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Suggestions for mentors and principals

Here is important (and exhausting) work for a beginning teacher: Forming a teacher's identity (personality, style) that both (1) suits the teacher and (2) serves the students. Some moves may suit the teacher but not serve the students, and vice-versa.

Classroom management is a central arena for forming a teacher's identity, because management raises so many questions and issues of duty, obligation, authority, power, guardianship, relationship, and care. So, the work of forming a teacher's identity will be an important consideration in using all of the tools offered here. As the mentor or principal works with the new teacher about the tools, s/he can keep constantly in mind both that the immediate work is to get a result in the classroom, and that the continuing work is to form an identity that tends to help the new teacher produce humane and educative order.

Forming a teacher's identity is both a matter of practices and a matter of self. So, management issues come close to the bone, and mentoring about management requires a sound partnership with considerable trust and skill:

  • How does a mentor even offer to provide assistance in the matter of forming an identity? We hope the language above will be helpful. The work is personal, but also professional.
  • A beginning teacher is more likely to accept help in forming an identity when s/he participates in deciding specifically how that work will be done.
  • Sensing the possible problems, a mentor teacher might be reluctant to get into the matter of forming an identity--but the beginning teacher might need exactly that help. An alternative is to anticipate those problems and prepare for them.
  • Since forming identity comes close to self, beginner and mentor can anticipate that it will be challenging to analyze the teaching without cutting the teacher. You can make agreements about that.