Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tough Times in Mentoring

Today I had an interesting experience being a mentor. I have written before that mentoring was something I thought I would like to do in the future of my professional career, but am struggling with it now. It is much more challenging to be a mentor (a good mentor) than just to give positive feedback and affirmation. This morning, after returning from Orlando, Randon and I were reviewing what had gone on while I was gone. Randon had taken over all my classes. It was great to hear that things had gone so smoothly in my classes and how successful Randon was in teaching the classes, then we started talking about English Literature, a college prep English class. After a bit of discussion, I started realizing that the class was about a week behind where it should be. Presentations that were assigned took a lot longer than they should have, and things weren’t accomplished as I had thought they should have. This was really tough hearing because in a class that is college prep, only meets three times a week, we can’t have down moment. While I was working through all the things that hadn’t been accomplished, Randon became more and more defensive even raising his voice. It was quite a shocker to both myself and my deskmates. I stopped the conversation and asked Randon not to talk to me that way. I also clarified for him why I was disappointed and how the class is expected to do more because of it being a college prep class. This is probably something I had not made clear to him (totally my fault) but I was very clear from here on out, this is something he needs to correct. He has to find a way to get this class back on track. We also talked about how this class, as well as the American Lit class he will be taking over, are different than the English Nine and Ten classes he currently teaches. I am glad I voiced my disappointment and expectations for him. I let him know that Kristin and I are going to hold him to as high of expectations as we do our students. We want him to be the best teacher possible. Randon was clearly upset by the disappointment and it made me think and reflect about how I handled the situation as well as how can I help Randon be more open towards criticism. I do not want him to be defensive but rather open to the learning moment this provided him. I talked to him about that there are two ways he can walk away from this conversation, the first being to be angry and upset, and the second being an opportunity for growth for the both of us.
I spoke with Ray Hawthorne my instructional coach about this encounter looking for some guidance and assistance of how to help Randon grow as a teacher, reflector, and mentee, and also how to help me become a better mentor. We came up with an excellent strategy of taking away the fear of failure from Randon, as well as focusing on his strengths and looking to him for his suggestions as to how I can help him be more open to suggestions for improvement.
Then after school, I used some of the strategies Ray and I spoke about in order to make a more safe environment for Randon to feel open to suggestions for improvement. He let me know what things I could do to help him be more open like walking him through the process of what he did, beginning with the things that went well and then going into the constructive feedback.
I really learned a considerable amount about mentoring today. And, I learned a lot about myself and Randon. I think we both walked away from today as not the best day, but knowing how we need to handle situations like this in the future.

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