What’s Distinctive About The Mentoree?

Mentorship has become a popular buzzword in business, and there are many mentorship programs in education. I first conceived of what became The Mentoree to give back. I have written and spoken about my mentors in education, and I would not be a teacher without them. At my lowest and darkest times, when I was unsure of what I could do for my learners or how to navigate a challenging school context, they helped me help myself. At the best of times, they challenged me, taught me to ask myself better questions, introduced me to new resources and ways of thinking, and were sounding boards to help me problem solve. Creating The Mentoree was an homage to my mentors, but it has become more than I could have imagined, and I am proud to work with our leadership team to continue growing and evolving what we do. The Mentoree is different from mentorship programs because it has a variety of offerings, is self-directed, and is nimble enough to be truly responsive to the community and education at large. We continue to till the soil of our community to ensure that everything and everyone has opportunities for growth.

The Mentoree has five offerings: 1:1 Mentorship, Conversations to Build Capacity, OnEdMentors, Mpact, and Motivators. 1:1 Mentorship is the flagship part of this work. Five years ago, we began as a collaborative inquiry to explore the impact of a self directed mentorship experience for educators. Since our web redesign this summer, in addition to our catalog of available Mentors, we have added a section where Mentees can also create a profile so that Mentors can find them, too. Our self directed Mentorship experience allows educators to seek and find the Mentors they need to support them in the short or long term, for specific skill development, or general teaching and learning skills.

Conversations to Build Capacity evolved in response to the pandemic as educators needed to tool up to teach remotely. It was so successful that we have delineated different types: Circle Conversations, Responsive Presentations, Casual Conversations, and Carousels of Conversation. Circle Conversations are limited to 10 participants plus the Mentor who invites the group to engage and share. They are intimate, cameras on, everyone-has-a-seat-at-the-table gatherings where the conversation is directed by the group. Responsive Presentations have some content to be delivered, but the facilitator engages the audience and invites a collaborative approach. Casual Conversations are a monthly drop-in led by Dr. Teri Rubinoff who invites educators to come and ask their questions, or engage in conversation, about anything related to education. A Carousel of Conversation is an event that we first planned for The University of Ottawa, and we have been able to apply this model for event such as our recent Widening the Lens on Leadership. Each of these Conversations to Build Capacity is an opportunity for our Mentors to lead, Mentees to learn, our community to come together, and for new educators are introduced to our work. All Conversations to Build Capacity offer a space for listening and speaking as a key source of learning.

OnEdMentors is a weekly panel show on voicEd.Radio. It aims to be responsive to the expressed needs of educators by focusing on emerging themes in education. When building the panel, we try to give preference to our community members, we include the voices of educators at a variety of stages in their careers, from preservice through to retirement to share their thinking on the each show’s topic. Each weekly broadcast is archived, and it is the longest running show on voicEd Radio. Last year, I added a new monthly feature called The Mentoree Lounge to provide an opportunity for preservice teachers to ask questions of a panel of Mentors gathered to answer them. It worked well to give educators direct access to a panel, so we have opened it to graduate students, those going through the process to become administrators, and other groups of educators. OnEdMentors is professional learning for me and for our listeners, and I love that some engage through Twitter to add their ideas, reflect on the episode, and share resources. OnEdMentors is one of the highlights of my week, and I work hard to produce each show, developing meaningful questions for a different panel of educators each week.

The idea for Mpact first came from my own challenges incorporating the great professional learning experiences I attended into my practice and actually changing what I do as a result of the PD. I was not alone. Our team started developing a series of learning experiences that invite participants to engage in a topic in as personalizing a way as possible. We start with a proposed plan for the 3 sessions that provides time for participants to set goals and try out new ideas, returning to the group to work through the challenges of embedding change and receive support. We are currently running our third MPact and gathering qualitative data to help us evolve the structure and content of the sessions based on participant feedback. The research we have gathered so far has led us tp develop questions that will help us clarify what makes this offering unique so that we can better communicate that to others.

Motivators was an idea that I first proposed during an ideation meeting, but of all our offerings, it has evolved the most as we work to define it. Motivators is our way of giving back to the Mentors who volunteer their time in our community, and it’s a way to invite new educators into the community. Motivators is a platform for promoting our Mentors to lead in their way, whether it's through consulting, workshops, or facilitation. It’s an open structure where educators have the independence and autonomy to create something. We support them in different ways including helping them communicate about their work and using our platform to invite participants. We will soon provide a catalog of Motivators as we continue to support them in creating a range of workshops, group mentorship opportunities, presentations, and more. Motivators reflects the gradual release approach we are taking to support our Mentors, our community, and educators at large.

Being boardless and borderless is one of our superpowers. Because we don’t operate within a school board, we are much more flexible and can be truly responsive to educator needs without very much bureaucracy. We have processes in place, but we can work faster and gather ideas and educators from everywhere. As a borderless community, we invite Mentors and Mentees to join us from wherever they are. While some aspects of education are localized, there are many universal issues that educators face and we benefit from a world view and sense of perspective. Even our work with aspiring administrators going through the process takes place outside of the boards in which the educators are trying to “move up”. It’s really helpful, as many learned through the pandemic, to talk to others and see how they are ‘doing education’ in their context.

Having a vision of supporting educators at any and every stage of their careers is a worthy cause, but it takes a lot of hard work. We could not be where we are at The Mentoree without the dedication of our leadership team, the commitment of Mentors who contribute regularly to the community, the various offerings that educators engage in, and the constant growth we are seeking. We try to create opportunities that impact the pedagogy of fellow educators and remind everyone that we don't have to do our work alone. Meaningful professional development can be achieved when choice is woven in through different modalities, content that begins where you are, context that meets your learning interests and needs, and Mentors with whom you can build a reciprocal, non-hierarchical and non-evaluative relationship on your own terms, for whatever length of time you need. Being boardless and borderless helps us be adaptive, learn from educators outside our boards and regions, and continue growing this space to cultivate professional learning, well-being, and efficacy.

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Noa Daniel with Teri Rubinoff and Christine Chin