CSTA Classroom Science

Mentorship Is All Around Us

By Donna Ross, CASE 4-Year College Director

While at the annual California Science Education Conference in Palm Springs I listened to amazing keynote speakers, participated in hands-on workshops, shopped in the exhibit hall, and connected with new and old friends during the social events.  After returning home, I reflected on how many instances of mentoring I witnessed during the conference. 


We sometimes think of mentoring as something that only occurs in a very formal, structured setting. Certainly, teachers are fortunate if they are paired with a long-term, experienced, and supportive mentor.  It is even better if that mentor is at their school site and is available to co-plan and, perhaps, team-teach with the mentee.  But we do a disservice to the term “mentor” if we define it only in such a narrow fashion.  At the conference, I heard teachers sharing favorite lessons, explaining what phenomenon they use for a particular unit of study, describing how they motivate students to persist and revise their models, and offering to share contact info to stay in touch after leaving Palm Springs.  You might argue these examples are just teachers engaging with their community.  I agree, but I also see these as a form of mentorship.
Teaching is a complex and dynamic endeavor.  The best teachers I know are extremely knowledgeable and yet, simultaneously, they continue to seek opportunities to learn and grow.  They revise their lessons, differentiate their materials to meet the needs of their current students, search for more relevant phenomena, and strive to make each year better than the last.  As such, these teachers could serve as mentors AND they could benefit from having a mentor. 
Jim Clark and I are serving as the co-chairs of the new CASE Mentoring and Leadership committee. We have been engaged in an intellectual discussion of the meaning of mentoring and have decided to keep the definition broad.  It might be a long-term relationship or it might be a one-time, 10-minute conversation. We recognize that every CASE member has wisdom and knowledge that could benefit others in our community.  We invite you to join us on our journey to find mentorship all around us!  Our plan is to start building a network after the holidays. Are you interested in serving as a mentor and/or mentee?  Remember, you can define your version of mentoring and also dictate your time availability.  Please contact us at mentoring@cascience.org and copy the email to ngsiteam1@gmail.com  Let us know what features and opportunities should be available in a mentoring community and how you’d like to be involved.  And, don’t forget to watch for small instances of mentoring all around you! 

Donna Ross is an Associate Professor of Science Education at San Diego State University and a former teacher of grades K, 2, 3, 4, 10, and 12. She serves as the 4-year CASE Director. She may be reached at DLRoss@SDSU.edu



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