This month’s blog post is written by Janet Fitzgerald, a lead mentor from Seekonk, Massachusetts. Janet is also a member of the 20/20 Vision Mentoring in Action Leadership Academy.

I’ve heard countless lectures and professional development presentations over the last  two-plus decades but recall few specifics.  A soundbite from  Dr. Ed Dunkelblau’s  presentation at the New Teacher  Center’s Symposium  2014, however,  has stuck with me and continues to guide my thinking and spur me to action. Dunkelblau, the founder of  The Institute for Emotionally Intelligent Learning, said, “Social-emotional learning isn’t something else on the plate. It is the plate.”  

SEL may seem like one of the latest trends or buzzwords in education but its core competencies are what we’ve known for years are essential for success in any arena. Any teacher knows that real growth can’t happen when a student doesn’t have the ability to make good decisions, manage behavior, cope with stressors,  nor develop positive relationships. How can teachers grow and be effective if their own social-emotional competencies are weak?

Since the logic follows  that  good classroom teaching practices are good mentoring practices, it is essential that mentors support  novice teachers in their emotional and professional growth so that they can, in turn, impact student success.  In the 2nd Editions of Mentoring in Action and First Years Matter, Dr. Radford has woven the concept of mindfulness  into the fabric of the book.  Mindfulness is not its own chapter. It is treated as the “plate” in Dunkelblau’s analogy.  No real professional growth can be sustained without self-awareness and emotional well-being at its foundation.  According to, Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”  By making mindfulness a foundational practice in her books, Radford rightly acknowledges that teachers are under a tremendous amount of stress.  It’s how we manage our stress that counts.

In the companion texts,Mentoring in Action and First Years Matter, mindfulness is included as part of the intentional mentoring curriculum via:

  • Mindful affirmations
  • Social-emotional goal prompts
  • Using mindfulness to explore mentoring dilemmas
  • Mindful meditations available on the companion website
  • Links to online articles and videos on mindfulness and social-emotional competence building  on companion website,

Being intentional in our practices is exactly what my friend, Ellyn Metcalf, founder of Total Teacher Project, encourages educators to do. The focus is on personal professional development at this summer’s Total Teacher Project’s Teacher Leadership Summit: Reflect, Recharge, Renew.  Attendees will be analyzing their leadership styles and developing personal practices to enhance their professional growth. Breakout sessions include:

  • Mindfulness in the classroom
  • Improving time management and organization with technology
  • Understanding the importance of your professional and digital image
  • Incorporating nutrition and exercise into your work/life balance.

I’m fortunate to have  Metcalf and Radford as mentors, both of whom have helped me understand that effective leadership in and out of the classroom doesn’t come from a title but from behaviors that stem from a clear mind with a clear purpose.

Check out the TTP website for more details about and link to register for the Teacher Leadership Summit 2017:

Early registration begins April 12.