This year I attended several intriguing sessions at the 16th National Symposium on Teacher Induction. Each year, at Symposium I enjoy the buzz and excitement that results from in-depth knowledge sharing. From the hotel coffee stand to the elevator banks, I always hear interesting conversations from attendees who cannot wait to share what they have learned with their peers. I attended two sessions focusing on Quality Mentoring that particularly stood out to me, Professional Learning Communities: Turning Your Vision Into Reality, with Julie Almquist and Michael Russo (NTC Staff); and Bring it On! Creating First Learning Experiences for New Mentors with Sharon Grady, Shalini Patel, Amy Treadwell (NTC Staff).

During the session, Professional Learning Communities: Turning Your Vision Into Reality, with Julie Almquist and Michael Russo; I learned about the qualities of a facilitator in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) and how these skills also contribute to the foundation of a successful mentor. Mentoring and PLC facilitation draw on a similar skill set and developing these skills in beginning teachers creates a pathway to teacher leadership and possibly future mentoring. An NTC practice brief on Beginning Teacher Learning Communities was recently published and provides information on some of the foundational information discussed during the session.

The session highlighted how mentors can help new teachers develop the skills needed to facilitate PLCs.  NTC uses the foundations of Quality Mentoring to train teachers to facilitate PLCs that support all teachers as they work towards improving student achievement and teaching practice.  The facilitator builds a foundation of trust through preparedness, participation by using group norms, analysis of student data, time for questions, and clear outcomes of each meeting. Use of foundational tools such as NTC’s Inquiry Cycle becomes key in assessing student data and acts as a platform for accurately assessing student needs. These tools help to focus participants as they develop key skills to assess student data as a group. Continued learning in PLCs where there is skilled facilitation, use of tools and protocols such as, the Inquiry Cycle, and support for ongoing professional development at every level, results in an improvement in student achievement and teacher practice.

During the session Bring it On! Creating First Learning Experiences for New Mentors with Sharon Grady, Shalini Patel, Amy Treadwell, I learned from a panel of new full-release mentors as they shared some of their highlights of working in Chicago. As I listened to this panel I soon connected that that the qualities they hold as key to successful mentoring had first been cultivated when they were teachers and had the opportunity to benefit from mentoring and engagement in PLCs. Using skills they cultivated as successful teachers, such as facilitation, the Inquiry Cycle, data analysis, and identifying areas for growth, they were able to support each other. The mentors use peer coaching, role-play exercises, professional goal setting, and work on using student data to drive success. I realized these mentors focus on bringing together best teaching practice into their mentoring community and that this fosters resilience and excellence for mentors and teachers.

Ellen Moir, NTC founder and CEO, gave the concluding keynote on day two of the Symposium. It was a pivotal moment for attendees to connect what they learned during sessions with what successful Quality Mentoring can look like. A packed hall of people perked up to hear Ellen as she addressed the crowd with vigor. She spoke about the importance of Quality Mentoring as the core of NTC’s work to develop teachers from novice to excellent.  During the keynote, we also heard from Jaime Aquino, NTC’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation. He stated that often, “We give teachers an inch, but demand a mile”.

I realized then that PLCs are a step towards giving teachers the mile of support they need to make the long journey demanded of them. Through participation and facilitation of Professional Learning Communities we give teachers the chance to grow professionally and become leaders as they work towards using best practices in teaching to excel student learning. The skills that are embedded in PLCs are also a foundation of Quality Mentoring in which all mentors use as a platform for their work.


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