Mentors and Muses

It’s been one of those weeks. First weeks of school can be that way. But then there were those moments this week that reminded me  of the powerful connection we share as professionals and the profound impact that a professional learning community can have. Even more amazing is when that PLN is developed through technology. People I’ve never met in person, but count as mentors and friends have made the week a true testament to the heart of teaching.

Late last week I lamented that I had applied for a grant to set up a library at the alternative school where I work and I received word we did not get the grant. PLN colleagues from all over shared many wonderful ideas for other sources of funding I might seek. Even more amazing was the box I received this week. In it was a collection of books that will appeal greatly to the students I serve, a large percentage of them boys. One of my PLN colleagues heard my cry and wanted to send a gift to my students. I won’t name her because I think she wouldn’t want that, but the thoughtfulness of a gift given to my students when we have never met in person truly humbles me.

Then I had an encounter that left me questioning whether I really do know what it means to be a good teacher. It was one of those times where you feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall and there is nothing you can do. In hindsight, I realize that it must be what many of our struggling students feel like. That message that says “Wrong answer. You don’t know what you are talking about. Give it up.” I left the encounter feeling rather defeated.

What does one do when you can’t sleep and can’t work a problem out on your own? I turned to several of my mentors/muses on the EC Ning (see the link to the right).  I poured out my heart in 2000 characters to my “voices of reason” as I called them.Knowing how busy these folks are, I didn’t expect a response, at least not immediately. The act of sharing and knowing I had others to turn to was a therapeutic act all on its’ own.

Boy was I surprised to find that by the middle of the day, I had heard from every person I had reached out to! There were reassurances that I was on the right track, thoughtful responses to help me look at things a little more objectively, probing questions to make me examine the situation and a few kicks in the butt not to give up. All this from folks whom I have never met in person, but who graciously share their time and expertise because of the bond we share- we are teachers.

I hope to meet these folks in person someday. But regardless of whether that happens, they have helped me learn a valuable lesson. We all need mentors and muses in our lives. So the question for me is, how can I help my students- either by being that mentor/muse or helping them find those people in their lives? How do I help them find their way when they feel like no one is listening and they are banging their head against a wall? How can I be a voice of reason that they will listen and respond to? That is my goal…

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