Valerie Stone & Kristen Heiser


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A Toolbox Full of Essentials Needed for a Successful Mentor Program

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Valerie Stone & Kristen Heiser

  1. 1. KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CREATING A STRUCTURED, EFFECTIVE MENTOR PROGRAM What partners should be involved in the creation of the mentoring program and how?  District administrators? Building administrators? Teacher association leaders? Paraeducator association leaders? There is no single program design that meets the needs of every district in every situation. Urban schools encounter different challenges than rural schools and large districts may structure their mentor program differently from smaller districts. The very first step is to develop trust within your school district/agency. There must be a climate of trust specifically between (central) administration and the teacher and paraeducator associations to ensure meaningful collaboration between all interested parties. Who will be providing ongoing direction for the mentoring program?  For a Mentor program to be successful and have validity it is necessary to have supportive, effective leadership. It is essential to include an educational leader (from central administration) within your district as well as coordinators who can act as “Project Managers” to facilitate trainings, follow-up support, and address issues as they arise. The Coordinators (aka project managers) are the “go to” person before addressing the details with the central administrator. What criteria will be used to select mentors and how long should they serve?  The following characteristics may comprise specific guidelines for selecting effective mentors, and can be organized into four categories: 1) attitude and character, 2) professional competence and experience, 3) communication skills, 4) interpersonal skills. Overall, an effective mentor exercises diplomacy in collegial relationships and models a devotion to the profession. Of course, there must be discussion as to who will be involved in choosing mentors. An equitable move would be for the district to use the same procedure as their hiring practices. How will resources, expertise and mediation training be available to the mentors?  There are no easy solutions to this challenge. It necessitates cooperation between a school district and its associations and may involve significant changes to contracts. The way a district supports its mentors requires systemic changes that affect school climate and a host of policies and procedures governing school business. Most importantly, training for mentors should be ongoing through monthly planning and informational meetings throughout the school year. However, all parties must be supportive and flexible, recognizing the time limitations of adult education staff.
  2. 2.  How does building staff access the mentor program and what kind of staff development would be available for staff through the mentor program?  The details of accessing the mentor program should be discussed once the instrumental team is developed (Central Administrator and Coordinators). It may be best to create committees so that all invested with a stake in its outcome should be fully involved in its planning and implementation. The first step is to determine the needs of your building/district so you may implement appropriate trainings/workshops that are relevant to your staff, ultimately improving student learning. Expect this to be changing and evolving, due to change in student population as well as staff in your building. How do you ensure relationships remain confidential?  Confidentiality should be governed by clear, carefully crafted policies. Staff needs to be confident that the dialogue they have with a mentor is safe and secure, and that they will get nurturing and supportive feedback from the mentor. Policies should be designed to maintain the integrity of the mentoring relationship according to high standards of professionalism. While initiating a dialogue with policymakers be sure to address this as well as addressing a long-range view of the benefits of mentoring. Be certain to check if you have existing state or local mentoring policies?
  3. 3. QUALITIES OF AN EFFECTIVE MENTOR A Mentor has a positive attitude when assisting in creating working relationships with all staff and students. A Mentor exhibits strong commitment to improving the partnership of a well-integrated team, increase others confidence and share in the celebration of their achievements. A Mentor always displays a professional manner and maintains confidentiality at all times. A Mentor has prior knowledge and experience to offer guidance, as well as recognizing others strengths to build upon. A Mentor has good communication skills and interpersonal skills to listen, understand, reflect, and share with others. A Mentor is approachable, conveys enthusiasm and has a good sense of humor. THE MENTOR ACTS AS A CHANGE AGENT through effective communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creative problem solving. BENEFITS OF A SUCCESSFUL MENTOR PROGRAM A Mentor program is most successful when the Mentors are selected for their knowledge, expertise, communication and interpersonal skills and is most effective given appropriate mentor training. Mentoring promotes professionalism while increasing collaboration and decreasing isolation. Mentors communicate accurate information to staff, providing a set of clear expectations of the roles and responsibilities of that staff member. A Mentor program can offer an increased knowledge of instructional and behavioral intervention strategies that promote student success. A Mentor program supports the development of knowledge, skills and abilities needed to improve student learning. Mentors provide encouragement and emotional support while encouraging others in increased confidence, communication, and problem-solving skills. Mentors can establish collaborative relationships premised on trust, collegiality and confidentiality, in turn establishing a positive educational setting. Who benefits from a mentoring program? Administrators, teachers, service providers, paraeducators, and most importantly……………...THE STUDENTS! EASTERN SUFFOLK BOCES MENTOR PROGRAM PRESENTS
  4. 4. A TOOLBOX FULL OF ESSENTIALS NEEDED FOR A SUCCESSFUL MENTOR PROGRAM presented byValerie Stone, Teacher Mentor Coordinator Kristen Heiser, Paraeducator Mentor Coordinator Prioritize the list of needs below, relative to your own school:  Implement strategies to effectively manage student behaviors  Maintain ethics and professionalism  Identify and understand the roles and responsibilities within the classroom setting  Improve communication skills within the educational unit  Learn and follow building policies and procedures  Learn how to deal with conflicts in the classroom1.) ______________________________________________________________________________2.) ______________________________________________________________________________3.) ______________________________________________________________________________4.) ______________________________________________________________________________5.) ______________________________________________________________________________6.) ______________________________________________________________________________7.) ______________________________________________________________________________8.) ______________________________________________________________________________9.) ______________________________________________________________________________10.) _____________________________________________________________________________
  5. 5. THE TEN DEMANDMENTS OF PROFESSIONALISM • Always treat others with respect and preserve their dignity. • Always do what is in the students’ best interest. • Seek solutions, not blame. • Model tolerant, patient, dignified, and respectful behavior. • Use the least intrusive intervention possible. • Connect with your students. • Instill hope for success (otherwise there is no reason for kids to behave in your class). • NEVER do anything disrespectful, illegal, immoral, ineffective, bad for health/safety, or that you wouldn’t want done to you. • NEVER give up on a student. You may be frustrated with the actions of a student, but keep believing in his/her ability to learn. CATCH KIDS BEING GOOD….A LOT!------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- DIGNITY AND RESPECT… We are all entitled to it, yet those who can’t advocate for themselves need caring people to ensure their lives are dignified and they are respected. DON’T ASSUME… That just because a person has limitations and may be non-verbal, that they don’t hear you, understand you, and feel hurt by your words, tone, or actions.