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by Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell on Apr 30, 2018

A Critical Investment: Mentoring New Language Teachers

Mentoring New World Language Teachers

Teaching isn’t an easy profession.  It’s no wonder so many teachers leave in their first few years of teaching.  What if they had a solid support system, experienced teachers ready with strategies, ideas, and a sympathetic ear?  In a recent langchat, world language teachers discussed how they might be that person that comes alongside a new teacher in what can be the toughest years.  They shared practical fears, steps, and benefits of mentoring new and emerging world language teacher.


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What is your Current Experience with Mentorship?

#Langchat Spanish teacher @SraDentlinger opened the discussion by asking participants to describe their current experience with mentorship?’ to langchat participants. Many language teachers shared their experience with mentorship and its impact in their career. @Edburns1984 shared, “I did a year long mentoring program while in grad school myself. Nine years later, I am mentoring a new teacher as she gets her certification.”

Mentorship is clearly significant to both the mentor and the mentee. @Madamednmichael said, “I have been in multiple positions as a more experienced instructor. [The experiences were] informal but meaningful.” @RobuPrice also shared her current goals: “We are hoping to connect newer teachers with more experienced teachers, to create support networks early in teacher careers, and to encourage PD for both pedagogy and the target language.”

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What New World Language Teachers Need to Know

Language teachers shared some professional advice for new and emerging language teachers and what they wished they had known when they had started their teaching careers. @srtafrenkil shared, “looking back on my experience, I wish I had known that teaching language is not about filling in the blank. I wish I had known the importance of good authentic resources.”  Many new teachers may agree with @profeashley when she said that she wishes she had more support, encouragement, and time in classrooms.” Valerie wishes she had known “how to be a professional—what does professional growth and community look like post college?” @SraSpanglish remarked, “What does anyone need? Assurance that they’re not awful and a safe space to question and grow.”

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Fears and Concerns for Mentoring a New Teacher

World Language teachers admitted their fears when it comes to mentoring a new teacher. Teachers may wonder, “Am I being overbearing with my help? Am I being condescending? Am I sharing something outdated, but I didn’t realize it? Am I supporting in the way s/he needs?” (@Erinrae0399). “Am I being open-minded in listening to their ideas and not shutting them down if they don’t do it “my” way?” (@jaybeekay518). “My fears and concerns are that I might overwhelm the teacher. My goal is to be a support and also to learn,” shared @RobuPrice. It is important to remember, “If we have fears/concerns then we are on the right track. Fears/concerns usually indicate reflection. It’s evidence that we are cognizant of our strengths and weaknesses. We have to put the mentee first, do what’s right for them- even be willing to grow in the process” (@GJuradoMoran).

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How Can You Help a New Teacher Today?

Langchat participants made the discussion on mentorship practical by answering the question, “what can you do right now to help a new teacher?”

  • @Madamednmichael said, “share materials. And encourage participation in #langchat!”
  • @Erinrae0399 suggested offering “Usable materials–proven activities that work well.”
  • @SraWilliams3 said, “I think just be available is what I can do. And, network. I love collaborating and learning from [teachers] with a fresh perspective.”
  • @Welangley recommended “helping curate resources/activities. Share knowledge/professional resources, invite them to conferences/workshops; help them become a reflective practitioner
  • @Oraib_Mango said,make sure they know about ACTFL and the available resources for language teaching.”

Involving New Teachers in the Language Community

Chat participants saw the importance of identifying new teachers and inviting them to join a personal learning community. “Invite him or her to participate in a workshop, conference, or chat,” said @NathanLutz.  Teacher @Erinrae0399 also shared, “bring them with you to meetings and/or conferences! Be a co-presenter with them. Introduce them to people you know in low-key situations. If you’re an officer/on the board, have them shadow you in your role to learn what it’s like before committing.” Grow your world language community by becoming a mentor to a new teacher!

Thank You

Thanks to all who participated in this chat. We hope you were encouraged and learned something new! A special thank you goes to Elizabeth (@SraDentlinger) who led the discussion.

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Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell
Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell is a homeschool mom of three bilingual children. She’s also a Spanish teacher and the COO and chief storyteller for Calico Spanish.

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