no teacher left behind

this is my 6th year.

my first year, as all first year teachers are, i was assigned a mentor from the dept of ed, who would visit my school weekly and meet to discuss my progress, achievements, and challenges, all based off of this strange and foreign-sounding workbook filled with pages that offered graphic organizers for things like 'differentiated goal planning' and 'measurement and assessment' that folded up neatly into this zippable black nylon briefcase. i'll never forget that year, 12 different classes, attempting to maintain differentiated curricula for the lower level 6th and 7th grades and an entirely different set of projects for the higher level classes, all while trying to do upkeep on a lab that had been left to rot for 2 years, running windows 98 in 2004, attempting to upgrade each computer after it was returned from helpdesk repairs to the overheated fans, motherboards, and blown out hard drives.

my mentor, having taught elementary school social studies for over 30 years, and having retired 5 years prior to becoming a mentor, had never heard of utilizing technology in her classroom. in fact, she told me that she had an old black screened computer that had green writing on it, and she used it to store papers. a glorified paperweight. i remember her commenting during our infrequent meetings that the phone in the office she'd been given didn't work, and asked me if i would be able to fix it during one of our meetings. unfortunately, telephony wasn't my technical skill of expertise. one of her suggestions to make my room more visually appealing was to buy several tubes of 'glitter glue' and have kids make bright and colorful posters. i thought authentic student writing about technology security issues in college might be more interesting for visitors who might be inclined to look. the best thing she did for me was recommend a gynecologist (tmi?). having just relocated from boston, i was seeking out a network of new york doctors and this referral turned out to be the best thing my mentor did for me.

when i speak to newer teachers, some as new (or as old) as i am, and some who are in their first few years, i ask them about their mentor experience. i'm very curious. it seems that overall new teachers feel they received a lot of support, tools, strategies, techniques, lesson ideas, and feedback from their mentors. most of them did not, however, receive a gynecologist referral.

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