Thinking back to my very first year teaching, with “The Supernovas,” I realize those struggles taught me a lot. In many ways, the frustration and friction with my peers, the feelings of isolation, gave me a survivor-like drive to succeed. My experiences influence me as I work to ensure the Magnolia Teacher Intern Program really provides structures and supports that meet the needs of both our mentors and our interns. I know that I can’t count on experienced classroom teachers to be automatically skilled at communication and collaboration with new teachers and I certainly don’t want new or returning mentors to feel as lost and unguided as I did as a new teacher. I know that new mentors AND new teachers have a broad range of needs and skills and probably aren’t even aware of how much help they could use or what questions to ask so I have included room for their voices so that the program can grow and change as we learn what works and what our needs are. It may not be the perfect plan, but my hope is that this program supports mentors just as much as it supports their new teachers.
The High Tech High Graduate School of Education expects its graduates to pursue work that “emanates from an authentic school site issue or problem” and to “design a relevant product/project that is grounded in best practices, can be assessed for effectiveness and has lasting value to the school community”. Additionally, two of the goals of the School Leadership program are to “train leaders who will have the capacity to be school designers, mentors, and change agents” and to “develop leaders able to design and implement personalized learning environments for both students and adults.”
By these standards, I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to develop a program like the Magnolia Teacher Intern Program. Magnolia schools are continuing to grow and define themselves as a family of educators; expanding our efforts to support and develop our staff is crucial to the on-going success of our schools. I initially wanted to focus on “school culture” because I, and others, had a strong sense that Magnolia needed to be more grounded or better defined. I now better understand the complexities of “school culture” and how significant a role teachers and teacher support plays. Although it was not my initiative to begin an intern credentialing program, I feel proud of the work I contributed and feel confident that the mentoring component is designed to take the best practices in the field of mentoring and tailor them to the unique needs and strengths of Magnolia. I have been inspired the past two years by working with my peers, seeing them blossom with guidance and chances to participate in personalized professional development, experiencing increased confidence and collaboration as a staff.
The positive changes I see happening on our small San Diego campus make me believe that, when the MTI Program officially launches next year (in 2012), Magnolia will experience a ripple effect of new ideas and increased collaboration. For example, “Looking at Student Work” is a major component in the MTI Program and something new to Magnolia culture. My hope is that, as mentors and interns learn to use LASW, they will spread the practice to their non-intern peers. Another example is the training in reflective conversations: as interns and mentors become more proficient in these open, supportive conversations, they will be able to share those same kinds of conversations with their coworkers.
I am also hopeful that the Mentoring Hub website will become more than just a Magnolia resource. Similar to the LASW site, I imagine others involved in or developing mentoring programs may find the Mentoring Hub a useful tool.
The only area where my thesis is weak is in assessing its effectiveness at this time. Magnolia is planning to launch the program in Fall of 2012 and there is much ground work that needs to be done prior to that. My intention is that the Mentoring Hub site and the resources gathered there will help whomever will be Director of the intern program understand the processes and products of the mentor training, the protocols, and the program as a whole. Like any new venture, the program will need to adapt and grow in response to the needs and demands of the participants and of Magnolia as an organization. The program includes feedback forms and many opportunities for participants’ voices to be heard in order for smart choices to be made to improve upon the work I started.
Ultimately, the success of this work will be measured over time: how well do Magnolia interns meet the state credentialing requirements? How many have long and healthy careers as teachers? How do mentors’ skills change throughout the year and over many years? What feedback do interns and mentors give on the program? Who is using the Mentor Hub website and how often?
I suppose it is fitting that my thesis work be somewhat unfinished: just as teaching and learning are ongoing processes, so is the work of supporting mentors.