This post is dedicated to Hazel Owen, our amazing mentor in New Zealand and the Project Leader of uChoose, CORE’s tailored mentoring packages.
Tashi Kirincic, Coordinator of Teacher Mentorship, Delta Manor Education Centre invited us to attend her morning workshop for the Teacher Mentorship programme that the Education Centre funds. You can read more about the Mentorship programme through the Delta School District blog here. Tashi leads the education of mentors engaged in the programme which has run for about three years. There are currently 16 Mentors and 60 Protégés involved in the programme.
Tashi’s session with the small group of attending mentors started with the reading of a First Nations poem by the Elders of the Hopi Nation:
To My Fellow Swimmers: http://www.shambhala.com/images/illus/Prophecy.pdf
The following parts of the poem were particularly relevant to the group reflections on their recent experiences and next steps:
“And I say see who is there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves. Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary.”
A key question of the group in this session was “How can we best support our peers so they embrace and model wise practice?”. This question was accompanied by an artwork by First Nations artist Susan Pointe called Full Circle. The image of circling salmon can be interpreted in many ways. Tashi uses the image to encourage thinking and conversations about spiralling towards a common goal. Each salmon can be seen as representing a different group forming a whole. Balancing points can be seen as significant in terms of equal contribution between group members. Another effective analogy for teamwork is that different salmon take different paths but are all heading to the same place and have the same ultimate purpose.
The group is using Mentoring Matters (Lipton and Wellman) to guide their learning and practice and today the group spent time unpacking the theoretical model for Structured Learning Focused Conversations. This model is flexible and cyclical:
After reading about this model, the team came up with a word, a phrase and a sentence to represent the parts of the reading that resonated for them and then rich conversations emerged from these:
As mentors in the use of Spirals of Inquiry, we found it refreshing to share our practice with these classroom teachers who were released once a week to mentor their protégés. We had much in common with them and in unpacking a theoretical model together, we could engage in metacognition to consider improvements in our own practice.
The team also reviewed their year of mentorship and considered new ways to operate the programme to make the mentoring more effective for their protégés. It caused us to wonder, ‘Have we thought about the following in our own mentoring programmes that we deliver in schools?’
- Give time for mentors and mentees to get away together – to build relationships in order to become more effective together during the year. Enable people to bring their families with them.
- Consider the gaps between sessions and whether they are too long or too short depending on context.
- Consider the ideal number in group mentoring – what is working and what isn’t? Why?
- Have an overarching vision co-constructed for the mentoring (e.g. a Support-Challenge vision).
- Plan a whole year of mentoring in your school, ECE or kura — including events, reviews of how it is going, specific learning opportunities for mentoring (e.g. how to mentor, change leadership) and celebrations.
To set goals with mentees, consider asking a question to help them think broadly. For example, Brooke Moore asks “In a year from now when you look back, what will you regard with pride and accomplishment?”
Our takeaways from this session included the following:
- Mentoring is about Creating Reflective Practitioners!
- Goal setting conversations can have flexible structure to them and can be based on theory.
- Mentors can and should model and extend the habits of goal driven thinking.
- Mentors can introduce topics to explore to add to a mentee’s current awareness. This involves consolidation and extension of professional thinking and habits of mind.
- Asking your mentee to weigh priorities can be a useful approach to working through complexity.
- A mentor can help a mentee to organise and integrate learning – to widen the conversation from immediate issues to the bigger picture through building habits of reflection. (e.g. So what is the bigger issue or concern here?)
Reflective questions related to Spirals:
- Mentoring capabilities are crucial to implementing Spirals of Inquiry. How do you foster these qualities in yourself and in your colleagues?
- External expertise and a neutral mentor is sometimes the key to creating reflective practitioners. How do you decide on which courses or mentors are most suitable for you or your team?