By: Stephanie Goeb, Operations Division Chair, Firebaugh High School
Whenever I have heard the word “mentor” in the past, it has always seemed like a mentor had to be someone older and wiser, or in a very specific role, like a master teacher. However, as I reflect back on my time as an agriculture teacher, especially my first couple of years, my perception of who can be a mentor has changed. The people who helped me the most weren’t much older than I am and they didn’t have years and years of experience. What they did have was the ability to relate to me and earn my trust, as well as keeping me from feeling incompetent when I didn’t know something, which, as a first year teacher in a new region and place I wasn’t familiar with, was frequent.
As we are approaching the one-year mark since COVID-19 flipped our lives upside down, there has been a major learning experience that has in many ways been canceled. The student teacher/new teacher experience, where we actually have the chance to experience as much as possible and ask questions inside of a safety net, is not like it once was. As we move into the life of the new normal and can start having events in person again, we as a profession need to keep in mind that our new teachers are going to need our help and support now more than ever. The teachers who are entering their first year and even into their second year of teaching have yet to experience field days, a normal fair, attending state conferences or even having students in person, and everything else we do under the sun. More than likely, they aren’t even going to know that they don’t know.
This is the time for those of us who have been teaching for a little while and even those of us who have only made it through one year of normal events (going to be third and fourth year teachers I’m talking to you) to step up and help these new teachers out. How can you help them out? If you have a new teacher in your section or school close by, just reach out and introduce yourself, invite them to something you’re doing with other ag teachers in the area. I fully credit a well-timed invite to drinks and a jewelry party for the reason I am still an ag teacher after my first year. Share, share, share your stuff! Now is not the time to be stingy with curriculum resources, and ideas, or be angry if someone hasn’t made changes to what was shared to make it their own.
On the other end of that, don’t claim someone else’s work as your own, give credit where credit is due. This is what makes people not want to share in the first place. If someone reaches out to you for a resource or with a question, respond to that person. For those of us introverts out there, it takes a lot to reach out and ask a question to someone we don’t know. Give them a place to vent judgement free, and ask if they want advice, don’t just assume someone wants it, there are times where someone just isn’t in the right state of mind for advice yet, and they just need to get the concerns off their chest first.
Newbies, you can’t just depend on those who have more experience to reach out. We try as hard as we can, but we still have all of our responsibilities to worry about as well. Some ways that you can help yourself are to reach out to us, join all of the different Facebook groups, attend the mini professional development sessions that are sent out by Sandy Dale and your regional supervisors. You might find answers to questions you never even knew you had, and it’s a great way to meet other ag teachers around the state in this crazy time of all virtual, all the time.
For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/