Mentor teacher relationship not going well

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by Elena3, Oct 25, 2017.

  1. Elena3

    Elena3 Rookie

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    Oct 25, 2017

    Hi Everyone,
    I’ve been student teaching for about 8 weeks now. For the first few weeks my mentor teacher never asked me to do anything and I wasn’t sure what my role was other than to support her. I did a lot of the prep and tried to help the kids by walking around the room while they worked. Then I asked if I could try out some lessons with the kids and she gave me some opportunties to do so. So I jumped in and tried out some teaching but with hardly any guidance from her. I can hardly ever ask her questions because she’s really busy and I don’t want to interrupt. So I’ve tried figuring things out on my own based on photographs of lessons that she might e-mail me, sometimes the night before. Anyway, today she came down on me really hard after school and accused me of not being “committed to the profession” for various mistakes I’ve made when I’ve forgotten procedures or done something at the wrong time or not being adequately prepared to teach the lessons. I am totally crushed and demoralized. There hasn’t been a lot of communication between us because she’s too busy. Since I’ve been in her room I’ve not really known what to do and feel like I have to figure it out on my own. She gave me a laundry list of all my mistakes today and was very aggressive about it. I can not tell you how uncomfortable and upsetting it was. What do you all think I should do here? I will try to step it up but it’s hard.
     
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  3. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Oct 25, 2017

    I would discuss the situation with your college professor. H/She needs to know that this mentor teacher would not be an appropriate student teacher placement.
     
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  4. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    Oct 25, 2017

    I agree.

    Until reading the final part of your post, I was going to say you need to be more persistent in asking for feedback. For example, ask her if you can meet sometime this week to discuss how you're doing and ask some questions, maybe offering to buy/bring her a cup of coffee. Being busy, while not ideal, is an understandable reason for infrequent communication. Since the situation has turned hostile, I think it's better to seek a professor's advice.
     
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  5. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Oct 25, 2017

    I had almost this exact thing happen to me. My college did not place interns with my mentor teacher after me. She arrived right as school started each day, and left as soon as the bell rang, but expected me to arrive early and stay late. It was very difficult to get her to give me feedback or advice about planning. My supervisor from my college gave me good to glowing reviews, and my mentor never said anything negative (really never said anything at all) until the last day of my internship, when she sat me down and told me I had not taken advantage of my internship, and she was only giving me a passing grade because it would be too much paperwork to fail me, and she would not give me a letter of recommendation because she thought I should not become a teacher. Luckily, her co-teacher (taught ELA and Social Studies) had seen me teach for a week with her (so I could have some ELA experience) and wrote me a glowing letter, as did my college supervisor.
     
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  6. Elena3

    Elena3 Rookie

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    Oct 25, 2017

    How upsetting that must have been! If only she had communicated with you. You were fortunate to have some other supportive people in your circle. I think one of the problems I have is that my mentor teacher has been doing this for years and expects me to automatically know what to do. But nothing that goes on in that room is obvious to me. It’s all very new and foreign and I’m learning little by little how this age group behaves, learns and how classrooms are run. There are just so many things I’ve had to pick up on, on my own. I am willing to do anything or help out in any way. Most of the time I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. Ugh. How much “teaching” is a student teacher supposed to do at first? This is the first of 3 terms for me and I’m only there 2 days a week. It goes full time in term 3. Obviously my skills with the kids aren’t that good at this point so I asked the teacher if she would rather I just observe rather than teach the lessons I was doing or scale back to assisting the kids for now. I told her I thought she had some discretion in what I should be doing and she accused me of “challenging” her and being “disrespectful.” It had been a very hot day and I had noticed she was short-tempered with the kids. Maybe it was just an off day, but my anxiety level is just through the roof now. I have to get through this program somehow.
     
  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Oct 25, 2017

    Can you give some examples of the mistakes she claims you have made? Are any of them serious?
     
