What if we allowed new teachers to choose their own mentors? #WhatIfWeekly

At this time of year, I am used to thinking about welcoming and orienting faculty who are new to the school. While I won’t be doing that this year, I continue to think of such things. Of course, my own newness and orientation is happening right now at Unboundary, so such is fresh on my mind – from the other end of the rope or side of the coin. Oh, how empathy and perspective teach!

If I were to be welcoming new faculty this year, I might just push for a new experiment or pilot. What if new faculty were allowed to choose their own mentors? Philip Cummings offers a fabulous blog post on this front with his “Find Your Yoda.” I haven’t figured out all of the logistics yet (and probably won’t by myself!), but I wonder if one could do something like…

  • Assign a temporary facilitator (or activator) for a small cohort of new faculty. This cohort could experience the beginning days and weeks as a team, and the facilitator could assist with “need to knows.”
  • As the weeks move along, each new faculty could choose his or her own mentor. Perhaps there could even be some social-media fun associated with this as veteran faculty – Yodas – “advertised” their own strengths and weaknesses on some SM resource, either internal or external. From a combination of the advertising and identity work, along with the face-to-face encounters during the first month of school, new faculty could make a pick for mentor…Yoda.
  • With careful cultural shaping, such a system could take on an EdCamp feel, as mentors and mentees agree to partner with someone else if the partnership is not meeting the needs of the mentee.

Maybe it all depends on whether we want to operate from a platform of delivery and assignment OR discovery and authenticity. Such platforms can really shape how we design and implement…how we try and experiment…how we grow and learn. It’s about learning.

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “What if we allowed new teachers to choose their own mentors? #WhatIfWeekly

  1. Thanks for this thought provoking post! As a new teacher now for the third time and in the unique position this time of returning to a school where I have previously taught, I know that individuals have been unofficial mentors to me throughout the journey, and often neither the new teacher, the administration, or the well meaning mentors assigned to that teacher know how the new person needs help. The right mentors (and I think there are usually a couple of them, not just one) bubble to the surface. It would be wonderful for a chance to officially recognize and reward, for lack of a better term, these individuals as well as to identify the unique gifts they have brought to the new teacher. I love the idea. By the way, I’m reading “Imagine: How Creativity Works” right now and so much of it reminds me of the amazing collaborative and supportive atmosphere I enjoyed at Westminster JH this past year!

    • Shannon,
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I really appreciate your perspective on this mentoring idea, and I agree with your notion that a great mentor is ofter found in multiple people. It would be great for the authentic relationships of discovery and mutual agreement to win the day with regard to official mentoring. The school that is getting you is quite blessed, as is the mentor/mentee.

      Thanks for your feedback about the environment in the JHS. I am thrilled that you found it the way you described. You certainly added to that environment in positive, productive, thoughtful, creative ways.

      All the best to you. Hope to see you soon.

  2. I think it’s definitely important to have a facilitator or host to help folks navigate walk the minefield that can be the “needs to know.” But real mentors are rarely those folks who are assigned to us. They are people who we find on our own who willingly invest in us as we invest in them. Relationships can’t be forced. Thanks for sharing my post!

  3. Bo, I love this idea…from the athletics side, when I came on board, I had the chance to choose my own coaching mentor, and that was wonderful. I chose the amazing Diane Holcombe, whom I watched and asked advice from at numerous times these past five years. It was really special that I was able to choose her, and I hope it was special from her standpoint, too!

    • Cart, I love that you have a real, concrete example from school. Once again, the athletics and coaching arena can teach us quite a bit. At my new work, supervisors are actually called “coaches.”

      Knowing you and Diane, I certainly perceive that you were symbiotic!

      • gosh, Bo-man, even looking at the words (you know I love language!) “supervisor” vs. “coach”
        Super connotes “above” and thereby apart, whereas “co” connotes together, alongside…
        the good stuff. That’s where growth begins and continues. So thankful for your “new” work, which really isn’t “new” at all! 🙂

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