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GUEST BLOG: "When the Young Teacher Becomes the Mentor," by Emily Hackethorn

I’m in my fourth year teaching 6-12 choir in the Bitterroot Valley, in Montana.  In the past year, I started blogging to channel my thoughts on teaching, motherhood, productivity, and life in general.  This Spring, I’ll be having my second baby, but not before I mentor my first student teacher, Ceri, who will then take over as my long-term-sub.  In Montana, we are certified to teach K-12 Band, Orchestra, Choir, and General Music.  Ceri’s experience is mostly in Band.  
Looking back on my past years of teaching, I have learned a great deal, focusing on different areas at various times.  It is my hope to synthesize and connect what I’ve learned and developed to be helpful for Ceri, and embody my Choral experience thus far for her benefit. While hosting Ceri, who is a flute major, my hope is not only to prepare her to teach in my choir room without me, but also, her future classroom.  However, I’ve never been on the mentor end of things.  I’ve always been the student in an experienced teacher’s classroom!  It’s exciting, and a little bit scary, to have the tables turned.  My motto for 2014: “Connect with Confidence.”  
So choral educators, my question for you: what’s your most important advice for a student teacher (especially an instrumentalist)?  I would love to hear your reply in a comment below!
Looking forward to hearing from you . . . and you’ll be hearing more from me again, soon!  
on January 22, 2014 3:19am
It's exciting to be on the other side, isn't it?  It will help you grow as a teacher in ways you couldn't have imagined!
Some advice to share with your new student teacher:
1) Tell Ceri to keep a jounal of her experiences so she can reflect on them and use them during her first year teaching.
2)  Tell her to go watch other teachers in your building as they teach other subjects.  It is good for them to see the children in other settings.  Allow her to see weak teachers and strong teachers.
3)  Tell her to get to know the administrators and to create relationships with them.  Many student teachers stay in their bubble and miss the opportunity to learn from our administrators.
4)  The best experience I had as a student teacher was when my cooperating teacher was absent due to illness.  It happened mid-way through my
experience.  It was "sink or swim".  I was totally in charge even though there was a sub sitting nearby for liability reasons.  It was awful and awesome at the same time.  I failed miserably in many ways, but I learned so very much during that experience.  I was armed with a masters degree and no idea how to teach.  I realized that I had so much to learn, and as a result, the rest of my student teaching experience was more valuable for me.  I was more wiling to listen and learn. Carefully allow them to have an experience like I've described above.  We don't want them to beat themselves up, but it is best if they have at least one difficult experience under our watch rather than protecting them too much.  When it happens under our watch, we can talk with them and guide them through how to interpret the information.  The difficult experiences will come during their first year teaching, and there won't be any cooperating teacher to help them.   
Best of luck!  Enjoy the new role!
My blog:
My Sight Singing Program for Middle School Teachers:
NAFME webinar Jan. 23rd at 7 PM on Sight Singing:
Applauded by an audience of 2
on January 22, 2014 9:43am
Great feedback.  Thanks, Dale!
on February 5, 2014 7:18am
Even more important than your good advice is giving her real time as a teacher of your classes every day.  Most of us, I suspect, have had experiences just like Dale's, where our most valuable student teaching happened when our cooperating teacher was absent.  This is a sad commentary on so many student teaching experiences, which turn out to be too much observation and too little learning by doing.
on January 22, 2014 6:58am
What a wonderful post, Emily! ACDA will be rolling out a mentoring program for choral conductors later in the year, after the Eastern Divsion pilot tests it. We had thought about traditional matches between experienced conductors and students or newer conductors, as well as between peer to peer, more experienced conductors. Your post makes me think those mentoring pairs could have other structures. I'll be watching this thread with interest - and hoping to learn from your experiences!
on January 22, 2014 9:44am
Thanks, Sundra!  I think there are many possibilities for mentoring pairs.  Looking forward to hearing more about your mentoring program.  We have one in MT for first-year teachers, and it was very helpful to me!
on January 22, 2014 10:38am
I would encourage your student teacher to:
1. Listen
2. Be present
3. Be vulnerable
I think I'm just starting to get a handle on #1. I have a lot of work to do on #2-3.
on January 23, 2014 8:33am
Thanks.  These are good for me, too :)
on January 22, 2014 11:18am
If Ceri hasn't sung in choirs much before, I would suggest that she find a good community chorus and start singing in a choir right away.
on January 23, 2014 8:33am
That is a fantastic suggestion.  We'll see what we can do about that!