Building Your Board of Teaching Advisors

You’ve probably heard about how important it is for teachers to have a high quality mentors—and it is. But even the best mentors can get busy or not feel like quite the right person to turn to in a given situation. If the mentor assigned to you isn’t a perfect fit—and even he or she is—always remember that as a new teacher you don’t just need one mentor. You need a whole “board of advisors.” Most of these will be people you select yourself, and you’ll check in with different advisors in different situations.

Here are the people you may want to add to your board of teaching advisors.

Someone who gives great all-around advice. 

How do you know if the advice you’re getting good? Think about how you feel afterwards. Good advice is clear, nuanced, and detailed enough to put into practice. Good advice focuses on the future rather than what you should have done. Good advice leaves you with a sense of possibility rather than sending you into an emotional tailspin. If advice makes those Sunday-night stomach cramps worse, it’s not the advice you need—or at least not the advice you need right now.

Someone whose teaching style you admire. 

You don’t necessarily need to confide in this person—in fact, you may even find them a bit intimidating. The main thing you want is permission to watch them teach and ask questions as needed.

Someone who teaches a similar subject.

From this person, you want lesson ideas, lesson plans, and maybe help troubleshooting your lesson plans.

Someone who teaches similar students—or even your actual students.

This can be the same person you talk lesson planning with, but it doesn’t have to be. If you teach remedial biology, it can be helpful to get lesson plans from an AP bio teacher, but you may be better off holding strategy sessions with a remedial English teacher.

Someone you complain well with.

Sometimes you have to break the “stay positive” code to stay sane. But picking the right complaining buddy is an important decision. Here’s why–plus, some other reasons complaining about work can be a lot like drinking.

Someone who remembers your strengths, even when you don’t. 

Often, this is not a teacher at all. It could be a friend, family member, or significant other, maybe even someone who you just snapped at for making a well-meaning suggestion like, “Try making your lessons fun!” Here’s something to share with the loved ones you know are trying to help – even if they keep saying all the wrong things.

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