In my last post, I mentioned how my teaching situation lends
its own set of challenges. I know every teaching situation is filled with its
own nuances and difficulties so I wanted to mention some of the things that helped
me through my first year of teaching and are helping me now in my second year.
Hopefully, what has helped me can help you.
Last month, I participated in the South Carolina Council for
Exceptional Children’s Leadership Training Institute. I was asked to sit on a
panel and answer questions about the support that CEC has provided me as I
transitioned from student to first year teacher and beyond. As those in
attendance can attest, I can talk almost endlessly about how CEC has supported
me as a teacher. From the Tool of the Week, which I mentioned in my last post to
SmartBrief, Policy Insider, webinars, and many other resources, CEC has been
the single biggest factor in my professional development since becoming a
However, one of the biggest helps that got me through my
first year is people. I’m sure it sounds simple to say that I have had a lot of
people around me that helped me get through my first year of teaching, but while
simple, having those personal connections is also imperative for me to be
At the meeting on Saturday, every teacher in attendance was
able to testify that the connections they made with people at the state level
of CEC made them the teachers they are today. I know I am not breaking any news
by saying that being a special education teacher can be an isolating job. It
can also be very taxing physically and emotionally. Having a support system has
been the most important factor in getting through the low points.
One of my biggest supporters is my mentor. My district pairs
each new teacher with a mentor who is experienced in the new teacher’s field. I
am so thankful for the mentor I was assigned. My mentor listens when I need to
vent frustration, celebrates when I have an accomplishment, and guides me when
I don’t know what to do. The other teachers call me her sidekick.
If your district or school does not have a mentoring
program, I highly recommend that new teachers find mentors at school who have been through the same things that new teachers will experience or apply for the CEC/CEC-PD Mentoring Program.
For more experienced teachers, I would highly recommend that
you be a mentor for new teachers in your area. You can have an immeasurable
impact on that new teacher and on every student that teacher influences. In my
opinion teaching is all about influence. Mentoring is a way to influence others
that has exponential returns on the investment put into it.
My mentor recently told me she was surprised that her first
grade son knew my name even though he has never met me. I think that tells what
kind of investment she has made in pushing me to be the best teacher I can be.
What kind of mentoring experiences have helped you become
the educator you are today?