  8. Elena3

    Elena3 Rookie

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    Yes, I can give examples. She sent me an e-mail about morning meetings which I read online. She also printed out the email and put it in my “box”. She later found the printout in a pile of work to be graded and was very displeased. I don’t know how the printout got moved. I led a morning meeting based on an idea I quickly came up with to have the kids (they’re young) sit in a circle and greet the person to their right. When I modeled I called the student to my right the wrong name and the kids laughed and there was a bit of chaos. She criticized me for “winging it”. She didn’t like my math lesson because I did a couple things wrong; I was supposed to do a warm up at the beginning and I forgot so I did it at the end to close the lesson. I had the students add with their fingers up to 10 but it was supposed to be adding to 5, not 10. I was supposed to read a poem to the kids along with the math lesson that I didn’t have, it was not included in the plan she photographed with her cell and emailed the evening before. She thought the kids were shouting out during the adding exercise and I needed to have kids turn their cards, which I didn’t do because I didn’t know if I would be overstepping my authority by doing so. Also, I ended the math lesson too late and she said the kids were “late” to lunch. I didn’t know the kids really had to be at the cafeteria at the precise lunch time rather than heading out the door at that time. Let’s see, I also arrived in the morning and she showed me the prep to do for the math lesson which involved cutting 600 orange 1 inch squares on a die case machine. She also asked me to give some kids an assessment they had missed in the previous weeks. I asked if I could pull them out anytime for that and she said yes, as long as she wasn’t giving an assessment at that time. So I went and finished the math prep feeling some urgency about it and headed back to the room and started to pull out a kid when she said they were doing an assessment. I saw that they were doing spelling but I didn’t realize it was a formal assessment she was doing. I gave the kid her assessment in the afternoon and the teacher complained later that it should have been done “first thing,” basically before the math prep. Sometimes I don’t understand what they’re doing in ELA. They have all these word cards that they are supposed to sort according to long and short vowel sounds, etc. I try to help the kids sort but I’m a little unsure how that is supposed to work. She faulted me for not taking their textbook home to study to get up to speed. I can never ask her about the word cards because she’s working at the carpet with kids and is not avaible for questions. One time I forgot that homework envelopes were not supposed to go home on Fridays. So it’s things like that. What do you think?
     
  9. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    Oct 25, 2017

    Rest assured that every example that you took the time to describe could just as well be "mistakes" that many veteran teachers make as well. Few jobs require juggling so many things at once - don't think of them as mistakes, but just part of the daily routine.

    Ask the principal to observe you teaching a simple lesson so that he/she will be in a position to write a letter of recommendation for you in the future. Forget about the woman who is a poor example of a mentor teacher.

    A major part of becoming a teacher is learning how to cope with incompetent, insecure and just plain evil people. Quickly develop a thick skin and develop a basic set of solid teaching skills so that you will have the unshakeable self-confidence to handle whatever may come your way. Best wishes!
     
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  10. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Oct 25, 2017

    At a glance, none of these mistakes seems all that egregious. Did they all happen over a short period of time, like on the same day or over a couple of days?
     
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  11. Elena3

    Elena3 Rookie

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    Thank you so much for these replies. You people are a Godsend right now. The math lesson and morning meeting were yesterday. It was an off day. And it was hot. The kids were out of their seats a lot. Yes, I think a thick skin is going to be necessary. I can really appreciate how much scrutiny teachers have to deal with. Everyone has an opinion about how competent you are or aren’t. You put yourself out there and you get judged no matter what. I thought this placement was going fairly well even despite the lack of guidance. I had figured it was par for the course and I tried to make the best of it. Apparently she contacted my faculty advisor, cc ed the principle and they’re going to meet to discuss my placement. Stay tuned...
     
  12. CherryOak

    CherryOak Comrade

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    Oct 25, 2017

    At this point, she should just have your day and tasks laid out in a way you both know what/how/when/where/why. Hopefully, your advisor will help you out.

    Hang in there!
     
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  13. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Oct 25, 2017

    Some placements just don’t click. I had a st last year who is probably on the spectrum, didn’t know how to lesson plan, had difficulty communicating and really thought if she said it she taught it. It’s not the CT’s job to hold the ST hand or to teach them how to teach. I see it as my job to model and to encourage, to make space for a ST to try out and hone their skills. But it’s not ok to allow my students’ learning to be compromised. Which is what was happening in my room last year. So while it might seem your CT is super busy,consider most teachers are,she’s made room in her practice for you, that you have a lot to learn and even if she emails you things late, that’s what you should try out. Good luck to you.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
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  14. Elena3

    Elena3 Rookie

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    Yep, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m back at it after some conferencing with my advisor, who conferenced with my CT. Most of the negative feedback was from one day. Advisor was great, super supportive. Told me to take the feedback, that I could do this, that he had faith in me. I’m going to finish this placement. It ends in a month. But I am so anxious after this. I didn’t expect student teaching to be this stressful. Again, this is just the first of 3 terms. The program builds clinical hours in from the beginning. Anyway, thanks to everyone for all the comments.
     
  15. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    Think of this as just one of many hurdles yet to come. Each challenge that you overcome will help to develop a thicker skin and toughen your resolve - traits that all good teachers share. Good luck!
     
