Book Review of Mentoring Materials

By Brian Roach
June, 2010

After school while cleaning up the classroom, you discover an anonymously written note in which one student explains thoughts of suicidal ideation to another student. You do not know for whom the note was intended. This is one of the excerpts I found, regrettably, beneficial to contemplate. What would I do if I were the teacher in this situation? What is the situation? Who would I talk to? What would I do? These are some of the aspects this book brings to light.

Although I have not started my student teaching experience, I have been able to refer to this book for preparation and, occasionally, to free me from a jam. The authors informed me that these stories have been used with countless staff development sessions where the “solutions” from the teacher and workshop participants always come up with wide and varied answers depending on the school setting.  It would certainly be impossible to list even a few answers to the scenarios as there are way too many to select from.

This practical book provides relevance and is beneficial for all teachers and mentors. It pulls you into unique scenarios that usually wouldn’t surface to a pre-service teacher’s attention (like mine), as well as predictable scenarios that teachers and mentors have thought of or have experienced. Each scenario requires you to brainstorm a resolution process through a combination of theory and practice. You are asked to identify the key issue or issues in each scenario, find resources to assist in exploring potential solutions for each scenario, and create a plan to mend each scenario.

Chapter one, Whose Job Is It Anyway?  Defining the Roles of the Mentor and New Teacher, is a fast pace set of 40 mini-scenarios ranging from the mundane situation of, “You just jammed the copy machine at 8:00 am and there is a line of teachers behind you” all the way to “You find a suicide note on the floor of your classroom”. After each scenario, you are not only asked to identify the dilemma, but to consider resources and individuals with whom you could speak in order to create a resolution plan. In addition, select scenarios throughout this chapter have been anonymously responded to by two distinct groups of teachers: experienced (30 + years) and new teacher (0-6 years).

Chapter two, How Can We Make This Work? Mentors Overcoming Obstacles, presents 20 scenarios that are a bit longer than chapter one.  The premise is that the mentor is well trained and ready to help, but the new teacher brings various concerns and problems that never surfaced during the hiring process. And now, the mentor needs to jump in and save the day.

Chapter three , Isn’t My Mentor Supposed to Help Me? When Mentors and New Teachers Struggle to Connect with Each Other, is probably the most intriguing. This chapter contains 10 in-depth case studies that are often never addressed in new teacher induction programs. Each story tells of unique circumstances where the new teacher, for all practical purposes, is doing just fine. It’s the mentor teacher who has issues and is throwing the wrench in the works.  Each case study is followed by four, thought-provoking questions—that I certainly had to pause on—and further analysis of the situation using the latest research under the header, Another Look. 

This book includes scenarios that all teachers and mentors should consider, as well as helpful case studies for teachers and mentors that are career changers, from the administrative side, have a military background, are crossing international boundaries, have a disability, and others. Additionally, this book is built on a foundation of research and provides insightful references for further reading. Plus, it includes reflections and suggestions in support of specific strategic implementation and does not include definitive solutions. It is because the scenarios and case studies do not provide definitive solutions that I find this book accurate, relevant, and applicable to education. Think of it this way: when driving, there is never only one route to get to your destination; consequently, the more possibilities available to you, the more prepared you’ll be when the unexpected stumbles across your route.


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