Surviving & Thriving: Advice for New Teachers & Mentorship Programs with Najah Lambert [episode 23]

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Happy first Friday in August! I’m so glad you’re joining me today because I’ve said it before, I LOVE connecting with my listeners and community within Wife Teacher Mommy. I’m so excited because in today’s episode, I’m doing just that.

I have guest Najah Lambert on the podcast, who is a member of the Wife Teacher Mommy community and (virtually) raised her hand at being a guest on this podcast. She is a wealth of knowledge and we’ll be discussing advice for new teachers and mentorship programs within a school.

Najah has taught for 10 years as a Pre-K/Kinder private school teacher, but is a second-year 4th grade public school teacher. She loves teaching, but admits she could do without the stress! Najah has a vision and passion for helping new teachers and also explains how other teachers can mentor and support new teachers.

Throughout our conversation, Najah is open about her experience as a new teacher. She explains that even though she’s considered a veteran teacher, her experience in a new school as part of their mentorship program wasn’t very positive. She attributes various factors into her conclusion, but has now created something meaningful and passionate about improving mentorship programs. 

As a result, Najah came up with 10 ideas that every teacher mentorship program should incorporate. Those 10 ideas are:

  1. Passionate mentors
  2. Compatible pairings
  3. Allocate time for mentor-mentee PLC
  4. Allocate time for mentor to observe mentee
  5. Allocate time for mentee to observe mentor
  6. Provide constructive and positive feedback
  7. Open communication with administration
  8. The duration of the mentorship program
  9. Celebrate successes
  10. Team building

As first year teachers, or veteran teachers in a new building or district, shouldn’t be left to their own accord, which is why it’s important not to overlook the training aspect for them. Najah and I revolve our discussion around how to support new teachers that will leave them surviving and thriving. As the new school year begins, think about how you can be a friendly face to new teachers or ensure your new teacher mentorship program is a positive experience for your new teachers. 

A big topic this past academic year was the gaps in students, particularly pertaining to social emotional and educational gaps. Therefore, I’m dedicating two upcoming podcasts episodes on these topics and would like your input! Please leave a message and connect with me regarding how you’re handling the social emotional and educational gaps of children in education. To do so, please visit, wtmpodcastinbox.com

In this episode on advice for new teachers, we discuss:

  • Najah shares her experience being a new teacher and how that has shaped her vision and passion for a informative and well-rounded new teacher mentorship program
  • Why a new teacher mentorship program should be a minimum of three years
  • Advice to new teachers that will leave them surviving and thriving
  • How even though you’re a veteran teacher, a mentorship program is still beneficial for you
  • Information on a giveaway! Visit wtmgiveaway.com for more details

Resources mentioned:

Meet Najah Lambert:

Taught for 10 years as a Pre-K/Kinder private school teacher, but second-year 4th grade public school teacher. Love teaching, but could do without the stress.

Related episodes and blog posts:

Connect with Kelsey:

Read the transcript for episode 23, Surviving & Thriving: Advice for New Teachers & Mentorship Programs with Najah Lambert:

Hey, everybody, I am super excited for today’s interview with Najah Lambert, she has a huge vision for helping new teachers and for how other teachers can better mentor and support new teachers. So this episode is really for everybody. And even our homeschool moms who are listening. I know this is a little more geared towards teachers. But I bet you can glean something from it too. And even Najah herself, she has been a homeschool mom, a teacher, so many things.

Before we really dive in, and this was an incredible interview, so I don’t want to take too long. But I just have a couple of quick announcements I don’t want you to miss because I know some of you may listen here on the podcast, but maybe you’re not on our email list or social media. If you’re not definitely go check those out. I don’t want you to miss anything. I can’t always let you know everything here on the podcast because I record these ahead of time. And, you know, I really just want to get to the content for the most part here. But in a few days on August 8, at least that’s the plan at the time. I’m recording this I’m recording in July, but we are going to be hosting a huge giveaway. And there are going to be tons of prizes. Gigantic, ginormous grand prize that includes a year of Wife Teacher Mommy club, and so many other things. But there are also smaller prizes, tons of them are giving away so many different things. We’re giving away swag, we’re giving away gift cards, we’re giving away other things that teachers might like. Definitely check it out for more details, we will have more by the time you are listening to this. So go to wtmgiveaway.com. In a few days, it’s not ready quite yet. But if you’re listening to this after August 8, it should be ready. So definitely check that out. And be sure to go to the show notes and our email list. For more info about that. If you’re not on our email list yet definitely get on there, we will send you reminders so you don’t miss out on any of the awesome prizes.

Also, by the time this episode releases, we should have released our brand new growing bundle of I Spy math resources. And friends. These are so fun. And each of these the kids will be able to look through and find the different items, they’re monthly themes, so like for back to school, we have like apples and things like that. There’ll be new ones for every single month of the year. And then there are different math problems that go along with it. And they’re level between like addition, missing value, multiplication, fraction comparison, add and subtract decimals, multiply and divide decimals, counting, you’ll be able to pick which skills you want your kids to practice, you can pick which growing bundle you want. Or you could do the mega growing bundle with all of them. They are a screaming deal right now because you would be getting in at the very beginning of the growing bundle, which is always a mega good deal. If you were in Wife Teacher Mommy club, though, you won’t even have to do that. You’ll just build a download these each month absolutely free included in your club experience. We try to make your club experience the best possible and make sure that you get everything including those Club exclusive resources and everything.

