Sometimes life answers the questions to your problems, and sometimes it’s a more helpful answer than, “Suck-ah!”. Sometimes the answer comes just at the right time, and sometimes the answer becomes a good friend. Take for example, July 2007. I was sitting at our district office’s New Teacher Orientation. There were cute beach buckets on the tables full of candy, and little toy shovels rested next to them among the colorful post-it notes and high-lighters. It’s designed to make teachers feel welcome, but it really scared the shit out of me. Around me sat other new teachers who actually had high school teaching experience whether it be as a sub, student teaching, or other capacities. I, on the other hand, had been selling furniture up to two weeks prior to this meeting. My teaching experience was limited to college, and that was a while ago and a different beast all together. Frankly, I knew nothing about the public school system. I was so nervous that I couldn’t keep food down and lost five pounds (and I didn’t really have five pounds to lose). The beach buckets made me feel like I was in the ocean and in need of a life preserver.
My life preserver happened to be the next presenter: Lynda from the Peer Assistance Resource (PAR). Her very presence jolted me from my panicked stupor: she looked, sounded, and had the same mannerisms and name as my favorite professor in grad school. It took me awhile to realize that she was not the same person. She spoke about her program’s goal to assist new teachers during their first year, and I hurriedly wrote down all of the needed information. Afterwards I called, scheduled a meeting, and for the first time felt a ray of hope.
Lynda helped me survive my first year. Like all new teachers, I faced many challenges from curriculum planning, classroom management, difficult students, and just finding a place within the school. Lynda guided me through all of these rough patches with practical advice and a pragmatic approach. She shares her own challenges as a teacher and let me know that I was not alone. She also never stops learning, supports all of my ideas, and shows me how those ideas could be tweaked to get more from my students. It also helped that we shared many of the same interests, and our meetings would ultimately lead to lively discussions about our lives. Later on when I had to go through the BTSA training, she was my BTSA leader, and I can honestly say that I and my peers who also had her as a leader felt very lucky to have her. She allowed us to investigate different aspects of teaching in a meaningful way.
So it’s July 2012. Next Monday I will begin my sixth year of teaching. Lynda and I met today at The Nut Tree Plaza in Vacaville– a good halfway point between our homes. We did not meet as teacher/mentor, but as friends. We discussed our lives and travels, but as it often happens among teachers, we talked shop. I shared my ideas, and she explained how I could take them to next to level and jokingly instructed me to write a post about the Nut Tree. I laughed. The Nut Tree is just a shopping area with an Old Navy, Home Goods Store, Panera, and other stores that are often found in those types of places. We walked around the plaza and then went off the beaten path. There we saw a massive jackrabbit, and later on we saw this:
Once I saw this covered-bridge I knew I would do my “homework” and write a post about our afternoon. Having Lynda as a mentor and friend makes me feel so fortunate. She makes me realize how important it is to share each other’s experiences and ideas because we can all help each other. One of my goals for my career is to become a resource for new teachers and be able to provide them support for success just as Lynda did/does for me.
Readers: Who was a mentor who had an impact on you?