During my second of three years of teaching in Guatemala, I was fortunate enough to have two great mentors, in the form of my department head and my coordinator. My department head was able to give very pointed, specific advice and best practices related to my content area, while my coordinator drew on over 20 years of teaching experience to guide and grow me as a teaching professional. Both were invaluable to me and while that year was not a cakewalk (teaching never is), I greatly enjoyed that year because I was learning and growing in some very positive ways.
Observations by both of these mentors were not scary and intimidating, but gave me the chance to get feedback on my teaching practices, routines, and ways of approaching classroom situations. They helped me to see things I wouldn’t have otherwise, and showed me how to improve as a person and as a professional. One section of my ninth grade Geography class that year was particularly antagonistic, and after starting off on the wrong foot, it just seemed that I had gotten in a rut that I couldn’t get out of. My department head astutely pointed out how my body language was communicating this frustration, and recommended that I take a step back and stop allowing myself to be pulled into their angst, and instead take the opportunity to pull one of my students aside to resolve these bad feelings before they continued or worsened. Following her advice allowed for a fresh start with the student, and the class as a whole.