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Find A Mentor (Total Teacher Transformation Day 3)

This is an article in the Total Teacher Transformation series. Click here for a complete table of contents.

195275_talking_strategyLet’s play a game
I want you to think about your classes right now. Think about the four biggest trouble-makers on your roll sheet. Now imagine, what it would be like if they all got sent to another school. You wake up tomorrow and those four kids are gone. What a great day!

But you know what?
With them gone, four more kids will step up and strart ruining your life. There is no end to the number of children who will misbehave if given the chance! Even if you only have one kid, they will still act up when given the chance. Those who know how to behave right will still mess around. If you’ve ever been to a faculty meeting, you know exactly what I’m talking about!

So yesterday, we came to realize that the problems in our classroom are all the result of things that we do or don’t do. As I said, that is a ginormous step. Today, we’ll take things a little bit further. We’re going to get someone on our side.

You need a mentor!
Every good athelete has a coach somewhere along the lines who inspired him. Every great musician has an inspiring teacher that was the reason she stuck with music. You probably had a handful of amazing teachers over the course of your schooling that helped steer you toward your goal of impacting lives through education.

The most successful people are those who admit their own weakness.

Today’s assignment
If you don’t already have a mentor from college or from somewhere in your teaching career, find one now. Here are some qualities of a great mentor:

  1. Great rapport with people
  2. Has been teaching longer than you have
  3. Patient
  4. Listener
  5. Respected (maybe even feared somewhat) by students
  6. Willing to help

I bet this person is working in your school somewhere. They are probably one of the more quiet teachers, but they are there. When I began to turn things around, I went back to people I had worked with when I student taught. I also got in touch with one of my former band directors, and a few teachers on my campus. Even to this day, I still have two or three mentors that I bounce every major decision off of. I want to know that they agree with me, hear their opinions, and just get a different side of the story.

Once you have found your mentor(s)
This is someone you will be in touch with on and off over the next few weeks (at least). Once you’ve found them, let them know:

  • You are ready to turn your teaching around
  • You appreciate them, and want them to help you

Then you’ll ask one question:

How do you go about getting your student quiet and keeping them on task?

Then you just listen to their response. At this point, you don’t really need to ask questions; you need to listen. Too often when we ask questions, we ignore half of what we’re hearing because we’re trying to get the next question ready.


You’ll be amazed what happens in this conversation. If you have two or three people, ask them all that same question. Take notes. Continue taking responsibility for everything that happens in class today also. Take notes.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

2 thoughts on “Find A Mentor (Total Teacher Transformation Day 3)

  1. With regard to you comments on “Mentors”, I have to say that most of mine are either out of the business or have taken that Big Dirt Nap. But I have learned much from them, so your plan is a good one.
    I would hope that, at my ‘advanced age’, I am an “unofficial” mentor to the youngsters with whom I am privileged to teach daily.
    So On #s 1 through 4 above, I come up okay. #5 is not for me to say, and #6 is a “full out YES.”
    I would be happy to help out your readers as much as I can.
    Tom Anselm

  2. Dear Tom:
    I am desperate now. Can you help me out? How do you go about getting your student quiet and keeping them on task?

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