With the start of the new school year approaching, and the fact that new faculty and staff are beginning to arrive and start to settle in, my mind drifted to the subject of faculty and staff pastoral care. Specifically, I am thinking about mentoring.
Our school has a mentoring program for new faculty and staff. It is predominantly something oriented to the High School but the Middle School has a version of it. In meeting with the mentoring co-ordinator the other day, I said that I was keen that the program not be too formal or too structured. I would hate for it to be a paperwork generating exercise. After all, it is supposed to be something that supports new faculty and staff as they make a transition to a new work (and indeed living) environment.
In light of this, then, I think there are three main things that a good mentor does.
- Care – a good mentor looks after the mentee. The mentor cares for his or her mentee, making sure that the mentee is doing well with his or her allocated classes, meeting expectations, integrating well into the school community, addressing concerns that the mentee might have or that the school might have of the mentee.
- Challenge – a good mentor challenges the mentee. Being a pastoral carer in the workplace is one way of looking at the mentor-mentee relationship and there is certainly nothing wrong with viewing the relationship that way. The mentor, however, should be prepared to challenge or stretch their protege. If they don’t, there is little purpose in having a mentor. The mentor draws on his or her own experience for the benefit of the mentee.
- Credible – a good mentor is credible. That is, he or she has street credibility in the eyes of other members of staff, and the wider school community. It is no good having a mentor who is considered to have no credibility or lacks the ability to speak his or her mind (or feels that they can’t because they don’t have a grass roots basis on which to speak openly). It is important in a mentoring situation for the mentor to feel that he or she can be honest and open in expressing their opinion. If the overarching goal of having a mentoring program is authentic one-on-one professional learning, then being credible is an important aspect of that program’s success.
While there are other things that could be added to this list, I think this is a good start at understanding what a good mentor will do. Certainly, the mentor and the mentee need to organise expectations – every relationship is different and has a different set of expectations. For example, how often will they meet together, what will they talk about, what might each person in the relationship be looking to get out of the relationship.
Fundamentally, however, I think the very first thing, the most significant thing, that a good mentor will do is to approach the mentee with a servant-oriented heart. Yes, a good mentor will care, challenge and be credible but, overarching all of this, a good mentor will start with the question: how can I best serve you?