3 Tips for Mentoring New Teachers During Blended Learning
Inevitably, this will be a challenging year for all teachers, but especially those first-year teachers who are entering their classrooms for the first time. As veteran teachers, it is part of our joy and job to help them figure out how to implement blended learning into their classrooms. Mentoring also provides a great opportunity to help retain teachers for the future. Hopefully these few tips will help you encourage a new teacher in your building as you tackle this new school year.
Share your digital resources and blended learning best practices.
Sharing digital information has been one of the biggest blessings for me personally as I’ve worked with several new teachers in my department over the years. I used our learning management system (LMS) to create a “teacher” classroom there. It is only shared between those of us who teach that specific course. This could also work for teachers who share the same grade levels. We take turns creating assignments and assessments in the teacher classroom. Then all we have to do is copy and paste them into our own classes for our students. This is helpful for mentoring new teachers because it’s a space where the new teachers can demo their ideas and practice creating assignments, projects, and essays before putting them in front of students. This will help them gain confidence and provide opportunities to ask questions and collect feedback in a safe environment with their mentor teachers.
The other awesome thing about sharing a digital teacher-only classroom has been the convenience during blended and distance learning. My colleagues and I have been able to split up the work of creating lessons then share those lessons in our shared classroom. Then we share those lessons with our students on our own timelines. For example, we divided up six lessons over six different pieces of punctuation. We each created three lessons where we recorded our voices over our presentations then uploaded them. The lessons were available for both of us to access, but at our own paces. If one of us needed an extra day for something, we came up with our own supporting lessons, but were able to use the main lessons in each of our classes at some point. This made a rather chaotic time a little less stressful and brought us a little closer as colleagues and friends. When working with new teachers, consider how you can help them transition into their new role by sharing everything you can digitally. Ultimately, it will help their students—and our students—learn, and that’s the goal no matter what.
New teachers just need support in general, so be there. For new teachers in my department, I check in at least twice a week. I try to make sure they understand the material and see if they have any questions. Last year, I was able to help my colleague understand grammar concepts that she hadn’t taught in a while. As we embark on this year—whether we meet in-person all year or bounce back and forth between home and school—some elements of blended learning will be required. So, making sure new teachers feel comfortable with material and how to share it with their students will be critical. And that’s not just the lesson plan and accompanying assignment. We must also support new teachers in properly setting up technology, getting professional development questions answered, understanding your institution’s policies and procedures (especially if they’ve recently changed due to COVID-19), and so much more. Setting up at least a weekly meeting—in-person or virtual—can prove very beneficial.
Be flexible and open-minded.
We all remember our first year of teaching. We were full of new ideas about how to help our students learn and were so excited that we bought new pens and pencils (among various other…necessities) to help us plan lessons and grade papers. Some of us still get super excited to buy new pens and notebooks—myself included.
New teachers this year are facing something entirely different and new. They’ve been training, just like we did, for what the school year is supposed to traditionally look like, and they are entering an unknown. So, as veteran teachers, the best thing we can do to help them is to remain open-minded. New teachers are bringing new ideas that may or may not work for blended learning. As a mentor, we can listen to those ideas and also help them form these into workable ideas in a blended learning environment. I have a colleague at work to whom I take all my hair-brained ideas. She listens with an open mind and tells me what will work best for my students with our technology and what will need to be revamped. What I most appreciate about her is that she has never told me that an idea is stupid or that it won’t work. She has helped me turn half of an idea into a full-fledged unit which I truly appreciate. So as new teachers enter the hallways of your school—or pop up on your screen—full of ideas and optimism, don’t shoot down their ideas for blended learning. Help them develop them if needed, and who knows, maybe you’ll gain some new ideas along the way.