I didn’t know how lucky I was in the beginning. Surrounded by phenomenal teachers that quickly became my mentors, I assumed every teacher had the same experience as me; people reaching out and guiding me whenever I needed it. Now 6 years into my teaching journey, I see how wrong I was. Many teachers have few people to reach out to in the beginning, sure they may have a mentor on paper, but that is where the relationship stays, never fully blossoming into what I still have to this day – a true give and take with some incredible teachers, Kathy and Melanie.
So why are mentors so important? Some of my biggest lessons have come straight from my mentors.
- Be prepared to eat a little crow. Meaning be prepared to eat your words and swallow your pride. I cannot tell you how many times these words have helped me through difficult situations. Whether I was in the wrong or not, sometimes the best for a heated situation is to simply apologize and look for a solution rather than continue fighting. It shows grace and humility and can often forge much stronger relationships than existed before.
- Stay connected. While my mentors never dreamed I would be connected globally, they both believe in the power of relationship and that being connected can only benefit you in the long run. So reach out to those around you and believe in the power of team, we are stronger together.
- You can learn from anyone. They have modeled this to me through all the years I have known them. When I walked in through their doors, they both assumed that I had something to offer, not that I was an empty vessel. This approach not only boosted my esteem but has set the stage for how I treat my students.
- You can create a relationship with any student. While we seem to easily connect with some kids, there are others that take hard work. Tenacity and genuine interest have taken me a long way in figuring out how to connect with all of my kids, not just the easy ones.
- Those that fight you the hardest are often the ones that need you the most. Those students that seem hellbent on making our lives miserable are often the ones that need us the most, whether they even know it or not. So don’t give up on them, don’t fight back in anger, but keep trying.
- Keep changing and innovating. You are never done growing as a teacher, so keep changing the way you teach to fit the students in front of you right now, not those you had the year before.
- Kids can always do more than we think is possible. The power of expectations and continually pushing students to do more and better is something that inspires my classroom every single day.
- Start out positive. There have been many times that I wanted to condemn a new initiative before it has started, but these words have stayed with me. Give it a chance and withhold judgment until you know more.
- Be kind. Nowhere have I seen better modeling of being kind to anyone. As teachers we spend a lot of time being kind to our students, but what about the adults we encounter every day? Do you stop and take an extra moment with those that surround you? Do you take a genuine interest in the people you see? There is so much power in being a model of kindness, we can make a difference with our actions every day.
I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students” will be released this March from Powerful Learning Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.