Advice To Beginning Mentors

By: Barry W. Sweeny, 1994

Here is a collection of ideas developed by a group of experienced mentors. Let their experience be a benefit to your mentors and proteges.

1. ALWAYS BE POSITIVE AND SUPPORTIVE - The ability of the protege to grow is dependent on self esteem, which is not at- risk when ASKING for advice, but which IS decreased by unsolicited "advice." Almost always your desire to "suggest" meets your needs more than the protege's. If you really question a practice, ask questions to reveal the thinking behind the decisions.

2. THE PROTEGE DETERMINES HOW MUCH HELP YOU CAN BE - Your success as a mentor is dependent on the protege's readiness and openness for learning. If you offer advice before the right time, it probably can't be understood or used yet by the protege. Remember, you'll only be able to offer an idea once or twice before doing it again is uncomfortable. Wait until the need is felt by the protege too.

3. BE WILLING TO "BACK OFF"- You'll make mistakes of timing or approach when your ideas may be very good. Be open about asking for feedback when that happens and learn from it. Don't create an impression of "pushiness" because that won't be seen as meeting a need in the protege.

4. DON'T TAKE REJECTION OF IDEAS PERSONALLY- More often than not rejection relates to readiness to learn and is a valuable clue about the protege.

5. CONTINUALLY REINFORCE THE CONFIDENTIAL NATURE OF THE RELATIONSHIP - Thank your protege for confidences and personal sharing, these are signs of a deepening relationship and trust which a mentor must earn.

6. RECOGNIZE THE NEED FOR TIME OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL - Plan some social
times and allow for the protege's other areas of life. Don't overdose on help.

7. OFFER TO SUPPORT ADMINISTRATIVE EFFORTS WITH THE PROTEGE, but be
careful not to assume responsibilities that belong to the evaluator.

8. BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT DISCUSSING THE PROTEGE WITH ADMINISTRATORS - Even the perception that this has happened can "close doors' with proteges. Just let the administrator know the discussion makes you uncomfortable and ask to conduct it with the protege present.

9. PLAN AHEAD SO YOU ARE AVAILABLE DURING BUSY TIMES - Busy times for
your protege will come at just the time you are busiest too, so get that work done ahead of time so you can say "yes" and collaborate when the opportunity arises.

10. FOCUS ON THE PROTEGE'S NEEDS - pay attention to statements which reveal levels of concern.* These provide you with clues as to what is appropriate.

11. MOTIVATE PROTEGES THINKING FOR THEMSELVES - Use questions to promote higher level thinking by the protege and to reveal to them the underlying reasons for decisions. Take the time to discuss these reasons.

12. PLAN WAYS TO SPEND TIME TOGETHER - Plan lunch "getaways", formal or spontaneous social events with other staff, & joint work sessions. All of these allow for greater sharing and build- ing of trust.

* Levels of concern are a component of the Concerns - Based Adoption Model (CBAM)


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