor by the name of Dena Ayers. Our career paths have been similar and yet, her expertise in certain areas is undeniable. A distinguished educator of sixteen years, she is a current instructor in the Lower Merion School District and has learned to use her networking resources wisely. Dena is an impressive teacher but she’s more than that…she’s an administrator at heart that is always available to offer solid and unbiased advice. Every teacher needs at least one mentor who will do that! Just recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing her briefly and will spare you the run of the mill questions. The one question/response I feel the need to share is the one that is most apropos to this course: What do you do to re-energize your teaching practices?
Here is Dena’s response:
“My rejuvenation or re-energy comes from a few sources. When my students have those “ah ha” moments and I hear, “Oh, I get it.” Or, when I see the smiles of confidence and self-satisfaction that really re-energizes my teaching practices. I don’t tire or give up until I see the signs of acquisition. I adjust my teaching practices over and over again until I have achieved my instructional goal and when my student has achieved the learning goal.
The other motivator for me is summer break. Yup, I said it. Summertime is the time when I do a lot of reflecting on my teaching practices. I think about the successes that we, my students and me, had. I spend time reflecting on the lessons that didn’t work out so well. It’s also a time when I can plan without the every day pressures that I experience in the fall, winter and spring. Summer allows me to relax, refocus and create.
The thing that truly gets my wheels turning is learning. Learning new teaching trends and relearning trends that have circled back around. Professional development focused on curriculum and instruction invigorates me. Anytime I get to grow intellectually creates an energy within me to keep evolving as a teacher. Plainly put, loving and living my profession is what I do to re-energize my teaching practices.”