For many educators, January is a time to return to our jobs revived and renewed after the holiday season. For teachers at Rhodes Junior High in Mesa, Arizona, January has a special meaning because it is National Mentoring Month and mentoring has helped transform Rhodes Junior High from a community into a family.
Mentoring, supporting students inside and outside of the classroom, has become a part of our culture. It gives teachers a holistic view of student needs, allowing us to assess problems and mobilize solutions.
Our student council held a canned food drive, the National Honor Society used club funds to buy turkeys from Costco and we worked hard to ensure everyone had what they needed to have a restful holiday break. This experience has taught us that truly reaching students is about the care you put into each and every conversation you have.
Using Summit Learning enables us to keep the Mesa Public Schools promise that “we will know each student by name and serve them by strength.” I’ve been a public educator for over thirteen years, and it is only now, working at an institution that embodies the values of individualized care, concern and instruction, that I’ve found my school family. As a veteran educator, I will never again teach at a school without dedicated mentoring time for students.
The teachers here serve students as I’ve never experienced before. Recently, I spoke with a reading specialist who mentors a student who loves painting. The reading specialist started talking about the student’s passion for painting during the mentoring time and used this opportunity to genuinely connect with the student. Since they were able to share this common ground, they have started working on other projects together—and the student is making incredible progress in reading.
And just last month, I learned about a math teacher who noticed his mentee was having a bad day, so he talked with her and learned that the rain had ruined her notebook on her walk to school. He was able to give her all new school supplies and made her day.
Being an educator is more than teaching lessons to students—it is about truly knowing our students and advocating for their needs. For National Mentoring Month, let's focus more on our students and the relationships we build with them. If we do so, I suspect we will see our students succeed in ways that we could not have previously imagined.
Elizabeth Kittredge is an English language arts teacher at Rhodes Junior High School in Mesa, Arizona. Elizabeth has over 14 years of experience educating students in Arizona. She graduated from The University of Arizona and believes that social-emotional learning is important to empower young people, in conjunction with proven academic curriculum.