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Sunday / November 19

Mentoring: Guidelines for Getting Started

There are times when a mentor’s help can be critical to our success. A mentor can help us develop support for students who present academic, social and behavioral challenges, negotiate difficult transitions, such as moving to a new school, or new challenges, like teaching at a new grade level or class. Good mentors provide emotional support for and understanding of our classroom experiences. We seek out someone we trust and respect, as well as a person who can support our development. Then, there are times we find ourselves in the role of supporting others.

Whether in the role of protégé or mentor, it is important to set and abide by some guidelines so that each will know what to expect and avoid disappointment.

  • Establish a schedule to decide when and how often you will meet.
  • Identify ahead of time the items you wish to discuss and work through. Without such thoughtful planning, the time may end up becoming socially enjoyable but not necessarily professionally helpful.
  • Be prepared. Have materials and resources handy when you meet.
  • Agree on confidentiality. A mentoring relationship has to feel safe for both parties; otherwise it is difficult to talk about the things that matter most.
  • Respect one another’s differences. It is often interesting and stimulating to listen to points of view that are different from your own. But this only works if both parties are respectful of these perspectives.

With these guidelines in mind, you will be able to build a mentoring relationship that is not only mutually satisfying, but one in which support will flow in both directions as you will learn and benefit from each other.

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Written by

Ellen Kottler, Ed.S., has been a teacher for over 30 years in public and private schools, alternative schools, adult education programs, and universities. She has worked in inner-city schools as well as in suburban and rural settings. She was a curriculum specialist in charge of secondary social studies and law-related education for one of the country’s largest school districts. Ellen is the author or coauthor of several books for educators, including Secrets for Secondary School Teachers: How to Succeed in Your First Year, On Being a Teacher, Secrets to Success for Beginning Elementary School Teachers, Counseling Skills for Teachers, English Language Learners in Your Classroom: Strategies That Work, Secrets to Success for Science Teachers, Students Who Drive You Crazy: Succeeding with Resistant, Unmotivated, and Otherwise Difficult Young People, and The Teacher’s Journey.

She teaches secondary education and supervises intern teachers at California State University, Fullerton.

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