Okay, so that is enough about that. I just want to make sure you as a podcast listener, don’t miss out on any of that good stuff. But make sure you join our email list at wifeteachermommy.com. So you can get more details about all of this and you won’t miss any of the things that are coming up that I’m not able to mention on this podcast. As I said, I’m only able to tell you the nitty gritty details things I know ahead of time and the really best stuff but there is even more. So make sure you’re on our email list.

Okay, so I’m really excited for this episode because I am talking to Najah who is in member of our community and as I mentioned at the end of last week’s episode, you know, podcasting those of you who are listening each week, you might feel like you’re getting to know me, but I want to get to know you too. I want this to be two way as much as possible. So I set up an inbox if you go to wtmpodcastinbox.com. And you can leave me a voice or a video message. And I would love to hear how you are handling the educational and social emotional gaps that you are seeing as a teacher, I am doing a two episode series about meeting the gaps one will be about the educational gaps, and one will be about social emotional gaps. And I’m hoping to get some audio messages so we can put your voices on this podcast. So I’m not just reading information, reading comments that you’re sharing, but actually hearing it in your voices. So it’s a great way to share. I’m obviously can’t do a full interview like I am with Najah with everybody in our community. But I am able to get through a lot of you if you were able to leave me a message at the podcast inbox that will be in the show notes. Again, it’s wtmpodcastinbox.com. And I promise I will personally respond to your message if you send me one for real. So do it. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Okay, now let me introduce Najah real quick, without further ado. So Najah she’s been a teacher for 10 years. So she started as a pre K Kinder private school teacher, but now she is a second year, fourth grade public school teacher. She’s also been homeschool mommy, and she’s working towards her doctorate. So like I said, she has a wide range of educational experience. She loves teaching, but she says that she could do without the stress. Amen to that, right. That’s what we’re here for. So now let’s dive into today’s interview.

Hey, Najah, I’m so excited to have you on the podcast today.

Hi, Kelsey. I was so excited to be with you. I cannot wait to share my thoughts on survive and thrive in those first few years.

Absolutely. And I just love like, you know, as soon as I posted like, I want to have some members on the podcast. You were like on it. Like I want to be there. Like raise my hand. Yeah, absolutely. So glad you did that. I’m really happy to have you here. So can you tell our listeners a little bit about you?

Absolutely. So I’m Najah Lambert soon to be Mrs. Cowher. I’m married next year. Oh, yes, congratulations. Thank you. Me being the themed person because I used to teach kindergarten for oh, so long. I was like, You better propose to me on Twos Day. Yes. It was epic. He did. And so we’ll get married on 2-23-23. Just to cute with that.

Incredible.

Thank you. Thank you. I’m just happy he went with my crazy craziness. So I’ve taught for I would say a little over 10 years, mostly kindergarten pre K. I’m currently a fourth grade teacher second year public school. So I’m new in that sense. Fourth grade is a whole new ballgame in comparison to the little ones. And I’ve ran an in home care center. When my ex husband was stationed out of Colorado. I was like, I’m staying home. I want to keep teaching. So I was blessed enough to be able to teach early child education. So I’ve been here there everywhere. I’ve been an instructional aide. I’ve worked in a self contained classroom. That was fun. Believe so I’ve got I’ve dabbled in a bit here and there. But ultimately, I just love teaching, both in the classroom and outside. I’m also a homeschool mommy.

So you’ve done it all.

Now homeschool mommy up until like middle school. That’s what I did enlisted the support of like alpha omega and time for learners. I can’t do that.

Absolutely. Yeah, that’s cool. Yeah, I do the homeschooling with my children as well. So it’s like, you know, been teachers, substitute teacher homeschooling, just education, all the things.

I love it. Eat, sleep teach.

Yes. I love that. Yes. When you came to me, you wanted to talk about surviving and thriving the first few years as a teacher, and that resonates a lot with you from your own experience as well. Absolutely. And you told me that you recently did a new teacher mentor program, and you wanted to kind of share your experience about that.

