Tuakana teina and mentoring

I’ve just read this blog post from Karyn Gray: Ma te tuakana te teina e totika. Ma te teina te tuakana e totika.

It’s well worth a read, but I really wanted to share one key point from it.

Karyn talks about some of her mentors and mentions that 3 of them are younger than her and some are less experienced, but this does not matter. Karyn is still able to learn from them and be challenged.

“Tuakana teina is not about age or even about experience. Its about knowing who is going to challenge you in a constructive way and help you continue to learn regardless of your position or theirs.”

This is mentoring. This is the mentor/mentee relationship. It’s also a reminder that both the mentor and the mentee can benefit from this relationship.

In my wider work I often work with teachers/school leaders who have far more experience (and age) than I do. Sometimes I wonder how I can be helping/supporting/guiding them, and yes, nerves can be there sometimes! This post has reminded me that we ALL have something to offer. It’s also not about having all the answers but working together to work through the issue/focus they currently have.

Stop finding solutions!

How To Escape Problems
I mentioned in an earlier post that I want to question more. This includes in my general day-to-day work. I’ve still got a long way to go with it, however both as a facilitator and virtual mentor I see the need to ask good questions and even answer questions with a question to guide whoever I’m working with to find their own solutions.

I was just thinking about how I seem to be hard-wired to try to find solutions. It’s a bit like what the marriage/relationship books say. When your wife comes to tell you a problem she doesn’t want you to fix it! Except… I think that often when teachers/school leaders are telling me a problem they are wanting me to come up with a solution.

But is that my job? Am I there to solve their problems or perhaps to help them see things in a different light?

While I’m not likely to come out with a, “this is the answer you’ve been looking for!”, I do suggest things that they could try or give examples of other schools or teachers that might help. But perhaps I need to be putting things back on them a little more? Should I be questioning their questions? Or maybe paraphrasing or rephrasing what they have told me so that they can hear a slightly different perspective?

Somewhere I can work on this is at home. My children often come to me and my wife and tell them a problem they have. They often don’t ask for help or sometimes even try to find a solution to their problem. I will often try to guide them to find their own solutions (with varying degrees of success).

I know that sometimes I just need someone to bounce ideas and thoughts off of. Perhaps we should be doing this more. Help guide those we work with, whether they be children, teenagers or adults, to find their own solutions instead of relying on others to always be there to help them out.

What do you do when people come to you with their problems?

Virtual mentoring

This year I have joined the team of Developing Virtual Mentors (DVMs) as a part of Virtual Professional Learning and Development (VPLD). This is a reflection as a part of my learning during this new journey I am on.

Coming into the virtual mentoring role for the first time this year is a little nerve-wracking for me. In some ways I feel like I don’t have enough experience to mentor someone else, yet at the same time I believe my nature, skills and the experiences I have had will help enable me to develop into an effective virtual mentor.

My nature is generally quiet, reserved, introverted. This of course could be an advantage to a virtual mentor as I have often been perceived as a good listener and sounding board. I also (usually) think before I speak and so will take time to digest what has been said before responding. Of course this could also be an issue in a synchronous online space as those silences can be quite deafening sometimes and the desire to fill the void may come to the fore.

I have a lot of experience in working online, running webinars and supporting people online, so my skills in this area could be quite valuable.

The biggest barrier for me may actually be finding a quiet space. With mentees generally available after school hours, my children will be out and about the house during this time and can often make quite a noise! The other barrier of course is my confidence, but that will increase over time (and in fact has already increased during my first virtual mentoring meeting.

While slightly nervous, I’m quite excited by this new role and am looking forward to the learning that will continue along the way.

Teaching for the times

After attending an interesting and inspiring talk with Dr Gary Stager yesterday I have been thinking about what we as teachers can do to teaching for the time that our students live in. Dr Stager suggested that working with students on real-life problems helps to motivate them to be interested in learning.

The big question we as educators should be asking is, “Why do our students need to know this?” If we are working with our students on real-life problems then the teaching and learning experiences can come out of the problem-solving. What better way to teach literacy, numeracy and the like than in a situation that the students can relate to.

Dr Stager showed examples of students of mixed age and ability mentoring each other. It wasn’t only the older students mentoring younger students but the ‘experts’ mentoring those with less experience whether older or younger. Using technology (computers, Lego etc) they created machines/programs that would solve problems that they had. Or they may create working models of things they are interested in. During the process they would need to learn the tools they are using, the mathematics, literacy or science (etc) that is required to get the desired result.

These are genuine, authentic learning experiences, and to me they are far more interesting than learning geometry, or the water cycle just because that’s what the teacher is teaching.

Why are we teaching what we are teaching? Why does the student need to know it?

We need to continue to ask ourselves these questions, and work towards developing authentic learning experiences which have meaning and purpose for our students. It’s far more than gaining credits or a qualification. It’s learning to learn.