Lessons From The Classroom: My First Mentor As A Teacher

When I was a teacher in a classroom I was given a mentor. An older teacher, who’d been around the block a few decades and was there to give me the support I needed as a new teacher.

Or so I thought.

A little back story is needed here.

I did not plan to teach, never went to school to be a teacher nor did I have a degree in teaching.

You can read more about my story here where I share how I completed an application to teach as a joke, really, and a week later was handed the keys to a classroom.

No joke.

Now my mentor at the first school, who met me in my first classroom, was an older man. A teacher and a coach. A real guy’s guy. But as I was one to always respect my elders, I was eager to listen and learn. So, I totally tuned in with wide eyes and an open mind.

His words of wisdom paraphrased during our two-minute mentoring meeting. Literally, two minutes would be generous.

1. Don’t ever give a student a ride in your car.

I smiled waiting for the joke.

2. Don’t ever hug a student.

I bit my lip to keep from laughing, certain the punch line was coming.

3. Don’t give a kid a ride in your car.

Pause. Breath held. Waiting only to realize as he asked me, got any questions? that he definitely wasn’t joking.

And with those words of wisdom, and my stupefied, no sir, he left me in my classroom - stumped.

What I quickly saw as I went to orientation, teacher meetings, trainings and wandered the halls trying to find my classroom (again), were stressed out teachers, forced to teach to a test, buying into a system where they didn’t have time to get to know their customers.  

Nope, not a typo but yes, you can also call them students.

So, in my four and a half years of public school teaching, I saw more of what not to do to help my students succeed, than what I should mimic.

And I’m not casting blame here on teachers.

Teachers are heroes in my book. As much of a hero as any sports figure raking in big bucks to entertain but this is a cultural issue we can address another time.

At times, I have seen that teachers lose their passion, their joy and their path while in the teaching profession.

I saw it first hand and felt the joy of making a difference, year after year, start to fade just a bit, as I got closer to signing my tenure contract.

You think that would have made me ecstatic, a guaranteed job where it’s difficult to be fired - tenure - much like being a civil servant in France.


A pink slip isn’t possible at the end of the school year once you have tenure.

And yes, I did get a pink slip my second year of teaching, from the second principal I taught under, who didn’t much care for me. From Teacher of Year, my first year… to fired (and handing in my notice at the same time) about sums up the strangeness of teaching in the system.

And now, I’ve heard that tenure, or job security, isn’t even a given in most public school districts anymore. Interesting.

But nope, receiving tenure wasn’t of interest to me at all.

Why?

I guess I saw by looking at others what I could possibly become.

Passionless.
Unable to make much of a difference.
And no longer very teachable because of being just too bogged down.

Yet tutoring, for me, fulfilled all these needs. Plus, tutoring gave me control of my life, my lifestyle and my ability to help the next generation.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that was priceless.

If tutoring is potentially in your blood or future, you can get started with a free audio class here where I share the things I did to help me rock.

And if tutoring isn’t your thing, well, no worries. Many of the strategies I share have helped parents and grandparents with their own next generation.

Are you a teacher? Been a teacher?

Share your story in the comments below. Or share this article with a teacher you know, because remember the best discussions happen after the read.

Remember to learn something today that you can share with someone tomorrow.

Education Lady | Jill Stevens

Educator. Writer. Life Long Learner. Jill has a passion to help the next generation and improve learning across the board. She’s here to change the world, one mind at a time. Right now she does that through words with purpose and by training up remarkable, rockstar tutors.