The mentor and the library research project
||Comments on it
their regular coffee hour, Bob James was a little surprised when his
mentor teacher, Richard Neufeld, said, “I have my own story
today. Yesterday I took juniors to the library for the first
day of their library research project. I thought I had prepared
them; they all had written both a main question and a set of subordinate
questions about an author and the period in which he—or she--wrote. I had shown them and told them about taking notes from the sources
they found. Plus, right off the bat, the media specialist gave them
a refresher talk on finding information in the library. But
all period, every period, kids were constantly running up to me with
questions like ‘Is this what I need?’ and 'Will
this work for my question?' and 'Should I take notes
from this?' It seemed like we had done no preparation
at all and the kids were just fishing in the bookshelves at random. I’m wondering what the devil was going on. Any ideas?”
||By offering a situation of his own and asking the new teacher’s advice, this mentor teacher modeled that a professional teacher always keeps asking questions, examining his practice and improving it.
|While feeling awkward about advising his mentor teacher, Bob did have one idea, which he had acquired from several sessions with his field instructor during a very frustrating period of his student teaching. As Bob recalled that experience, he had repeatedly discovered that his students could not do what he had expected them to do, and his field instructor had helped him by asking him to analyze the tasks he was assigning. What did those tasks actually require students to do, as compared to what they could do, or had done? Bob told that story to Richard, which led the two of them to compare the library research task with the normal routine of classroom activity. They found that in various ways the library activity was a far more challenging and open-ended task than what usually went on in Richard’s classroom. It seemed that the preparation students had needed was preparation for making decisions on their own . . . .
||The mentor also achieved some reciprocity. That is, while the new teacher well might appreciate the mentor’s help and advice, no one likes to be on the receiving end all the time because it creates an uncomfortable feeling of obligation. By sharing his own difficulties, the mentor made it possible for the new teacher to pay back.