Yes. So now the mentorship program was new to me, because prior to the position that I’m in currently being at a public school, we didn’t have it. In private school, very small, rural, private school. We didn’t have mentorship programs. It was oh, you’ve got the degree. You’re good. And then of course working for myself. So this was my first I guess oficial mentorship program. And sadly, it was not what I believe it should have been or could have been, I believe many factors played into that. COVID being Prime. We also had a change in administration. I love my administration, but they were new too so many little pieces that the new teacher mentorship program. I’m just going shorten, it’s a mentorship program, all the little pieces if you’re not on it, it just unravels. And I think unfortunately, because of all the newness that was going on last year, it fell to the wayside. So we did have, I would say, meetings here and there, maybe one or two every quarter. And they were just very general. And honestly, because last year, it was so hard. We did more venting and just letting it on and kumbaya than any like official mentoring. But she was an awesome, awesome mentor always had her door open. Just like any questions you have, just don’t hesitate to reach out. But, you know, for like a lot of us new teachers, what questions are there that I need to ask? And you don’t learn that until you go through it. So that’s to sum it up. That was my mentorship. Fun fact, though, I would say so our school begins August and ends in May. And I had sat on a discussion panel to figure out how can we improve our new teacher mentorship program? So I was strategizing right? With various personnel from elementary, middle through high, school board office, different people’s thoughts. And it was in that meeting, mind you, this meeting was like three weeks before summer break, where I discovered, I was never assigned a buddy mentor. So I was like, well, that right there is our issue, we need to keep those lines of communication open, have a clear cut plan as to, hey, what does this program look like? How’s it defined? And then how do we go about it? And there you go. So and then that’s what brings me here.

Okay, so now that you’ve shared kind of, like the good parts of it, and everything, but you did mention, there was some like communication that needed to be happening, but maybe it wasn’t. So I want to hear just a little bit more about your experience with that program that you just completed.

Okay, so basically, what my year looked like, right? New Teacher, now I’m a new teacher. So I’ve had many years of experience, but I’m new to this school, new to their policies, new to the community. So just because I’ve taught does not mean I know exactly what to do and what needs to be done. Right. So going into it, I was going in blind. I mean, the only communication I had was with my team lead, because of course, in fourth grade, you’re now departmentalized your team teaching or not, but you attend PLCs weekly. So that’s all I really had to rely on. Were these once a week PLCs if they weren’t taken away for some random data review, or whatever admin needed to discuss. But yeah, as far as how do I run my classroom, because we know kindergarten, it’s very much station base, right? You do your quick whole group, you break them out of small group stations, and you come back. So I tried to implement that, but with fourth graders and the content, it’s not that it didn’t work. It just worked differently. I was never told about daily five or, you know, things that to me now it’s like, oh, well, yeah, da. But at that point, this was all brand new to me. Right? I taught kids to read, they’re now reading to learn. Does that make sense? Right. So the content, the curriculum, everything was new, I was not given a full immersive training on what we’re supposed to teach, when we’re supposed to teach, and how it’s supposed to look, that did not occur. So I spent, you can’t use your planning period, which is what maybe 40 solid minutes to plan. Like wholesome planning takes time. And that’s okay. But unfortunately, that meant my weekends, were no longer my weekends, I would spend Saturday mornings at home four kids, mind you, I’m a mommy first. So I’m at home trying to be mom, but then I’d have to spend hours of lesson planning, which again, what am I supposed to be teaching next week? Did not know. And then Sunday, I would go to the school for maybe five hours copying and prepping and getting everything ready for the week. And that was continual. I mean, I love my fiance so much because he stuck through that.

That’s when you know you have a keeper for sure.

Yes, I mean, he would even go to school with me at times, but there was very minimal communication except for when it was required. And even during these PLCs it would only touch on like an overview. And I’m a I’m very OCD with planning I need to know all the objectives, all these answers. How does it align and how when to teach this and that I was given a very blanketed overview of this is what should be taught in this nine weeks have fun. And the teachers I love my teachers, but we were doing different things at different times. And I’ve made the comment, you know, as a parent, if I had triplets, and each one of my babies were in a different class, I would be flabbergasted. How are you learning? And you’re learning that and you’re not even learning what you know. So there was that. And again, I’ll say many factors played into that. And that is having a new team, you have some vets who taught their way. And then we have some new teachers who teach differently. And it wasn’t balanced yet. I’ll say yet. Yeah, yeah. And unbinds you with all that planning, I killer lessons, girl killer lessons, the behavior I couldn’t. Like, I was like, wow, I spend all this time to give you guys fun, engaging, content worthy activities and your behavior, you just can’t handle it, or stamina, they didn’t have the work stamina. So you give them this assignment. They’re like, really don’t really have to do this.

And, you know, I’ve really been hearing from teachers that since COVID, like that stamina, and the behavior has been more of an issue and actually plan on doing an episode about that here soon, too.

