This article appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of The Classroom Teacher.

By Albert Mosqueda | TCTA 2019-20 state president

Almost every profession has a special way to prepare workers for the job or task they will be required to perform. A surgeon spends years in medical school and internships training and studying before performing a solo surgical procedure. Similarly, a trial lawyer spends years in law school honing his craft to defend a client in court. Teaching is no different. The profession requires years of training beyond what is accomplished in the few weeks of student teaching. But often for that training to happen, young teachers need a mentor to guide them through their first few years in the classroom. 

Frustrations and hardships plague the teaching profession. A good mentor will help a new teacher get through those obstacles, aid them in understanding that teaching is their livelihood, and help them comprehend that they have a vested interest in shaping our country’s future. When a young teacher is matched with an experienced mentor, that teacher’s chances for a successful year and career increase tremendously.

Mountains of paperwork, irate parents and unruly students are some of the obstacles that all teachers face in the classroom on a weekly basis. Dealing with these obstacles can swallow up time and energy. An exceptional mentor will share tips on how to avoid the paperwork pile up, how to have a productive parent conference, and how to address classroom management challenges. A proficient mentor also will help a new teacher understand that this profession comes with a vast amount of responsibility. 

A veteran teacher once told a young, wide-eyed new teacher to “protect your check.” I did not know what that veteran teacher meant until I became a dad with two young daughters, balancing a mortgage and all the bills that come with the responsibilities of adulthood.

Teachers are held to a higher standard as role models for students, so a good mentor also will encourage new teachers to follow the code of conduct and review protocols and make sure they understand the ins and outs of the profession. With their mentors’ help, new teachers will understand and comprehend the major responsibilities that come with stepping in a classroom.

Along with helping new teachers succeed in the profession, it is important for veteran TCTA members to recruit, encourage and mentor new TCTA members. There is a lot of information about how our association works to better the educational system, how it operates to focus on the needs of teachers in the classroom and what great benefits membership offers to Texas teachers. Just like learning how to be successful in the classroom, learning the importance of our association helps members gain knowledge, and knowledge is power.

TCTA veterans can help newer members understand how to be a voice for the classroom and the profession. Because we are the front line of learning, it is our responsibility to lead the fight for the rights of every child in our educational system. Because we are teachers, we should be on the front lines of educational reforms. When legislators consider funding cuts, increase classroom sizes and talk about local control, we, the teachers, must stay abreast of what’s happening at our state Capitol where these reforms originate. Because we care about our students, our profession and our livelihood, veteran TCTA members should help our next wave of leaders understand and embrace our cause to protect our profession and be the voice for our students to ensure they have the best opportunities to succeed.

Along with sharing the cause of fighting for the rights of our students and ourselves, it is also imperative that veteran TCTA members encourage new members to get involved with our association so they are ready to fill local, regional and state leadership positions when veterans near retirement. Begin by recruiting and mentoring newer TCTA members in how to serve as a faculty representative. Find someone to serve on every campus in your district so we can reach and encourage more colleagues to join. 

Think about the first time you were approached about TCTA. I remember when a friend asked me a simple question: “We need a faculty representative on your campus, would you be interested?” she asked with a smile. She followed the request up with a statement that I still use 17 years later as I recruit FRs in my district. “It’s not a lot of work, but it is important to our teachers, and I will help you with anything that needs to be done.” 

Thank you, Dolores Ramirez, for keeping your promise to help me with anything that needed to be done.

One teacher helping another teacher, with the goal of helping all teachers. That’s the message I want all of you to remember and share with colleagues. When we’re united and determined to help each other succeed, we’ll make the profession stronger and help young teachers choose to remain in the classroom throughout their careers, building a brighter future for us all.

TCTA 2019-20 State President Albert Mosqueda is a teacher in San Benito CISD.