noun 1. an experienced and trusted adviser.
I credit a lot of my success in life to my strong belief in finding a mentor who has what you want. It is among the first things I do when I start anything that matters to me.
So when I knew I wanted to be a better writing teacher, I spent quite a bit of time finding a mentor. Back in 2011 (or maybe 2012?) I was writing with the very first Teachers Write! that Kate Messner, Gae Polisner, and Jen Vincent started. As I learned about becoming someone who wrote daily, I also began to meet teachers who had what I wanted. Teachers who learned more about their craft by writing, reading great books, and surrounding themselves with great writers and teachers of writing. I dug deeper and found a few people who lived in Maine as I do.
Among those wonderful Maine teachers and writers, I found a woman who has become my friend, my inspiration, and my mentor. Kim Oldenburgh and I began a conversation nearly 4 years ago and it continues in ways I'm not even sure she gets.
She gave me one of the best ideas ever when I was asked to teach a lesson for a second interview. She told me to have the kids write out the alphabet and add punctuation marks. Then, to have them read the alphabet as it would be inflected and expressed with this added punctuation. ABC? DEFG! HIJ. KLM, NOP? You get the idea. It's one I use in my teaching now when kids aren't stopping to use punctuation. P.S. It got me my current job!
Next, she inspired me to join the Maine Writing Project so that I could have a concrete path towards becoming a better writer and a better writing teacher. My path through this project was not as simple as I've heard it was for others. Many other people (including Kim) thought the MWP was mind blowing--the greatest experience ever. For me its value was slow to come and sometimes hidden, until now. Suddenly I am seeing how valuable the experience has been. For one, I am writing now more than ever before. Two, I know what to expect from my writing, submissions, and from other writers. Finally, it is bringing me to others who inspire and support me, but also people who need me to inspire and support them. My mentor and friend brought me to a community that I didn't know I needed as badly as I do.
Kim didn't just bring me to the water to drink alone, she shares her brilliant ideas in a way that is completely unassuming. She is someone who can be trusted. When Kim tells you a book works for teaching writing or for getting kids thinking...it will. It won't just be a decent idea, it will make you feel like a rock star teacher. Some of the books she has recommended are:
Today I started Bad Kitty as I am currently teaching writing fiction stories. I couldn't have taught it better. The kids were thrilled that I was using this book and I was amazed at how well they understood words like Protagonist and Antagonist. Another winner, Kim.
When I need an idea, she is the first person I text or Facebook message or email because I know she will give me a great response and she will never fail to tell me when she isn't sure. She is someone I know I will be connected to for a long time and I truly hope that one day, she and I will teach together...maybe this summer?
Thanks Kim, my mentor and friend.