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  16. alp123

    alp123 Companion

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    Hang in there, some teachers should not have student teachers in their classroom period. I was fortunate enough to have 2 amazing mentor teachers who were encouraging, helpful, and actually wanted a st in their classroom. I wrote my Master's thesis on this very topic you are describing. Several of my classmates dropped out of their credential program after their first st assignment. The profession lost some great teachers because of it. I know, some people are not meant to be in a classroom, but what you're describing isn't that uncommon for a teacher in training. Sounds like you have a lot of support from professional teachers and supervisors. There is absolutely no reason to be unprofessional, belittling, and rude. I feel sorry for her students. :(

    I bet your next assignment will be awesome!!
     
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  17. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Nov 1, 2017

    ,
     
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  18. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    This is an unfortunate attitude. Having a student teacher is a lot of work; when I have a student teacher, I can count on having to put in an additional 10+ hours per week. It's not a decision I make lightly and, if my administrators thought that I was "petty and a piss-poor teacher" they would not allow me to have a student teacher and the universities would not place a student teacher in my classroom. I enjoy the enthusiasm that young teacher candidates bring to the classroom; we have much to learn from each other.

    I have had exceptional student teachers and those who feel that they have nothing to learn from a mentor. Every staff that I have worked on has celebrated those exceptional student teachers; when they graduate and get teaching jobs, they will strengthen our profession. I'm not saying that poor mentors don't exist, I just don't think that there are great numbers of them.

    I'm taking a break this year from being a mentor teacher; my last student teacher will struggle in this profession. He was not open to feedback and, often, was planning his lessons just a few minutes before the students arrived. He was not happy with feedback I gave; he definitely felt that I had nothing useful to share with him. He told his university supervisor that he had hoped to be placed with a younger mentor.

    To the OP--I'm sorry that you are having a challenging experience with your mentor teacher. Please continue to be open with your program coordinator and ask your mentor for feedback. Hang in there!
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2017
  19. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    ,
     
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  20. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Most who take on STs are passionate and want to share and coach. The petty ones you e encountered were probably assigned an ST rather than choosing to host one.
     
  21. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    YES! I second this! All the time I spent creating & debriefing lessons, fully explaining my decisions (regarding behavior, emails and phone calls to parents, & discipline), coaching, etc. added up quite quickly.
     
  22. who me

    who me Rookie

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    Wow! Sounds so much like my experience as a student teacher many years ago. Keep hanging in there. You are so right to let the university know about what you are dealing with in your placement. It is great that your advisor is very supportive of you. Be sure to read the letter of recommendation that your mentor teacher writes to check if it will be helpful in your job search. I chose to pull mine, a weak letter that didn't represent me well. I did some volunteer work to get other letters, with more accurate representation, which led to my first teaching position. It stinks that you were put through this experience. I know I changed from my situation and grew stronger because of it. Hearing nothing but negativity made me question my ability and stripped me of confidence. Once I was able to tell my story and hear the supportive words of others, I began to believe in myself again. I feel, through my placement survival, I was better prepared to deal with difficult parents, coworkers, and administration along the way. As tempting it might be, be sure not to burn any bridges when parting ways. Always stay professional. Good luck finishing up as strong as possible. I am sure finer days are ahead of you. Wishing you the best!
     
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  23. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    It sounds like after 8 weeks in the placement, you still don't really understand the teacher's classroom management system or the curriculum you're teaching. At the risk of sounding overly negative, that's not on the mentor teacher. Adding within 5 is very different from adding within 10. If you spent a whole lesson doing that wrong, that suggests to me that you went in feeling, at best, somewhat hazy on the objective and the teaching methods you were going to use. You didn't know the schedule they were following (and given that you're teaching either kinders or firsties, they need every second of lunch time they can get). Nobody's perfect, obviously, but those aren't small mistakes.

    Now, they also aren't fatal, irredeemable mistakes. This is the time for some introspection. What are you going to be doing differently on Monday? What lesson will you have, ready, prepared, with all necessary materials? Even if you aren't teaching math on Monday, have a lesson ready to go. If nothing else, your mentor teacher could give you feedback on what would/would not have worked with it. I'm guessing your teacher has at least a 45 minute prep each day, get in the habit of trying to talk with her during that time; yes, she'll be busy working, but you should be also, and you need to know what it is she's doing.
     
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  24. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Also... one thing that you (and every other new teacher ever) needs to really understand... the actual teaching part is the easy part. That's the part that comes naturally. It will only come easy if you do all the real work beforehand. If teaching was just the part in front of the kids, it would be a pretty easy job. For every minute that you're spending with the kids though, you should be spending somewhere in the neighborhood of one minute working away from them. My personal work week is about 55 hours (not including tutoring), but I'm only with the kiddos for about 30 hours a week.
     

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