I’ve mentored quite a few people in the last couple years. These mentees either know they’re in over their head and know they need help. Or they didn't realize they were sinking because the ice burg hit three weeks ago. No matter which category my new friends fall into, they have no idea what to ask me so they could start the process of change.
In a mentoring relationship, it’s generally the responsibility of the mentee to take the initiative–not the mentor’s. In my current role (there are three of us), we are trying to stay proactive in our approach to leading this year. All Epic Charter Schools first year teachers have one of the three of us to connect with, learn the ropes, and grab tips and tricks for their approach to everything. A sounding board if nothing else to all thing Epic and EDU. Our non-first-years, get the opportunity (their choice) for monthly meet-ups to new tools and approaches to education. We basically do the research for them so the teachers can remain focused on the students.
If you have ever been in this situation, here are a few questions I try to ask when someone needs help finding a way to progress.
3 questions to ask your mentee:
1. What are you working on right now? It doesn’t matter the person is seeking your guidance on finessing a lesson to deliver over Causes of the Revolutionary War or figuring out the classroom management for this student or this class. This question helps them focus and prioritize their time and processes.
2. What are your next steps? The very act of asking will get them thinking about how to move forward. Goal making with scheduled completion should be setup (if possible) at this point. Having an endpoint to a goal, whether we have a "do-gooder, hop to the task right now" person, or a procrastinator (can you tell which I might be?) allows for a conclusion. This is also when I might follow-up.
3. How can I help? Whether needing a crucial tip to hook the students or the right contact to another person that can help - feedback on their strategies or just confirmation they’re heading in the right direction is necessary for growth of this relationship.
If you’re the one seeking guidance from a mentor, it’s easy to turn these questions around.
Three things to discuss with your mentor:
1. Here’s what I’m working on right now. Tell them where your gaze is resting and where your priorities lie at the moment, what your big picture looks like and where you see them and yourself in it.
2. These are my next steps. What current projects are you giving the most attention? What’s your plan for moving forward? How have you decided to deploy your resources–time, money, energy–to accomplish these things. Have you set a timeline for yourself on when to make things things happen?
3. Where can you help? Let your mentor know if you are looking for encouragement, or critical feedback? Do you want them to introduce you to someone who can help your career, or review your proposal/lesson/task before submitting it to your boss? Do you need granular advice about making it through the school day or school year?
Sidebar - Don't quit unless you absolutely suck. We need to #makeOKgreatEDU find a mentor for your certification, job title, etc. We can help you with a particular task even if outside or your district. People like Anne Beck from OU, Vanessa Perez from Clinton PS, Anthony Purcell from Stillwater PS, Scott Haselwood Doc candidate at OSU, and myself have all discussed cross district professional development. DM any of us on The Twitter.
Don’t let a mentoring relationship get stuck because you don’t know how to move forward. If you’re feeling stuck try asking yourself or your mentor these 3 simple questions. If your mentor sucks...try to find another that fits your style. BUT FOR THE LOVE, please do not let this relationship become a negativity perpetuator. If you are getting advice, please TRY to put into action. Do not come up with excuses as to why it will not work. Do not play the blame game. You never know what will work until you have given it a try. What will you lose? Another day?