More of an issue because we adults, and I’m not saying any body in particular, whether it’s parents, whether it’s admin, whether it’s teachers, whether it’s district, whoever, we as adults are loosening the reins, right. And rather than disciplining, and keep it real, no, this is school, these are your boundaries. This is what you’re expected to do this what you’re expected not to do. Wer’e kind of, well, I’ll, you know, here’s my praise. And here’s my reward. If you please do what I expect you to do, you know, there’s, we’ve lessened the reins on discipline, and the support is shaky. You know, I can’t tell my kids that, hey, I’m on a three strike system. I love you guys. But there’s a time and a place and right now’s not the time to play. That’s when we go outside for recess, right? Or if this was an activity that called for it, sure. But right now, you’re supposed to be on level one or level two. And we’re supposed to be working if I’m in my small group, unless you are bleeding, dying, whatever. If you are not in any way, shape, or form and harm. You do what you’re expected to do during your time. When I say three strikes and you’re out, well, then the follow through is to actually send them out. That’s where the disconnect is. Well, no, we can’t actually send them out. You need to just keep them and figure it out. And then that translates to children. Oh, well, I can do what I want, then. Because Miss Lambert might say three strikes, you’re out. But then when it’s the third strike, she can’t do anything about it. Right. So that’s, that was rough. That was rough. But not to get too far off. Yeah, behavior was something but more so like, just policies and knowing the school knowing how things ran. Again, I taught private school, I taught kindergarten, we don’t have SOL, we don’t have any form of standardized type testing, right? Maybe something that I might create, just to evaluate my students throughout the year, but that was very informal. So it came, it came to like our first fall test. And everyone’s like, alright, everybody’s ready. Lambert you’ve got a Um, what do I do? I mean, I have a Chromebook. But what do I do? You go to this program? Okay. Well, that was it. told to me what program? What is it look like? How do I find it? This after run all the way down the hall to my team lead. Like, Hey, can you help me out? And the responses? Oh, wow. Sorry, I forgot you didn’t know. You know, and it’s just like, for first year teachers, we should not be left to our own accord, you know, thank you for having the trust in me. Or just enjoying that there’s a body in the classroom, let’s be honest, but thank you for enjoyment for having the trust in me. And knowing that I can do a really good job, but don’t overlook the training aspect. I don’t know tests now. I don’t know, these guidelines. This needs to be trained. And after I’ve done it enough times during my probationary year, then I’ll have it mastered. Right. So a lot of little loose ends weren’t tied on. But I say that to say this, my ear, by the grace of God, I got through it, you know, and when I was at that planning meeting for that new teacher mentor program, I told them, I said, Guys, if I did not have the experience of teaching that I do have, I would have quit on week three. First day school, it was just a lot, a lot a lot. And we were alone alone alone. Yeah, there was nothing and no one or at least that’s what it felt like. So it was rough, but it taught me what a new teacher mentor program should look like, yeah, hopefully, I can use my baptism by fire, if you will, I can use my year, my experience from that, and create hopefully a more well balanced, wholesome, new teacher mentor program at my school and hopefully other schools that are struggling, they can adapt it as well. So that’s the goal. That’s the whole, that’s the goal. So we’ll see.

I love this. And I love your vision for that goal. And the fact that, you know, you took this experience, and you know, you’re channeling it into something good. You’re like, Okay, this was really rough. But I learned I learned so much. And now we can share what I learned with others. And you’re here today doing that, which I think is incredible. And it sounds like all the teachers at your school, they just really didn’t realize what your experience was like. And so I think that was really great that you were willing to step up and give that feedback of like, hey, you know, if I hadn’t taught I would have quit, and this is what I really needed, and that you’re willing to give them that feedback so that they can improve, right? That’s huge for sure. And it’s just like, with our students, we don’t assume that like they already know something before we give them the assignment, right?

You have to model model, and throughout the year, this, you’re always going to have to remodel things until it just sticks. Same for adults. Same for adults.

Same for adults, because in that situation, a new teacher is like the student kind of of how to be a teacher. And like you said, not even just how to be a teacher, but how to be a teacher at that school, using the systems that that school is using, and their policies and procedures, how they work together. All of that is important information. And you know, if you’re just kind of thrown in there, and you don’t know how it all works, then it’s not going to be a smooth transition for anybody.

Right. College, my friends does not teach you everything.

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So let’s say there’s a teacher who’s looking for a job at a school, there are a lot of openings, you know, there’s a teacher shortage, and they kind of could potentially have a pick which school they want to go to. So if they want to like kind of find out what the new teacher mentor programs are like at the schools that are applying to what should they be looking for? What questions should they ask?

