Making the most of your mentorship

Issue: Volume 97, Number 9

Posted: 28 May 2018
Reference #: 1H9iwZ

Mentorships are beneficial for both the mentor and the mentee, but there are ways to make these professional development experiences even more rewarding for everyone involved.

Mentoring is an essential part of the teaching tradition in New Zealand and, while it is mandatory for all new teachers, many other teachers also recognise the benefits of learning from one of their colleagues.

The University of Otago’s Joan Turner says there are some key considerations to take into account when beginning or planning a mentorship.

“One of the things that is crucial is having a shared understanding between mentor and mentee of what the expectations are of each other and about the different roles they play in that.”

By clearly defining what the purpose of the mentorship is, you can ensure there are benefits for both the mentor and the mentee, Joan says.

“It also works best when you can set aside some dedicated time to put into it. Everybody gets busy and everyone has really good intentions, but often it can just sort of fizzle out unless there’s some planning and a system that allows some time.”

Joan believes it is important for school leaders to allocate time for mentoring and to provide recognition of the mentorship, particularly for the mentor. Without this, both mentors and mentees can struggle with feeling guilty about not meeting expectations.

“It’s a trap to fall into, being scared to ask for a bit of support or feeling guilty and pressured because usually mentors have got their own classes or other roles.”

Another important consideration is to make sure the person who is mentoring also receives professional learning around how to provide that support.

“Someone who’s really good at relationships and talking to people in a pastoral sense still doesn’t necessarily have the skill set, because it’s not part of their job as a teacher to be a really good mentor of adults.”

Professional development for mentors is currently a big focus in the education sector, as is the type of guidance provided to mentees. A mentor’s role is to support the mentee as they continue their professional learning and develop as a teacher by helping them to think about and refine their practice.

“It’s about asking the questions that help them develop understanding for themselves, rather than telling them what to do,” says Joan.

“One of the things that amazes me is the range of different school settings we have in this country. There’s definitely no ‘one size fits all’ because all their contexts are so different.

“So if you’ve got a mentor who can help you think about how best to adapt the theory that you’ve learned to the situation that you’re in now, and make the best choices about the teaching approaches to take –  how to adapt what you’re doing, how to apply that theory to best suit the needs of these students in front of you at this moment – that’s a skill that you’re going to need all the way through your career.”

Joan recommends reading the Education Council’s guidelines about mentorship (available in English and te reo Māori) to help mentors and mentees sort out what each person’s roles and responsibilities are.

Access the Education Council’s guidelines and other resources on mentorship(external link).

Joan Turner is National Coordinator of Provisionally Certificated Teachers and Mentors at Education Support Services at the University of Otago. She has collaborated with school leaders in planning professional learning and development (PLD) and has facilitated PLD at individual teacher, middle leader, whole staff and cross-school levels.

Top tips for a tip-top mentorship

* Make sure the mentor and mentee are both clear about what is expected from themselves and what they expect from each other.
* Have some specific time allocated to mentorship and get your school leaders involved, if they aren’t already.
* Make sure both the mentor and mentee understand how they are benefitting from the mentoring relationship.
* Ensure that the mentor has received the appropriate professional development to enable them to be a successful mentor.
* Read the Education Council’s guidelines to help you develop and implement a high-quality mentoring programme.

What teachers say…

Karamu High School teachers Aron Noble (mentor) and Elijah Martin (mentee) worked together as part of a mentorship programme last year.

“As mentor and mentee, we felt that to get the most out of the mentoring experience we had to develop a relationship built on trust, respect and commitment to our mentoring process. Also being factual, open and honest, with structured opportunities to co-construct learning goals, reflecting on the reality in the classroom and having a shared vision of what good teaching looked like provided a positive and safe environment for both of us to learn, work and move forward together.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 28 May 2018

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