Debriefing from the New Teacher Center Symposium

Throughout the symposium, Linda, Peggy, Steve, Nick and I shared what we’d heard in sessions and talked about implications for our JEA mentoring program – calling Nick on days when he wasn’t able to be there due to the pinched nerve in his neck. We called Linda Barrington, who wasn’t able to attend the symposium.

On the last night of the symposium, Steve e-mailed us notes from sessions he’d attended. Linda, Peggy and I went through the stack of materials we’d collected during the symposium. We developed a timeline for the mentoring program and talked about our goals and hopes for the program.

One of the great aspects of attending an out-of-town convention is that you can immerse yourself in that world of thinking. We spent three days thinking about effective teaching, student learning, publication advising, mentoring, JEA, state scholastic press organizations, the future of the media, potential funders for our program, and the impact of state-mandated testing and curriculum.

Here are a few of the ideas I took away from the symposium: 

– Mentoring strives to improve teaching and student learning one teacher at a time. But the New Teacher Center’s model also encouraging mentoring that encourages both the mentors and the mentees to become leaders for teaching improvement and improved student learning beyond that one teacher’s classroom. Presentations encouraged us to advocate for educational reform. 

– The JEA mentoring program is different from the mentoring programs we learned about at the symposium. All the programs we heard about were part of state and/or school district initiatives with the mentors being teachers in their own school districts either having released time from other teaching duties or salary supplements for mentoring.

– Communication is crucial –- communication between the mentor and mentee and communication between the mentors and our JEA Mentoring Committee. Whereas most program have regular face-to-face meetings or mentors for debriefing and training, our mentors and committee members are spread across the country.

– Research and data are important for making our case. In her presentation, NTC Executive Director Ellen Moir reminded us that we are in a data-driven time in education. If we are to make our case, we, too, must have data. If we are to say that the JEA mentoring program improve journalism teaching, we must have data to support that. That data can be statistics about school district new teacher retention compared to our new teacher retention. That data can be about publication improvement. That data can be about student outcomes. But we must collect data and be able to analyze and present our data in a meaningful way that will convince principals, school districts and potential funders that our mentoring program is successful.

The convention provided us with inspiring speakers and specific strategies — and with the time to work together on plans for our JEA mentoring program.

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