Absolutely. So again, I’m not an expert in this. I’m just going based off my experience. And then the research that I’ve done so far in regards to my dissertation. But first things first is what is your new teacher mentor program look like? Right, just start there. That way the school has the opportunity to explain their current program, and then it might be awesome. And if it is perfect. If it’s not, then I would segue into some questions. So what does or what should a teacher look for in a new teacher mentor program? And I have like 10 ideas that every new teacher mentor program should incorporate. The first one passionate mentors, okay. Just because a teacher has been teaching for so long does not make them qualified to mentor. You not only need that experience, but you need that passion behind it, because I’ve seen mentors that sorry to say it they’re just collecting extra stipend. Right It’s something to or it’s something to boost on the resume. But it’s not something that resonates within them that these are my students. You know, it’s very much that sense of a mentor teacher is now another teacher, but for adult learners. And so just to have that drive in that passion, just remembering what your first years were, like, you know, could feed into that. So not every seasoned teacher necessarily makes a qualified teacher, they need to back that experience with the passion with the drive of it. So maybe a question there would be, how long have your mentors been mentoring? And what feedback have they’ve given you in regards to the success of the program? Right, just to kind of get an idea of well, first, do you even confer with your mentors? Right? And if you do, well, what kind of feedback? And are you utilizing that feedback? Because us as teachers, you tell us what you want us to teach. And then you do the SOLs and then you pull from the data well, did they learn? Very much the same goes into the mentorship program. The second that is vital, are pairings. Pairings, I think are of the utmost importance. And it’s not just two fourth grade teachers, or a kindergarten or first grade teacher, you know, it’s not just department base, but it can be personality based. Because I found in my year of isolation, that I struggle developing relationships. Now again, I’m in a small town, a lot of these teachers grew up with their friends with their teachers, you know, so they’ve had these relationships develop since they were going to primary school. And me being a military kid, I’m like, oh, here we go again, I got to start over and find my way through some some opening, you know, so pairings are crucial. And I say this to admin, I say this to mentors, look on every facet, something I struggled with that maybe my co workers don’t realize, or they turned a blind eye to it, but I’m brown. Okay, now, my dad is white, my mom was black. That’s cool. But that’s not what you see, you see this beautiful brown skin in a school that is predominantly Caucasian. And it’s not a negative, I want to say this, I’ve been around whites, blacks, anyone and everyone, I’m a diverse cookie. So no issues there. But it’s no secret that when you’re in a predominant race, and you’re not of that race, it’s takes a little bit more to feel welcomed right to feel welcome. Now, my coworkers were nice, they’re awesome. But again, they didn’t, I was not given that extension of, hey, come lean on me, or, Hey, let’s go meet up after that I noticed around the school. And that could simply be because they’ve already established the relationships, they’re good. Or I’m just this new teacher, whatever. So pairings like. I would like for my mentor to be someone that is not only awesome and passionate about mentoring, but someone I can relate with, and can speak a certain lingo that maybe another mentor would not, so pairings are crucial. I would ask that school, what is your and it just depends on that person. How do you pair? What formula do you use to pair? And have you had successes and maybe even failures with your pairings? And if you had misses, what did you learn from that? And how did you fix it?

Oh, I love that one.

So parents are vital. Because it’s like a relationship. If you’re in a toxic relationship, it’s not going to work. You know, I’m not gonna listen to you because you don’t respect me. And now, you’re not going to teach me because you know, I don’t respect you. It’s just, you don’t want a toxic relationship. Period. Absolutely.

And my third one, actually, three, four, and five, they kind of branch together in terms of allocating time, allocate time for the mentor, the mentee to meet together outside of PLCs. Right, because especially if your mentor is not on your grade level, right? They might be on the other end of the school. So you need a separate PLC time with your mentor. Okay, so mentor mentee PLC, we’ll call it that. And this is to discuss goals, maybe goals for the week goals for the month, the mentee could ask questions. And then when you read me address any concerns, right, but you need to have these continual meetings these PLCs between mentor mentee allocate time for the mentor to observe the mentee. Say during that PLC, were like okay, we’re going to work on classroom management. Here are some targets I want you to focus on. And then let’s schedule this time for observation to see if you if you got it and then I’ll give you feedback, right? Mm hmm. And then on the reverse the mentee needs to observe the mentor. Everybody learns differently. But for me if I see it, oh, okay, I get it now, you know, I have to see you can’t just put on paper, do this, save this yada yada, I need to see an expert in their field doing what they do best. So, and I understand the shortages make allocating time difficult, but it’s crucial, because this is when you learn, right? This is how you learn is through these observation experiences and not being so formal, like when the principles of observed, you know, and again, that comes back to the pairings, your mentee has their guard down, they’re teaching to their true self, because they’re relating with you, you’ve got this relationship. It’s not that stress level that it would be with the assistant principal or the principal. Right? Right.

Those were so stressful. Like, as a new teacher, I feel like when I was student teaching new teacher, all that I feel like I would just kind of shut down and there was one more I got a really bad observation, it was just because like, I was so dang nervous, you know, like, and then they came back and they did it again. And it was fine, you know, but I feel like if you can kind of break down that barrier with your mentor, then you can definitely see more than true teaching that way.

Exactly. And then that mentor can offer feedback for those formal observations say, Hey, I know you may see this, but when I observed or in a more calm manner, this is what it looks like. And forgive me, he or her or they? Yeah, whoever is teaching, whoever’s teaching, because we need more diverse teachers. Right? They can’t be the cookie cutter vision of teaching. So that was five, I have 10. So again, if you’re asking about what teachers should ask, so you would ask how do you or do you allocate time for observations between mentor mentee, what does that look like? How often? And then that would segue into my sixth question, which is feedback. Feedback is crucial. It needs to be immediate, you know, when we’ve had what we think in our minds, oh, it was a horrible observation. I know. Blah, blah, blah. And they wait, they wait, oh, that’s the worst. Yes, they wait. And then maybe a month or so later, you get the notification, here’s your observation, whatever sign and then like, Oh, you did great. You’re done. But for that month, or however long, you’re waiting, you lost your job, like, Oh, they’re not gonna resign me? I’m done. Right. So immediate feedback immediate, and that’s for both mentor and mentee. So the mentee should provide feedback to the mentor, say, oh, okay, I saw how you did this. I like how you did that. I noticed this, what do you call that? You know, just really dissecting the mentors observation. And then when the mentor is observing the mentee feedback How well did the mentee do room for improvement? It needs to all be positive. And we as teachers, we know that whole sandwich, sweet throw in the not so fun stuff, and then finish it with some sweetness again, so positive. Yeah, I know. Like Bree Richardson calls it from Honest TeacherVibe, she calls it positive, productive. I forget the exact terminology, but it’s wherein you you can vent. You can express your problems, but you need to do it in a productive problem solving manner. Right.

