Contracting: the mentoring relationship will work more smoothly if you both know what is expected from the mentor (confidentiality, a listening ear, a certain number of meetings, focus of mentoring etc) and what is expected from the mentee (confidentiality works both ways, turn up to meetings, engage in the process and drive the agenda etc).
Boundaries: you both need to set boundaries. Timetable your meetings, meet in a space that provides privacy, agree the parameters of the mentoring (e.g. it’s not counselling or financial advice) and negotiate methods of communication outside meetings.
Hone your mentoring skills: practise the use of different types of questioning and re-framing; provide suitable challenge in feedback; prepare to have a pedagogic dialogue rather than a feedback monologue. Explore a variety of coaching and mentoring models and techniques. Flex your mentoring muscles.
Model good practice: ‘telling’ is not as effective as ‘showing’. Be prepared to welcome your mentee into your classroom. Use participatory models of observation and feedback e.g. plan and teach a class together then analyse it. Examine collaborative ways of working, such as lesson study.
Introduce networking and social media: mentors should aim to become progressively redundant by encouraging the independence of the mentee and building their self-confidence. Face to face and online networks introduce people to new ideas and professional development opportunities.
DIY CPD: encourage your mentee to observe others’ teaching and to identify what they would steal for themselves and what they would change and why. A highly effective method of self-reflection is for mentees to watch a video of their own teaching and share areas of concern with their mentor.
Motivation: Examine your own motivation for mentoring. Why are you buying into this developmental relationship? Sometimes mentors want to rescue people and sometimes mentees want them to ‘just tell me what to do’. If it’s where do I find stationery you can be directive. If it’s I have this problem with my second years, you will need to use a non-directive approach and skilful mentoring.
Ethical resilience: mentors cannot be naïve in situations that Wallace and Gravells describe as ‘walking the tightrope’ if they are asked to mediate in a difficult situation. There is a balance between using what Schrijvers would call rat-like cunning and considering the moral dimensions of situations. Mentoring is not for the faint-hearted.
Challenges and rewards: mentoring is a two-way relationship where both mentor and mentee are likely to expand their professional learning. Sometimes a mentee’s situation, or the way they narrate it, reveals layers of meaning. Like peeling an onion, the mentor may have to encourage the mentee to go beyond description and start to analyse what happened from other points of view, examining their own and others’ motivation. With the passage of time, reflection and self-evaluation can reveal the significance of a situation to the mentee.
End the relationship well: celebrate the progress made; re-define the relationship for the future (e.g. ‘we’ll always be colleagues’); and give the mentee guidance on potential support e.g. a list of useful people, places, publications or professional development opportunities.
David, S., Clutterbuck, D., Megginson, D. (2013) Beyond Goals: effective strategies for Coaching and Mentoring Aldershot: Gower Publishing
Colley, H. (2003) Mentoring for Social Inclusion: A Critical Approach to Nurturing Mentor Relationships RoutledgeFalmer
Cunningham, B. (2007) Mentoring Teachers in Post-compulsory Education: A Guide to Effective Practice David Fulton Publishers
Eliahoo, R. (2011) ‘Dilemmas in measuring the impact of subject-specific mentoring on mentees learners in the Lifelong Learning Sector’, Practitioner Research in HE, July 2011 issue.
Eliahoo, R. (2009) ‘Meeting the potential for mentoring in Initial Teacher Education: mentors’ perspectives from the Lifelong Learning Sector’ Teaching in Lifelong Learning: A journal to inform and improve practice, University of Huddersfield Press 1:(2) p64-75.
Gravells, J., Wallace, S., (2007) Mentoring in the Lifelong Learning Sector (Professional Development in the Lifelong Learning Sector) Learning Matters
Gravells, J., Wallace, S. (2012) Dial M for Mentor: Critical Reflections on mentoring for coaches, educators and trainers, Critical Publishing
McDonald, J., Carnell, E., Askew, S. (2006) Coaching and Mentoring in Higher Education: A learning-centred Approach Institute of Education
Thomson, B. (2013) Non-Directive Coaching: Attitudes, Approaches and Applications, Critical Publishing
Williams, A., Whybrow, A. (2014) The 31 Practices: release the power of your organization values every day, London: LID Publishing