Helping first-year teachers learn and grow is a challenge facing education systems worldwide. Today we take a peek into the second part of a 2 part series highlighting the relationship between Lindsay George and Stephanie Goldman. Not only do they use Google Docs to plan, but they have a positive personal relationship. It isn’t just luck — this is personal.
A first year teacher shares elements of an awesome mentoring experience
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e321
Date: May 28, 2018
Vicki: Today we’re talking with Lindsay George.
Now, she’s the other side of the mentoring relationship with Stephanie Goldman. We recently had Stephanie on the show, and I was so intrigued by this technology-infused mentoring relationship that she has with Lindsay, that I asked if Lindsay would come on the show.
Lindsay, you are a first-year teacher, and you’re getting ready as we’re recording this to wrap-up next week. How has your first year gone?
Lindsay: It’s been amazing.
I’ve had some hills and valleys, but overall, it’s been a really great experience. Stephanie has been a HUGE part of that, helping with everything from supplying me with extra tissues, because I ran out because I didn’t know many I would need to have, to lesson planning.
It’s been a great experience so far.
Vicki: So what are some of the things that Stephanie has done that have helped you the most?
Lindsay: She’s been a smiling face in the morning, and actually – as simple as that sounds – I’m from out of town, so I drive into town.
My mentor has been a smiling face every morning
When I get here, it’s just nice to have somebody who’s like, “Good morning!” You know, start your day off right. Leaving else you’re worried about behind, and her being that fresh face in the morning to kind of help me get ready to teach these kids who are so great.
She’s really great at not only – she bridges the gap between what I learned in college and how to actually apply that, so she’s been really great with that.
She bridges that gap between my college learning and how to apply that
Vicki: What was the thing that, when you started teaching, you realized, “Oh my goodness, I wasn’t prepared for this? I don’t know what to think,” and she helped you with that?
Lindsay: I would say it would be the lesson planning, actually. We did a lot of it in college, but the way that she does it using a lot of Google docs and everything like that. It’s just a really collaborative way to do it instead of just sit down the old-fashioned way at a table with a pencil and book.
The biggest thing I appreciate is our collaborative lesson planning
Sometimes I’ll be in her classroom coming up with things or researching things to do. We have this document online that’s very collaborative. I can sit at my computer and work on it and she can see me working on it. She can sit at hers, whether it be at school at the end of the day or at our homes on the weekend.
It’s easy, and she can put a link in and I can see — she has all this data or worksheets or anything we’ve used in the past — forms, slides, anything like that. She can link into the lesson plan, so I can just grab it from there instead of having to do what we all did — the teacher pay teacher thing. Researching, too, she has all of that in the lesson plan, so I can just click on that.
It’s a very instant gratification. It’s right there in front of my face if I ever need it.
Vicki: So how easy is it for you to take those plans you do collaboratively and actually implement them in the classroom? I know I first started planning, I was using a format that was totally not practical. I had to do my lesson plans, and then I had to turn around and actually plan what I was going to do in the classroom.
Vicki: So does that come directly?
Lindsay: It does, and she kind of gives me room to change it a little bit to fit my kids. You know how all kids are going to be different. So we plan together, but our kids are different. So it gives me room to add something at the last minute, like, “Hey, this doesn’t work, so let me adjust that really quickly.”
Since it’s not written, I hate when I have a piece of paper with a lesson plan like I had to do in college, and I had to mark through something. That drove me crazy, just my OCD.
So having the technical lesson plan on the screen, I can just really go in quick and be like, “I need to change that because that doesn’t work on the first block, so I need to adjust it on my second block.”
Using this method with technology allows me to make changes on the fly
It just makes it a lot easier. I see it. It’s like little notes on my screen and I can implement it right away and add even more adjustments or notes to what worked or what didn’t before I teach my second class.
Vicki: So, in your second year next year, are you going to do this type of planning, even when you’re not working with Stephanie?