I love Bri.

Yes. So yeah, definitely immediate feedback. And as a teacher, I’d ask, what is the turnaround time on your feedback, and that will show them that you care about your teaching? I am a human. I am not perfect. I there’s always room to grow. You know, I could have been teaching for 20-30 years, there’s still room to grow. And by asking those questions that tells admin, wow, she’s really making sure she’s on top of things and that, that her talent, if you will, is perfected day by day, which then means that her students will benefit from her abilities. Right. But we don’t know what we struggle with. Unless there’s a feedback. Absolutely. Yeah.

So the seventh one was admin should confer then right, because admin plays a heavy role in the entire ecosystem of school, right, they’re at the top and they have to make sure everything is running smoothly. Awesome. We have highly qualified teachers, highly qualified mentors. We’ve got all the checks marked off, right. But I need to make sure it is still going well, right. So then the admin also needs to confer mentee separately, mentor separately and then together, get that conversation, that dialogue, ask those questions. And this breaks that intimidation, if you will, because I know for some for some, especially new new educators, oh gosh, admin, the only time they call us when you’re in trouble. And that’s not always the case, like my admin, they’re phenomenal. They’ll call you into chat, because they want to build that connection. They want to know their teachers, and build that rapport. So by having that conference with the admin, in terms of the new teacher, mentor program, and how how’s it going? And again, separate so that if mentee has any issues or mentor has any issues, maybe we need to do a repairing whatever, but the admin remains consistent and above the problems better to address the problem head on. Or if you see it in the works, hit it hard before it even becomes a problem. You know, and you can’t do that without meeting your teachers. You know, so definitely conversations with the admin.

And I think that’s so important, both, you know, for the mentor and the mentee to meet with the admin separately, like you said, because then any problems can be addressed. But then also like the mentee is building that relationship with admin. So then even later, when they have formal observations, that barrier is a little less heavy when you’re getting those observations, because you have that relationship even with your admin as well. So I love that.

Exactly. So our eighth one is how long, right? How long is the duration of the mentorship program? So that would be a question as a lot of schools think that okay, a year is enough. That’s your probationary year, but I believe and I’ve found through personal experience, that it should be three years, maybe even longer. But the reason I say three years is because your first year, it’s all learning. It’s a learning curve, right? Sure. Whether you’ve taught before and you’re at a new school, or you’re fresh out of college, it’s a learning curve. You’re learning how the school functions, you’re learning the dynamics, you’re learning your population, policies, procedures, tests, now, nav like you’re learning, learning, learning, in the midst of teaching, so there’s just a lot being thrown at you. So that first year is your learning year, right? By year two, you’ve gotten your feet wet, hopefully, you’re still there. Right? You’ve gotten your feet wet, and you think, okay, I can do this. Let me reflect on year one, what worked, what didn’t it from whatever worked, keep going perfect it whatever did not work, toss it out, implement something else. So I consider a year to trial and error. Right? This is where you’re fine tuning all the successes from year one. And you’re finding other things that work to supplement what did not work in year one. So year two is definitely trial and error. And then by year three, you feel at least a bit of a master in the sense of I can manage my classroom, I know what I want. I know how it should look. And I know how to do it. So I feel like three years at minimum should be a new teacher mentor program. So yeah, if you’re asking just as how long is your program? If the response is a year K, do you find that that’s enough time? Is that sufficient amount of time? Would it be okay, if if I requested to continue on my mentoring, until I felt confident in my teaching, ask those questions. But I do believe schools should consider a three year mentorship program for the reasons I’ve just mentioned. Mm hmm.

That then brings me to number nine. This is super important. And this is for all teachers, admin, everybody, but celebrate, celebrate, celebrate, celebrate any and every success. So last year was crazy. I was a fourth grade teacher on paper. My students thanks to COVID, right, and the learning that we that as a nation we all experience I had at best first second grade students. And this not not only academically but socially and behaviorally. So I’m not only learning a new curriculum, but my kids aren’t even ready for said curriculum. Right. You know, so I said, You know what, stop. Let’s stop looking at what they expect these kids to know what is most important. I had a student who Oh gosh, I’ll share the story all the time. I love that he told me open house day, Mrs. Lambert, I just want you to know that I hate reading and writing. You will not get me to write I do not like it like well, why? Because I’m an ELA writing teacher. Right? Right. So why what happened so well, my teacher last year the year prior, made me feel really bad about my reading and writing, and so I don’t want to do it anymore. I said, Okay, I’m so sorry to hear this. I am not your old teacher. What I’m going to tell you is by the end of this school year, you will love reading, writing. And Kelsey, I kid you not. After all the like project based activities I had, I had these kids reading Peter Pan, doing a project writing piece to go with that girl all writing all reading, but in the school year, he told me all right, I have a confession, Miss Lambert. Okay. I have to admit that I do enjoy reading and writing.

