Writing Mentors

So the title of this blog is only partly correct.  I do teach English and I do teach great kids, but I also teach future teachers and I teach a lot of educational technology to current teachers. Some days it really feels like everybody wants a piece of me, including myself.  I'm responding to the demands on my time in one of three ways: Do it, Delay it (schedule for later) or Delegate it.   I have not been very good at that last part. (My husband might disagree.)  Then I spoke with a friend.

"You should have your university students become writing mentors for your freshmen English students." She was very proud of this idea, and she is the department chair for the course I am teaching at the local university.

Still that just seemed wrong. Using my pre-service teachers as mentors to my own students somehow seemed like a conflict of interest, like cheating, like getting them to do my work for me?

"I would be using them." I decried.

"Go ahead, use them." These were her exact words and, well, she is technically my boss, and the person in charge of their teaching program.

Comments on a student paper
So this week I asked my freshmen students to request writing mentors through a Google form. Only fourteen of them did that first day.  That night I asked my pre-service teachers to volunteer to become writing mentors. Ten (out of 22) signed up.  I matched them up, sharing the freshmen student writing that was already in Google Docs with a volunteer mentor.

The early results are fascinating.  The mentors have the time to leave thoughtful and detailed comments on the student writing. The students love the feedback. Fifteen more students have asked for writing mentors. Even though several of the mentors have willingly taken on more than one student, I still have a waiting list of students who want writing mentors.

I am learning more about the pre-service teachers in my class by being able to read their comments to my freshmen students.  I have seen that some really understand how to push a student's writing and others are more focused on minor issues.  It has made me realize that commenting is a skill I must actively teach to the future teachers.

My attempt at delegation has lead me round full circle. Now when I open a Google Doc to view my freshmen student's work I find I am also analyzing the commenting skills of one of my university students.