by Joseph S. Pizzo
NJCTE Early-Career Teaching Mentorship (ECTM) Director
NJCTE has created an executive board position for me: NJCTE Early-Career Teaching Mentorship (ECTM) Director. As the ECTM Director, I am creating a network of mentors who will work with early-career teachers from grades K-12+. Whether you are teaching kindergarteners to write phrases and sentences, primary and elementary students to write stories, or middle-school, high-school, and college/university students to write literary essays, personal narratives, and research papers, you will face questions for which you will not necessarily have practical answers. Your teaching experience can be enhanced through the assistance of a trusted mentor.
I had a wonderful mentor at the beginning of my career, but not all early-career teachers are as fortunate as I was. Some may have mentors who cannot manage to give the amount of time needed since these mentors have excess demands being placed upon them by their careers and families. Some may not be able to find a compatible mentor in their building or district. Some may simply be looking for a different perspective on or advice to help with classroom management, creating a rubric, or deciding how to use a certain technology platform such as Google Docs in a lesson. Teaching is a quite complex activity that sometimes may appear to be relatively easy to those who do not fully understand the process. Some of the common questions early-career educators are forced to face daily deal not only with matters of curriculum and pedagogy but also with matters of district protocol and procedure. Early-career teachers benefit from the advice of accomplished veterans. Moreover, various studies have found that there are common elements that constitute effective instruction. The models include those designed by Danielson, Marzano, and others. The models reward pedagogy, innovation, use of data to drive instruction, student engagement, purposefulness, and other key areas as well. An effective mentor brings this awareness to all interactions with a mentee.
As the director of our NJCTE Early-Career Teaching Mentorship (ECTM) program, I am hoping to bring together two constituencies. The first includes early-career teachers. You will be facing large amounts of rubrics to create, student essays to assign and grade, tests to create and grade, student learning preferences to address, district requirements to fulfill, and a great deal of general paperwork that seems to grow without any encouragement from you. You could benefit from having a mentor who will give you a reasonable amount of guidance and advice as you negotiate your way through the early months and even years of your teaching experience.
The second constituency includes mentor teachers. You are a mentor teacher if you are a leader in school who designs and presents effective learning engagements in the classroom, and who is comfortable working with other professionals. Moreover, a mentor teacher is a non-judgemental professional who recognizes the value of listening, encouraging, and suggesting solutions.
The relationship between mentors and mentees requires honesty, trust, and a willingness to acknowledge district protocol, procedures, and requirements. Both parties must be willing to be attentive to maintaining a professional approach in all interactions. Most importantly, the success of each mentee’s students must be the main focal point of all efforts between each mentor and their mentee. All advice must be proactive at all times and devoid of anything considered to be either controversial or unacceptable by each mentee’s district.
If you are interested in either being a mentor or being connected with one as a mentee, then please know that you must hold a current membership in NJCTE. If you are not yet a member or if your membership has lapsed, then sign up at https://www.njcte.org.
Next, please fill out this Google Form by clicking on this link.
- Mentors, please let me know the area(s) you feel comfortable with for giving advice.
- Mentees, please let me know the areas for which you need a mentor.
Please understand that all participants in this program are volunteers whose availability may be affected by their own schedules and circumstances. A mentor/mentee relationship must be built on a foundation of trust and professionalism. Moreover, all participants in this program have full schedules that fill much of each day. Therefore, contacts should be kept reasonably brief. Whenever possible, mentees might wish to consider the full schedules that mentors are already following daily. Thus, giving a mentor a little bit of lead time to respond to a mentee’s request would surely be appreciated.
I am looking forward to this opportunity to assist in bringing NJCTE mentors and mentees together. Through these efforts, we look forward to improving instruction while easing a bit of that early-career angst that we all remember experiencing.