Monday, April 13, 2015

My Marvelous Mentee

Saturday, April 11 was the last day of my Mentor AQ class. It was a wonderful, learning-filled four months. The agenda for the last two classes consisted of presentations for the Co-Learning with Mentor Collaborative Inquiry projects. I was especially proud of my project because one of my mentees made a special appearance via Skype to give her perspective to the class and share her insights, the only mentee to do so.

Salma & me

Mentee takes centre stage to share her learning
Salma is a wonderful mentee and talented teacher. At the risk of embarrassing her, I wanted to announce to the world (or at least my blog readers) why she is so marvelous and what I learned from working with her.

1) Salma is eager to learn and not afraid to ask questions.

Salma is an LTO (long term occasional teacher). She is the teacher-librarian at a local school. Being a teacher-librarian is not an easy job, especially for new-ish teachers. Salma has a lot of prior experience (with other LTOs and teaching in private schools) but had never taken on this particular role before. She sought to learn as much as possible so she could do the best job for her school, staff, and students. She attended many after-school workshops. Thanks to her awesome vice-principal, we connected early in her LTO contract and she never pretended to be a know-it-all. She wondered, she pondered, and she sought answers. Salma's enthusiasm got me excited, and led me to try something I had never attempted before at my school (i.e. having my students act as "book talk experts" for her students and to have both groups connect using phone, Skype, and Google Docs).

2) Salma collaborates and perseveres.

Salma is the perfect person to have on a team. She is such a hard worker and is also so inviting to work alongside. She recommended some great books for me that I had not heard of before (like Inquiring Minds Learn to Read and Write by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Peggy Jo Wilhelm and Erika Boas). We problem-solved together, made decisions together and conducted our action research together. It was pretty hectic trying to schedule virtual meetings between our students, but Salma would not give up, even though it must have been very frustrating to try and establish contact and have constant interruptions. Her determination encouraged me not to give up, even when the questions my students were asking were not up to par with my expectations.

3) Salma is modest and generous with her time and talents.

Salma has done some pretty incredible things, projects that I never could have imagined when I was a new teacher-librarian. During the Progress Report interview evening, Salma set up a parent workshop for introducing useful tools from the Virtual Library. She ran Read Aloud Tutorials for grandparents and encouraged the use of dual language books and first languages used at home. She organized a local training session for our area teacher-librarians on the new library circulation system. When I rave about her successes, she downplays it. As we prepared for this presentation for my course, she spent a lot of her own time reflecting and sharing answers to the questions, and tinkering with the technology to ensure it worked on Saturday. Since Skype and Google Docs were two of the items we used for inter-school communication, we only thought it suitable to use the same tools when we shared. It wasn't easy. I couldn't hear her on Skype from home, and she allowed me to come over to her house, late on Thursday evening, to video tape our conversation as a back-up plan in case Skype failed. It worked well in the end, but we had a fantastic visit and she even used her artistic skills to apply a henna design to my hand!

Henna art, Thursday evening, prior to flaking

Henna art, Friday afternoon, after dried parts removed

I am really disappointed that Salma won't be able to finish out the school year in her library - the regular teacher-librarian returns at the end of May. I am also really disappointed that she does not yet have a permanent position. Salma is an excellent teacher, not just a teacher-librarian. With less than a month to go, Salma is still doing interesting and educational projects with her students. We are arranging time for our students to meet in person and conduct a "Chat Blitz" to ensure as many students at her school qualify to vote in the Forest of Reading Awards. They'll be attending the local Silver Birch Quiz Bowl competition as well as the Ontario Library Association Festival of Trees. One of my few consolations is the discovery that Salma lives quite close to me, and that in addition to a great mentee, I've gained a wonderful friend that I can be vulnerable and honest with, and can have conversations about professional practice that will benefit both of us. Thank you Salma, for being a wonderful mentee and education partner. I could not have walked this journey without you. 

1 comment:

  1. Diana, I'd love to meet Salma. Her ideas that you shared are amazing. I'd also love to have her write a guest blog on why it was great to have you as a mentor! How terrific that you gained a friend in the process. (And if you check my Twitter avatar, you'll see my henna'd hand, courtesy of a student). Very intrigued, as Doug was, by your mentoring course. Who ran it?