Reflection on Mentorship in Education- A Guest Post by Dr. Teri Rubinoff
Teri wrote this wonderful reflection on last week’s OnEdMentors epsiode, so we will cross post this on The Mentoree website. Dr. Teri Rubinoff is the Programming and Research Coordinator at The Mentoree.
Trust, vulnerability, and hope may not be the first words that come to mind when we think about mentorship but we are coming to realize the important role these components play in developing mentorship relationships that build capacity, promote self-efficacy, and encourage risk-taking. On the October 8th episode of the OnEdMentors Podcast, host Noa Daniel invited Jim Strachan, Kate Sharpe, and Matthew X. Joseph to have a conversation about Mentorship in Education. Through this conversation many key, and evolving, ideas about mentorship were raised. There are a few in particular that resonated with me.
Jim talked about moving away from mentorship structures in favour of mentorship relationships. He proposed that we change our question from, “Do you have a mentor?” to, “Are you being mentored?”. And he reflected on the shift from having a single mentor to an emphasis on creating a mentoring web. The idea of a mentoring web strikes me as critically important. As Noa often reminds us, “We all have something to teach and we all have something to learn.” I would add to this that even though we all have something to teach, we all have different things to teach. Having a mentoring web allows a mentee to develop relationships with a variety of mentors who may each be able to offer something different.
Through The Mentoree, I have had the same mentee for over two years. When we started together she was in her first year of a two year teacher education program in Ontario. She graduated in the spring and has started her first long-term occasional (LTO) teaching position. This makes her eligible for Ontario’s New Teacher Induction Program which includes being provided with a mentor from her school district (generally from the same school). The idea of my mentee now having a second mentor brings me back to the idea of a mentoring web and its advantages. My mentee and I work in two different districts. She and I engage in rich conversations about education. We focus on practical strategies while also keeping the bigger idea of ‘why’ at the forefront. Although there is a lot that I hope I am offering her, I am not able to offer her guidance that is specific to the workings of her school board. I’m hopeful that her NTIP mentor will be able to fill this gap.
It’s also interesting to note that, through The Mentoree, my mentee chose me from a group of available mentors. I wasn’t assigned to her in the way that an NTIP mentor is. She reached out to me based on my background, experience, and educational philosophy. She was, and continues to be, in the driver’s seat of this relationship. The NTIP program operates within a different structure. I hope my mentee will benefit from her NTIP experiences. I know I will benefit from hearing about them.
The changing role of the mentor was also a topic that was discussed during the podcast. Traditionally the mentor was seen as the expert and the mentee as the empty vessel to be filled. Critical to our current understanding of mentorship, and a foundational principle at The Mentoree, is the importance of mentorship as a reciprocal relationship. Mentors and mentees learn with and from each other. During the podcast, Matt highlighted the importance of mentors talking less and listening more to help mentees develop their own ways of doing things.
Educational mentorship involves more than a focus on pedagogy, it’s also about supporting mentees’ well-being. I believe that mentorship helps us navigate the stresses inolved int eaching. It aligns with the five practices of self-regulation outlined by Shanker and Hopkins (2020). Having a regular time set aside for mentorship can help reduce the immedaite stresses that bubble up (practice 3) while also supporting ongoing restoration and increasing resilience (practice 5) to reduce overall stress (Shaker & Hopkins, 2020, p. 23). Helping mentees reflect on their successes and build from there can help them develop a positive bias and the motivation to keep going.
Kate mentioned the distinction between formal and informal mentorship. She pointed out that formal mentorship can lead to informal mentorship as mentors internalize a mentorship stance. Matt described this idea as a, “mentorship mindset”. Part of this mentorship mindset is embracing vulnerability. This is particularly true now because, as Matt pointed out, “in turbulent times, we’re all new educators”. Our willingness to be vulnerable and learn together with our mentees builds trust and supports ongoing well-being for all of us and leaves us all feeling more hopeful about the future. We will get through this together!
Shanker, S., & Hopkins, S. (2020). Self-Reg schools: A Handbook for educators. Ontario: Pearson