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A Solid Foundation for a Mentoring Relationship

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The value of a mentoring relationship, and its benefits to both parties, is indisputable. But what is the best way to start this partnership? There are clear guidelines that can prevent misunderstandings and help strengthen relationships.
First, the mentor should discuss and establish norms with the mentee within the first two weeks of pairing. This dialogue was important because it established the professional foundation for their year-long collaboration and defined each person’s roles and responsibilities. The two educators should share common preferences and beliefs as they are creating a template for future interactions.
This discussion process is called developing an agreement, and once the two parties have settled on a specification, they should share a Google Document, or even a PowerPoint slide with all the information, and sign it in person.
3 Protocol Classification
1. Mentoring interaction: Two people discuss the most convenient days and times for weekly meetings, as well as details such as where, how long they will last, and cancellation procedures.
Before or after school?
Which day?
In person (and if so, where?) Or online by Zoom?
How long should the meeting last?
How do I cancel a meeting? Through concerted, planned collaboration, mentors and mentees elevate their courses to the importance they deserve. Sharing preferences and working out details is a straightforward way to begin the collaborative journey.
Next, the two discuss possible unplanned or informal interactions. It’s common for mentees to experience challenges in school — an uncooperative student or a lesson that turns out to be ineffective — leading them to seek mentor support.

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Depending on personality, school climate and many other details, the two will decide in advance how to contact each other and when to collaborate on unplanned informal interactions.
Should they email, text, call, or go to each other’s classrooms?
Do they interrupt a class in progress?
What’s the best time and place to have an informal conversation?
Do they only interact on weekdays or on weekends?
Sometimes, counseling groups need to revisit their protocols during the school year. One teacher and mentor told me that her mentees often came to her classroom at the end of the day to share successes and challenges. Although the two worked well together, the veteran teacher was uncomfortable with the amount of time each day that these informal meetings took place.
After I suggested the two revisit their protocol, they decided to set aside time in the morning for the newbie to stop and share or reflect with her mentor if necessary. Both sides benefited from the updated agreement, as the mentee felt supported and the mentor appreciated the convenience of moving from afternoon to morning.
2. A professional, reciprocal, goal-oriented relationship: Modern mentoring relationships are learning aimed at helping mentees develop their professional vision. Experienced instructors strive to foster reflective thinking and ask questions that facilitate learning and development. Mentors who have mentored in this way have shared with me that reflection by the mentee has a clearer impact on professional growth than questioning, because thinking about lessons or teaching strategies can lead directly to change.
The goal of reflection is growth, which is why they meet weekly, even if the mentee doesn’t have specific questions or concerns. New teachers can discuss with tutors any in-depth aspect of teaching that will promote learning and growth.
Both the mentor and mentee benefit from the mentoring process. I’ve seen many high-performing couples, and their positive, reciprocal learning is an ongoing dynamic.
Mentors and mentees attend and fully participate in weekly meetings
Both participants understood the goal of developing a novice’s professional vision
The role of the trainee is to reflect and continue professional growth
Both are involved as teachers and learners
Sometimes first-year teachers are assigned a mentor, but they don’t think they need support, or they don’t want it. I encourage the mentor in this challenging situation to first develop a partnership in which the mentor promotes thinking rather than telling the mentee, “This is what I normally do….” . As a positive professional relationship develops, students often realize the value of having an open discussion with interested colleagues.