Lindsay: Actually, I am blessed enough to able to work with Stephanie again next year!
Lindsay: I know, I’m so excited! Yes! But we’re going to use the exact same, implement it again just like we did this year. It’s so nice to be able to just — with me living out of town — work with her collaboratively on the lesson plans at the same time without having to stay after school for a long period of time. We can just work on it as we see fit. Get it done, while working on it at the same time.
Vicki: Now, Lindsay, I’m sure you’ve kept up with a lot of your friends who have gone into teaching, and had lots of different mentoring relationships.
Vicki: Sometimes they go well, and sometimes they don’t.
Vicki: How do you think yours is different than some of your friends’? I’m not asking you to name names or districts or anything, because I know your friends have probably gone all over the place. How would you compare this relationship you have with Stephanie and using this technology and that sort of thing to how others are working?
How is your mentor relationship different from some of your friends’?
Lindsay: I got really lucky with Stephanie.
You’re always afraid as a new teacher — you have new ideas, fresh studies in your brain because you’ve just graduated — and you’re nervous that whatever mentor teacher you get put with or get paired with, that they’re not going to have the same flexibility that you have. She’s been very flexible.
She’s been in teaching longer than I have, so she knows what works and what doesn’t work. We’ve been able to bounce ideas off of each other in that way.
I’ve had friends I’ve talked to that have gotten stuck with the teacher that has been teaching a while and is kind of stuck in their ways, and not willing to use technology in a way that’s collaborative. They’re kind of like, “Here’s my overall plan, do with it what you want to.”
I have friends who have gotten stuck with a mentor who is set in their ways
In that aspect, I feel like that’s kind of not only hurting you as a teacher, but hurting the kids because you need to have new ideas and they can just go get anything off of the internet nowadays, you have to make it interesting for them. We definitely do that.
Stephanie definitely makes it fun for me planning, just because it’s easy for me to see what she has. Then we can bounce ideas off of each other, “I learned that in college, what do you think about that?”
“Oh yes, but this part might not work.” You know, the classroom application is something that she has more knowledge of since she’s been teaching longer than what I have.
I’m lucky that she’s flexible, and I can see she loves teaching, so that makes me love it. Some of my friends — if they’re bogged down, their mentor teacher is bogged down, and ready to not be teaching. Then it’s a negative impact on them. You know what I mean?
I’m lucky that she’s flexible and she loves teaching
Vicki: Absolutely. You think a successful mentoring relationship is two-way, where you’re both contributing.
A successful mentoring relationship is a two-way thing
Lindsay: Oh, definitely. As a new teacher, you have to be flexible as well. You can’t just come in, guns blazing, like “I’m going to do all these new ideas, like flexible seating, I’m going to do all of these things!” You have to earn your stripes, for the lack of a better term, and bounce some ideas off of each other. Yeah, you might have some great ideas as a new teacher, but I’m sure that your experienced or veteran teacher has some great ideas as well. You both have to be flexible.
Vicki: So you signed up to teach next year, but, you know the first three years — those are the times that most people quit. Do you have friends who are quitting, and if so, why?
The first three years are when most new teachers quit
Lindsay: Not that I know of. I do have some friends who are not happy with where they are just because of the expectations are high, without being explained, and I can see why it would be frustrating.
The school district that I’m in is very… mentoring as a whole school, not only giving me Stephanie — I mean, giving me Stephanie is wonderful, but as a whole, it’s very scary mentoring. Not only just telling you what I need to do, but explaining what I do and why, or if that helps my kids, and that’s great.
Some of my friends have been the PLC… they haven’t had those. As a school, they haven’t been offered those at school, so they are getting discouraged by that. They want to keep extending their learning but haven’t been given the opportunity.
Some of my friends have not had the opportunity to extend their learning
So… not that I know of, any friends that are dropping out. But I am definitely not one of them.
