I am participating in the Developing Mentoring Skills session at (in? on? through? Please choose the preposition you prefer) TESOL Electronic Village Online 2014 and enjoying it. I’m thinking and learning a lot. I can’t say I have been the most active participant thus far but I am looking forward to increasing my participation. My biggest immediate issue is that I have yet to read the latest assignment. Yikes. Instead of, actually, you know, reading the assignment I have created a little pre-reading assignment for myself here. I decided to share some of the qualities and characteristics of mentors I’ve had.
I think I have been extremely lucky in my life in terms of the mentors I’ve had and this has been especially true professionally. I am grateful to all those who have been so helpful to me and this is part of the reason I am interested in “paying it forward” and increasing my skills needed to do so. As I said above, I feel I have been blessed with many great mentors so I think it is a bit strange and maybe even crass to only mention a few here but I hope that by sharing some thoughts, impressions and experiences I will be better able to focus my attention onto the qualities of mentors. I *should also note that most of those listed here are from my pre-PLN era. The online mentors and those I have met online first would likely be a whole ‘nother post. Those listed below are real people with initials I made up myself for the purposes of keeping track of who was who whilst writing this post but decided to keep here. So, without further ado here are my thoughts on six of my mentors.
He was my first mentor in the field. He was also among the first few people I met that take the field seriously. He is still one of the coolest guys I have met in the field. I wrote a thank you note for him here which I think covers a lot of ground. My mentee memories with him are connected to always feeling supported whether emotionally or tangibly with things like recommendations. I think he clearly showed his belief and faith in me from the start and this was a great help to me. Now that I think about it more deeply he was and is a good role model about many things including how to talk to people and how to have a life outside TESOL.
As far as I can figure he is the only one on this list who had the actual job description of being my mentor. While I was a “Trainer being Trained” (TBT) to be a TESOL trainer he was my “Trainer of Trainers” (ToT) and being my mentor was part of his official duties. I will never forget the “I am here to serve your learning. How may I help you? Please feel free to ask any question you’d like” responses to my “Can I ask you a question?” type queries. Though slightly over the top when said so seriously I think this was a great starting point for me to ask questions and feel comfortable doing so.
When thinking about mentoring and helping people I usually tend to think we don’t need to be super experts in the areas we are helping with. This particular mentor was particularly bad-ass (“bad-ass” means “very good” in this context) at running sessions and I think this also helped open the door to new understandings how this aspect of the job could be performed.
I think this mentor was excellent for me and I learned a lot about being a trainer and a TESOL professional.
Sometimes he pushed or poked or nudged or asked or wondered or guided. Sometimes he gave puzzles. Sometimes he asked me to articulate beliefs and sometimes he asked me to explain decisions.
Sometimes he just up and left the room. Sometimes he asked me to do things I wasn’t sure exactly how best to go about doing. He never asked me to do something I couldn’t do. He didn’t hit me with any big judgments (good or bad) but gave me space to think about things in my own way. He would share his own opinion if I pushed for it but I think it came with the caveats that it was just what he was thinking right now at the very moment. He gave extremely useful feedback but trained me to think things through before seeing the feedback.
All of the above were very helpful and important but now that I sit down and think about it at this very moment, I think his self-awareness was one of, if not the, most important attributes.
Note: Those curious about the trainer training process mentioned above can read about it here.
She was actually supposed to be my mentee and I truly believe that I was helpful for her in some ways. Yay me. But, at the same time, I am convinced that I learned a lot more from her than she ever learned or could have learned from me. She was insatiably curious and always wanted to know as much as she could, as deeply as she could (and also as quickly as she could.) She helped me explore decisions and their possible implications for the classroom. She also helped me see a different perspective related to some cultural issues. She helped me see myself in different (and not always positive) ways as well. She was a great model as a teacher, trainer, and learning human. I am continually grateful for the time we spent together.
(Note to self: Don’t forget to wish her a happy Lunar New Year!)
Finally, she also greatly motivated me with a few offhand comments from time to time that encouraged me to do more and not be satisfied with my current level of skills and knowledge.
He showed me it is ok to be yourself, be silly and to have fun within the world of teacher education.Well, he actually showed me much more than that. He is a great model of how to interact with others. He had a small but important role in the story in this blog post as the decorated and experienced educator who once again gave me a good model to follow.
On another note, the most memorable thing for me with this mentor is how he is able to calmly and clearly disagree while still leaving plenty of room for the other person to make their own decisions. “Why not try it that way?” is a common expression I remember from him in cases when he probably felt another way was better but was also flexible to let it be done in a way he didn’t think was best.
She is a true model of practicing what is preached. Well, to be fair, “preach” is not the right word at all. More accurately, but with less alliteration it is more like “a true model of acting in accordance with the beliefs she has previously articulated.” Working with someone with such a clear picture of their beliefs and how these might best be manifested through actions provided me with powerful lessons. Among the best lessons for me was the process of how to go about making decisions.
Additionally, a quiet confidence and coupled with an orientation towards learning and development made her a great role model for me and a true mentor even if it was not exactly her assigned duty.
much, much a little younger than me and perhaps not as experienced in terms of total years working but that is not important at all in my view. She has helped me see my own perspective more clearly on many issues. Through questioning and discussing things she has helped me get a clearer picture about my own beliefs and what these might look like if put into practice. She has also (gently and maybe even unintentionally) helped me see when there are some gaps in my logic. It is then up to me to reconsider, if I wish.
I think that is that for now. Here, by the way, is the reading I still haven’t done yet. Thanks for reading my post. I am off to read the assignment and then compare what I have written here. Please feel free to do the same.
You might also enjoy this post from Roselli Serra, this post from Theodora Papapanagioto and this one from Fabiana Casella all related to the topic of mentoring and considering what makes a good mentor.