Over the past several years, CT COLT has held an outstanding program for new teachers. I have been fortunate to have participated in CT COLT’s New Teacher Mentoring Program since its inception. This year was customarily top-notch, in spite of the unique challenges posed by the pandemic. I am pleased to say that President-Elect Rebecca Aubrey and Joseph Parodi-Brown, Ph.D. did a great job of building upon the groundwork that had been laid by President Amanda Robustelli-Price and CT COLT’s Teacher of the Year, Gina Gallo in their leadership to expand the impact of this noteworthy program.
Like all of CT COLT’s initiatives for students and teachers, there are many weeks and months of planning and collaboration that go into the creation of an endeavor like this one. This program is no different. Clearly, Joe and Rebecca spent many hours and worked really hard in the creation of an articulated schedule that was designed to build on new teachers’ skills in a way that drew on the expertise of a slate of national experts in the teaching of languages. Some of the presenters included Helena Curtain, Greta Lundgaard, LJ Randolph, Rita Oleksak, Meredith White, Katrina Griffin, and Gina Gallo, among others. Of course, these are the superstars of our profession, but each session was organized in a way that felt like a conversation between friends about the teaching and learning of languages. New teachers and veterans alike felt like we gained from and contributed to this conversation, which was usually tied to language teacher skills such as each of the core practices, or new teacher skills, such as assessment and organization. Once a month, we got together via Zoom, and hear a rich presentation from the presenter, and then we could have the opportunity to ask questions about what we heard. And then, we had a chance to collaborate and process what we heard in our mentor/mentee pairs in breakout rooms.
It was an honor to work with my mentee as we navigated this pandemic situation of 2020-2021. None of us had the perfect plan, but it felt like a positive contribution to a new world language teacher to talk about how I was trying to make my way through these challenges. And, really, it helped me as a veteran teacher, to focus my energies on what was working, rather than get bogged down in how difficult the year had been. I really value the mentor-mentee relationship because it helps the new teacher to gain an outside perspective. It helps them to see what is happening in other schools, and to feel like they’re not alone in their hard work as they learn to teach for proficiency, for example. There is a community of teachers who is willing to stand beside them as they develop these high-leverage teaching skills, and we are able to support them as they try new things. It’s so valuable to a new teacher to be able to ask for advice from an outside voice, in order to avoid the “feeling of inadequacy” that might come from asking a colleague or administrator if they don’t have that network of support and expertise in their school. I know that it would have been so helpful for me as a new teacher to have another world language teacher outside of my building and district who might be able to offer suggestions to improve my practice as a teacher–or maybe just to make things easier and more efficient.
This is an outstanding mentoring program that, I’m sure, will be emulated in other states. I would encourage all CT COLT members to get involved in some way. Perhaps you know a new language teacher. Maybe you know a colleague who is great at supporting new teachers. Encourage them to join you in this mentoring program! Regardless of where you are in your teaching career, I’m sure that a mentorship program will be of benefit to you as a professional. And, this is a great way to give back to our profession. Mentor groups are thoughtfully paired, by language, level, and location. So, you’ll hopefully be matched up with someone who teaches your language, who teaches students at the same age level (secondary, elementary, etc.), and someone whose school district is in fairly close proximity to you, to the extent possible based on the pool of applicants. I’m already looking forward to taking part this fall! I hope you’ll join me.