Vicki: Some of the mistakes are pairing somebody with a teacher who really is ready to quit…
Lindsay: Right. Exactly.
Vicki: … and pairing somebody with a teacher who doesn’t feel like it’s a two-way relationship, it’s more like, “I’m going to tell you what to do, just do it…”
Vicki: …And then the school not having an attitude of learning and moving forward, and not clearly explaining the duties assigned.
Lindsay: Right. A lot of schools nowadays, they don’t want a brand-new teacher just because they’d rather have somebody that has had classroom experience and one-on-one, own classroom. So some of that was a little bit harder with the hiring process. Like I said, I got lucky enough with where I am — for them to be accepting.
Vicki: You know, every school district is different, and every culture is different. That’s the thing. You may have an experienced teacher. They may be experienced at other schools which makes all those challenges.
Lindsay, would you just share with all those who are mentoring right now a thirty-second motivational pep talk about being the kind of mentor that will make the first-year teacher want to come to school and teach?
Lindsay: Of course!
Three things that made my experience awesome with my mentor
- I think a huge part, as a mentor that is so encouraging, is showing that you love your job and not always talking negative.
One thing that Stephanie does is she — even if I’m having a rough day with a student or anything and I’m kind of venting, she always kind of points out the positive in everything, which is really nice. II think it’s really easy for teachers to kind of go back and forth with the negatives, and to have somebody that is very positive, it’s really encouraging at the end of every day.
2) I think it’s really important as a mentor to listen to the person you’re mentoring as a first-year.
My first year has been amazing but… it’s also been stressful, so I’m able to tell Stephanie when I’m stressed about something, or when I’m worried about something, or something’s really not working how I want it to, she will kind of will come in and say, “Hey, don’t worry about this,” or kind of be a listening ear without being a judgment, which is really nice.
3) Being really collaborative is such a great thing.
If I bring something to the table, she’ll be honest and tell me, “Yeah, that’ll work,” or “Hey, that might not work.” If she thinks it isn’t a great idea, or something she thinks won’t work, she’ll just kind of let it play out for me so I learn why it won’t work, if that makes sense.
So, just kind of being flexible is really great, a listening ear, and very positive is what I would say is what makes a great mentor and what makes what I see in Stephanie, what makes her a great mentor.
Vicki: Yeah. My mom and my sister Susan, they mentored me. They were former classroom teachers.
You know, one of the biggest things is helping the perspective that you were kind of hinting at, and understanding that everything that goes wrong is not a super huge deal. Sometimes, this too shall pass.
Right now we’re doing this and a week and a half left of school, and it’s completely insane. It is literally 100% insane. Sometimes fuses can go short, and it’s like “You know what? I’d rather just enjoy the last few weeks and just not be fussy,” for lack of a better word!
Some people are just cranky!
So, remarkable educators, there’s been a lot of discussion about how can we help beginning teachers get engaged and excited about the classroom?
I think that we’ve got a fantastic example here with Stephanie Goldman and Lindsay George that we can kind of take apart and look at it. It’s a very positive relationship that’s happened.
Lindsay, I appreciate your transparency, I also appreciate you speaking for your friends, so that folks can kind of understand where are we going wrong and where are we going right? And how can we have more successful mentoring relationships like yours?
I hope that all of you listeners out there will also take a listen to the episode that we did with Stephanie Goldman. You can kind of see both sides of this relationship and what’s happening.
So thank you, Lindsay, and good luck!
Lindsay: Thank you!
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford [email protected]
Bio as submitted
I am Lindsay George. This is my first year teaching since graduating from Augusta University May 2017. I am so blessed to be able to teach reading, writing and social studies to a wonderful group of 4th graders. My family has a military background so I really love putting my passion of history and social studies into my classroom. A goal I have with any group of students I teach is to not only make them better students, but better people. I am marrying my high school sweetheart this September. Although I haven’t been teaching long, I can tell it’s exactly what I am meant to be doing.
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