Yeah, we love hearing that.

And this is like, you know what I told you so? Yes. So little things like that. Now, are my babies necessarily ready for fifth grade? Some of them are, some of them aren’t. But even for those that aren’t, they met milestones for them. Right? So I celebrate that my kiddo who now enjoys to write, oh, gosh, I mean, you could barely read it the handwriting. But I’ve broken that mindset of I hate learning. So now he can go into fifth grade with this new perspective, and learn the skills that he needs to to better him throughout his academic career. So it’s the little things celebrate, celebrate, celebrate everything, whether you pass so well or not. If your babies are thriving, and they’re excelling, no matter how minute celebrate it, and then that for new teachers will make them feel less guilty. Because there were so many times I felt like I’m a second teacher. And again, Kelsey, I’ve been teaching for over 10 years. But this last school year, I don’t even know why or how they hired me because I’m not making any difference. Until I started recognizing the little progress, you know, yes.

And you need to, otherwise, you’re just going to feel overwhelmed by it’s kind of like what we talked about with like, the gap in the game, look at the gain and not the gap of where the students are at. Exactly. And celebrating the wins along the way. Yeah, that’s totally my motto as well.

Yes. And that brings me to my last one, which again, there could be so many more. But for me, my last one is team building. And this goes back to my experience of isolation, right? For whatever reason, I did not have hashtag teacher besties. Okay, I didn’t have that. I had co workers, and it ended there. They’re awesome people, but we right? build those connections outside of school. So like a team building, like maybe a new teacher club, right? Something that is exclusive for our new teachers. So they feel okay, maybe the veteran teachers aren’t receptive to me right now, for whatever reason. But I have this community of new teachers that are going through the same thing, the same stuff that I am, and we can exchange numbers, we can meet up, we can vent, then we can problem solve, but I can relate with them, because we’re all going through the same thing at the same time. So having this community exclusive to new teachers and mentors, I think would do wonders just to build that morale. Now. And that’s not to say we shouldn’t have school wide team building either. I’m strongly for that too. But these pivotal years for our new teachers until they’re finally fully immersed in your school. They need this outlet to build that. Right, build the stepping stones towards that. So definitely team building any morale boost just to build resiliency. We can make it together, girl, we’re in this boat together. But we’re going down together girl.

Yes. And I think that community, especially, you know, like you said, when you’re going through those first few years, you’re learning so much and trying to take in so much while you’re also like you’re flying the plane at the same time, you know, so it’s not your time to like, Oh, I’m going to take all this time to soak in all this information. It’s you’re just you’re at it. Yeah. So having those around you who understand it is crucial. I absolutely agree with that. Yes. And these 10 steps, I think this would be a perfect new teacher mentor program. And I think these things to consider are great for new teachers, but also current teachers who might be mentors. And whether they’re officially or not, they’re still going to get to know new teachers at their school. And it’s great to kind of get an inside peek at that and oh, how can I help these teachers? Or if I want to be a mentor, there’s just so much to think about here. I feel like every single teacher could get something what you just shared.

Build a committee or something.

Like a welcome committee like new teachers love it. I want to talk even more about surviving and thriving as a teacher. Yeah, you are veteran. And I want you to just share a little bit here on this podcast. And then we’ll share a bit more on the member podcast after but just share a little bit what do you think it means to survive and thrive as a teacher?

So short, simple to the point surviving, is getting through your school year without losing your cool. And your job. That’s it. Just get through the year. Yeah, many people say, get these babies fed. And don’t let them cut anything, lose any limbs, and get them home to mom in one piece, just getting through that school year, without losing your mind and losing your job that is surviving. Right? That is survival. Thriving takes time. Because for many new teachers, we’re thinking we have to do it all. We can’t say no. So and that’s not thriving, thriving is knowing Yes, you can say no. And when to say no, because you are a human. And whether we want to agree with this or not, I am contracted my contracted hours. If I can’t do A, B, C, D, all the way through Z within that timeframe, too bad, right? A lot of us build that guilt of Oh, but then my students are missing out or I’m not a great teacher because I didn’t take the extra 10 hours on my weekend to do what needed to be done. No. Allocate time for teachers to get done what they need to get done. So you can have more wholesome experiences. That’s the thriving is knowing when and how to say no. And then balancing your your schedule, right, just balancing it. It’s okay to say sorry, I can’t get this done today. Or I will only return calls on Thursday, or I will only grade papers on Friday. That’s thriving, setting those boundaries and sticking to it. That’s thriving.

I love your definition of surviving and thriving, and it also has that nice rhyming ring to it. Surviving and Thriving. We’ve got this exactly. It has been so fun to connect with you. And you have joined us inside Wife Teacher Mommy club, and I want to hear a little bit about that. Like, how did you find us and why did you decide to join?

