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The Missing Link in Mentoring

Much of the current literature on teacher training emphasizes the importance of mentoring new teachers during their first few years on the job. However, existing mentoring programs are based on some big assumptions. They assume that mentors can describe what they do. And, they assume that green teachers can discriminate effective teaching when they see it. Both of these assumptions are questionable at best.


If you ask naturals to describe what they do, you quickly learn that they cannot. It is largely instinct. Take “meaning business,” for example. Naturals will tell you how important it is to mean business, but they cannot tell you exactly how to do it.


Meaning business, as we have found, is conveyed to students largely through effective body language. Naturals are not aware of the fine points of their own body language as they go about teaching. They just do it. Yet, when you show them correct body language during training, they say things like, “Oh yes! That's just like my dad. I would never have dreamed of talking back.”


Far from requiring superhuman ability, the skills of exceptional teachers tend to be straightforward and teachable. All teachers have some of these skills. What makes "natural" teachers exceptional is that they have a lot of these skills.


Without a common language for describing the basic skills of effective teaching, however, communication about teaching is blocked. Mentors will fail to describe much of what they do, and mentees will fail to see it.


By describing the skills of effective teaching in great detail, Tools for Teaching makes method out of mystery. Success is no longer something you must be "born with." Rather,Tools for Teaching provides the common language that mentors need to communicate with new teachers about the nuts and bolts of their profession.

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