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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Mentor hat Vs. Colleague Hat

Last week, our MDTA colleagues were invited to chat to our Deputy Principal about how they were going with the MDTA programme and how it was working alongside their mentors.  The conversation came up, as we realised, the MDTA teachers had many opportunities to reflect with each other, or with their mentor teachers, but had not really had the opportunity to discuss their professional teaching experiences with our SLT (Senior Leadership Team).  

After their discussion, I asked Michelle if there was any feedback from them that I should consider and reflect on.  What she said was very simple, yet powerful.  That was:  "Know when to take the mentor hat off, and put the colleague hat on.  Sometimes, they just want to vent and don't want advice.  Sometimes they do.  It's up to you as a mentor to decide which hat to wear for each situation."

This was an extremely important message for me to hear.  I tend to have high expectations of myself, my class and also my colleagues, including those from the MDTA programme.  Because of that, I can sometimes forget that sometimes, people just want to be listened to, rather than be given 'feedforward' or 'next steps' to make it better all the time.  It's like when a child has finally written a story, after months of defiance or little interest in writing.  You don't pounce on the student for no full stops.  You celebrate that it was written and you give encouragement so that they feel like writing again.

It's the same with the MDTA teacher in my classroom.  I am a mentor, and I can get caught up in trying my best to help the 'mentee' (I hate that word) to be the best teacher they can be.  When I hear that a lesson didn't go as expected or that students were not working up to the usual standard, I take it as I am not doing a good job as a mentor.  It can be stressful, because I take on the problems of the MDTA teacher as my own problems.  Through the power of Michelle's words, I was able to take a step back.  It is OK if I don't have all the answers, and in fact, sometimes it's better not to, because that means that the MDTA teacher can learn for themselves.

I feel like I am caught in a battle between letting the MDTA teacher learn for themselves and learn from their own mistakes - which can sometimes be the best way to learn.  And, being there as a teacher to help them through a situation.

The challenge is knowing when to put the colleague hat on and just listen and be there to say "That sucks, but oh well, next time!"  and the mentor hat and say "That sucks, next time you could try...have you considered..."

I am only a small part of their teaching journey - at the end of this year - no matter how hard I try, they won't be perfect - because no teacher is.  So, I need to let go of that notion and relax and enjoy the team teaching experience, and hope that somehow, something I do/say might be of some use to them in their own future classes.

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