Mentoring is a lost art. (more here about mentoring and keeping exceptional young teachers.)
Mentoring is reassuring for the mentee and rejuvenating for the mentor.
Most new teachers are mentored. Mentors should have timeless advice and pragmatic best practices.
How do you give advice to a young struggling teacher?
How do you craft phrases that are both meaningful and memorable? A mentor's words need to pack a punch. Where is one to start?
This article has been developing as a witches brew in many ways, and the thought process was finally solidified as I was re-reading Steven Pressfield's The War of Art; an awesome resource for igniting your creative self.
This article is not about the importance or role of a mentor. This article is not about how best to be a mentor or the logistics of the mentor mentee relationship.
This article is about the best advice I was given when developing as a teacher from my mentor.
I'll never forget it: "Your classroom is your territory, and no one messes with your territory."
Typing it makes it appear less aggressive and assertive as the lines pour through my mind.
It's an "in your face" philosophy for gaining control of your craft. Territory implies something personal, protected, and cherished. I love the lines and still value it's meaning.
This article is about heeding the advice of my mentor and making your classroom your territory.
Mentioned earlier was the fact that the tone and core of this article popped out of Steven Pressfield's The War of Art.
Though the book is about unlocking the vault containing your creative being, a small passage made me physically react as I read it's lines.
Not surprisingly, it addressed territory.
A territory provides sustenance:
Not for the summers, not for the retirement package, and definitely not for money, teaching is your raison d'être- reason for existence. A teaching voice is found when the practitioner accepts that being an educator is their reason for being an educator.
How do you know? As you enter your teaching day, you're full of physical energy, but lacking in mental fortitude. Upon leaving, your physically exhausted, but mentally refreshed, replenished, and stable. Teaching is your cognitive sustenance; it keeps you going.
A territory sustains us without any external input:
A classroom is a cyclic machine that only works with its most important cog: you. The success of your students and you as a professional falls on your shoulders. It is all your responsibility.
With this mindset, those systems set in place to support you will not just keep you afloat, but grease your machine and make it more efficient.
The classroom territory is an entity in itself.
A territory can only be claimed alone:
Claiming the classroom territory needs to be seen as an obstacle. Territory implies ownership, and you need to wrestle it away from whatever takes hold of it now.
The role of the mentor is to acknowledge and identify the territory obstacle, but the real work must be done by the developing teacher.
The classroom territory conquered becomes part of the conquerers identity.
As Marcus Aurelius says:
"What stands in the way becomes the way."
A territory can only be claimed by work:
Territories are not given, they are earned. The classroom territory is no different. Your classroom is analogous to unclaimed land in the early 19th century. It is highly sought after real estate the needs to be defended one discovered.
Quality work (over quantity) protects your territory from sneaky thieves looking to take advantage.
A territory returns exactly what you put in:
The classroom territory is a work in progress and requires maintenance through reflection. Putting in quality time to reflect strengthens the integrity of the territory.
As an instructor genuinely works to improve themselves professionally, they improve the integrity of their territory.
Put in a crappy teacher, get out a crappy territory.
Thanks for reading and check out The War Of Art
Photo Credit: Ed Gregory from Stokpic