California Educator

June / July 2018

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Page 21 of 67

M Y M E N T O R for the last 15 years, Liz Harrington, is retiring this year. She's the one who, as our department chairperson, advocated for our weekly collaboration time and fought each semester to maintain our precious planning time as a department. Liz is the one I laugh with each Friday when we close our rooms at lunch and steal away for some caffeine. She's the one who keeps my venting from becoming perpet- ual smog, and the one who swoops in with a last-minute lesson plan if I have to run and pick up my own sick kid. Liz is the first person I call to share my small victories and my embarrassing defeats. Every teacher needs a Liz, and many have been lucky enough to have one. Mentorship, you see, is vital in our industry. Mentors aren't just friends. ey are amazing practitioners who pass on their knowledge through informal conversation and everyday modeling. ey push back and disagree with you. ey help you develop your educational voice. ey help hone your academic blade. At the beginning of our teaching careers, we are assigned mentors, perhaps through a formal induction program meant to help support our practice. (New teachers definitely need this scaffold!) An assigned mentor is one thing, but finding that person on your own who can challenge you, advise you and celebrate you, helps you embrace being reflective and encourages you to take risks. According to Education Week, there are eight key qualities in an effec- tive mentor. Inspired by that list and my own experiences, I would say By Heather Wolpert-Gawron Every Teacher Needs a Mentor ironically, I 've gone back to the roots of who I am as an educator. Instead of complaining about students like J.L. at lunchtime or staring absent-mindedly at Netf lix in the evenings before dozing off to sleep, I have embraced this chal- lenging situation as a fertile ref lective moment where I can perhaps continue to make a difference. In her book Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins describes the am azin g phy si cal an d psy ch o lo g i cal prowess of tennis great Martina Navra- tilova. Although Navratilova no longer competes for the Grand Slam, she reg- ularly plays on the professional circuit. S h e quipp ed , " Th e ball doesn't know how old you are." As Jenkins eloquently explains how to "disrupt aging ": " The first step is to 'own your age.' I'm not talking about just accepting your age. I mean really own it: embrace it, feel good about where you are in life, and more importantly, about where you are going." As I learned this year, teaching doesn't know how old I am. In the first, the last, and all the years in between, you just have to embrace it if you're going to be more than a footnote in a student's life as well as your own. In the meantime, I do count the days until I close that door for the last time, but at least I'll know they'll measure up to something. Newly retired Anaheim Elementary Education Association member Leslie Young, National Board Certified Teacher, is finishing her Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University and continues to teach for the Orange County Department of Education. 20 Perspectives Y O U R V O I C E

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