Okay, so I stumbled upon Wife Teacher Mommy club, I want to say a couple few years ago, and I don’t know what came of it. It was just a quick WTM and that was that I was like, okay, cool. But then you showcase your Educate & Rejuvenate. What is the proper term? So I was like, oh my god, I have to do this. And the price was awesome. I gotta do this. But I was teaching summer school, overachieving teacher that I am. So I was teaching summer schools like, oh my gosh, I’m going to miss like, Bri Richardson. That’s, I’m like fangirling Bri Richards.

She’s amazing.

She keeps it real, right? I was like, Oh, I’m gonna miss it. Let me subscribe. Let me get a membership so I can catch the recordings. Well, didn’t even matter because I was able to catch the live and that was when I communicated with her. And then that then inspired me to interview with you, but the club itself, my gosh, you have a plethora of resources. It’s like I use the analogy. It’s like being a kid in a candy shop for teaching. You know, whether it’s curriculum supplementals, or it’s classroom decor, or the sub binder, which I okay again, this is me thriving. I will not print that material on my home computer. That was first year teacher Najah. Ah, yeah, second year teacher Najah, No, because you’re not paying for my ink. This is a school resource. I will wait till a teacher work day to school printers to print it and put it together. But I love the materials that you have that you offer. And I know you have like coaching things and the info sessions, just a plethora of resources to to utilize for years and years.

I’m so excited you joined us and I hope it helps you to thrive even more this school year with ready to go resources and the coaching is really so helpful with the mindset strategies and everything which can help when all of these issues and fires everywhere we feel like you know, yeah, yeah, I’m just so glad you’re gonna be with us. So my team and I can continue to support you. What would you say to those who are debating about joining?

What does it hurt to try? Right? Just try it. And look around, browse. If it’s not for you cool. You try no harm, no foul, but I doubt I doubt that will be your experience, especially if you’re a new teacher. And even for veteran teachers. Again, what Wife Teacher Mommy has to offer is just a abundance of resources, and not just stuffer in the classroom. But again, there’s this community of teachers and coaches and you can rely on one another. You can talk, you can vent, you can strategize, share ideas. So it’s this nice community, so many resources. So like I said, if you’re debating, try, just sign up for a month, look around, get your feet wet. It’s not for you. Cool, that’s fine. But it most likely will be because it’s phenomenal. For all teachers. That’s just my opinion. It’s phenomenal for all teachers.

I mean, I would agree with that I might be a little bit biased. So I love that, you know, coming from the teachers, we try to create this community where we can all support each other. And that’s what we’re there for. Yeah. So what is your final thought before we go kind of summing up all the things we’ve talked about in this episode?

So my last thoughts for new teachers and all teachers, honestly, but for new teachers, is, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, right? Because that’s just natural with any new venture we take on. But set those boundaries, know that it’s okay to not be able to do at all, you’re one person, even a veteran teacher can’t do everything. So set those boundaries. And if you have questions, or you don’t even know what questions should be asking, but if you have questions, ask speak up. Now, if you were in the position, like I was where a lot of isolation, just minimal communication, then seek out whether it be your admin, whether it be another teacher, maybe in a different grade level, whatever your question is, just seek out because I’m sure there are teachers like Kelsey mentioned, a mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone that signed the contract of mentorship. Anybody can be a mentor. I’m technically mentoring now. So just ask when you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask because you’re not supposed to know everything that takes time. It takes experience, which you’re now you’re in your probationary period, this is the time to get those questions asked. College does not cover everything the field work does. So find somebody that you feel you can trust, I guess. And if you need to let out some steam, that’s okay. But I’ve learned that not everyone is a good choice to let outsteam with so choose your people. Choose your people wisely. And sometimes that’s not at school. Sometimes it’s at home with family relative, whomever a friend, or someone on Wife Teacher Mommy, right, yeah, we would love to support you. But just Just breathe, be super excited in your new position in your role. This is your room, your year to shine, do you you’ve got this, they didn’t hire you for no reason. So just just do it. And when you’re feeling unsure, when you have those questions, ask and set those boundaries. set those boundaries.

Absolutely. I love that. And you summed it all up so well. You shared so much important information today. So I’m so glad you raised your hand. I mean, virtually that you can use your camera like pick me interview me on the podcast. It’s so happy you’re here today. And for everybody listening, I will make sure that the 10 steps that Najah put together are outlined in the show notes on the website so you can find it there and learn from it. And Najah I’m so excited to see how you make this vision of this new teacher mentorship program come to life. Thank you. Thank you.

More about Wife Teacher Mommy: The Podcast

Being an educator is beyond a full-time job. Whether you’re a teacher or a homeschool parent, the everyday to-do list is endless. Between lesson planning, grading, meetings, and actually teaching, it probably feels impossible to show up for your students without dropping the ball in other areas of your life.

Wife Teacher Mommy: The Podcast is the show that will bring you the teacher tips, practical strategies, and inspiration that you need to relieve the stress and overwhelm of your day-to-day. Your host, Kelsey Sorenson, is a former teacher and substitute turned homeschool mom. Tune in weekly to hear Kelsey and her guests cheer you on and help you thrive as a wife, teacher, and mommy. Because with a little support and community, you can do it all. For access to every single Wife Teacher Mommy resource, join the club at www.wifeteachermommy.com/club.

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