When looking at mentoring there is no set definition as it is based on the situation and how the mentoring is taking place whether in an informal or formal context. I have looked at CUREE which states that mentoring is a structed and recognised procedure to help professional learners through career changes. (CUREE, 2005) This works when looking at professional changes however when you looking at children and how they need to be mentored there are many differences and there are also two different types of mentoring, one being developmental and the other sponsorship, which helps to show how there cannot be one set definition. For that reason, I will be using “Mentoring is a supportive, long-term relationship between an experienced mentor and their less experienced mentee. The idea is that the more senior mentor passes on knowledge and guidance as the mentee finds their feet in a new role.” As the definition of mentoring for this essay as it will allow me to talk about mentoring children in the primary school I work in and how colleagues mentor each other throughout the day, whether that be teaching student teachers or helping someone who is not familiar with a certain area of study or idea. According to (Wareing, 2009) There are large differences between formal and informal mentoring for example in formal mentoring there is a set time frame and goals to show where the mentee should be after about 6-8 weeks of mentoring, there is also a signed contracted between the mentor the mentee and the school/organisation the mentor is working with. On the other hand, informal mentoring is usually initiated by the mentee and is not normally recognised as being mentoring as there is no agreement between the mentor and mentee meaning it’s not restricted to a timeframe or goal expectances. When it comes to mentoring no matter who the mentor and mentee are there are six soft skills that are essential for the mentoring to be effective, these are: building the relationship, rapport, body language, listening, questioning and feedback.
The first soft skill I will be looking at is building a relationship which can be hard with children especially at primary school age because some of them don’t like to disclosure anything to us so we try to use something called a conversation ladder. This framework by (Megginson and Clutterbuck, 2007) shows how starting the conversation with something about their name and their family can help to start to open up to us as educators. You can then expand to go on to talk about how their work is and if they are struggling or succeeding which can in turn lead onto any other problems that may or may not be school related, allowing the mentor to see where the problems are and how they can begin to try and help the child. What is good about these conversation ladders is that it can be used on adults as well such as our colleagues. With this in mind, (Garringer and Jucovy, 2007) show what a successful mentor consists of and a mentorship cycle. The best mentors are ones who understand that positive changes don’t happen quickly and that if they are to happen the two must meet regularly and for enough time that they are able to build a close relationship which will help the child to develop self-confidence and a bit of resilience. The relationship between the mentor and the mentee need to be like a friendship which can be hard to achieve through formal mentoring which is why the child is more likely to open up through the use of informal mentoring and the mentor having the necessary skills to be able to appear on level with the child and to form that friendship which is key in any mentoring situation either with children or with colleagues.
The next soft skill is questioning which is probably one of the most important one of the six soft skills, as it is when the mentor is able to get down to the core of the problems with the mentee. This links to the title of the essay where it says, ‘a brain to pick’ showing how important it is to ask relevant and precise questions when talking to a mentee. However sometimes these questions have to be subtle especially when talking to children as they are sometimes unlikely to disclose any information or are unable to as they don’t know the information you need to know. For this reason, Socratic questions are very important and can draw out the information the mentor needs without the child realising it. By looking at When looking at Socratic questioning there are 6 different types. (changingminds.org, 2018) To begin with conceptual clarification questioning which is aimed at getting them to look at what is being asked of them and to sit and think about their response which helps with them proving the concept behind their argument, this allows for a deep understanding of the question and answer. Secondly, probing assumptions which looks at if they are assuming something and helps them to think about if they are making presuppositions when answering the questions. Thirdly, probing rationale, reasons and evidence which is where you look at the reasoning behind the answer rather than assuming it is correct. Next, questioning view points and perspectives which is where you attack the position of the answer and as for other viewpoints perhaps a family member or a friend. There is also probe implications and consequences questions which look at whether the answer you have been given makes sense and are what you would have liked. Finally, questions about the questions which helps them to reflect on the question asked initially and to get them to think about how it can help them. As you can see Socratic questioning can help get to the bottom of the problem with the mentee and help the mentee and mentor think about the responses.
The third soft skill is rapport which is defined as “Mutual understanding between persons; sympathy, empathy, connection; a relationship characterized by these.” (Oxford English Dictionary, 2018). This shows how important building rapport is when it comes to mentoring as the mentee should be able to trust the mentor and be in a position where they are able to tell them anything and everything so that the mentor is able to help this. Also, if the mentor has built the rapport using body language such as maintaining eye contact and connecting with the mentee as well as making them feel comfortable and relaxed then they will be able to help them whereas if they didn’t spend the time to build that rapport the result would be completely different. (Inspirationalsolutions-nlp.co.uk) One of the most useful ways of getting a student to open up to you and build the rapport especially in primary schools is by getting the students comfortable talking about general ideas such as their favourite sport and then use that as an opening whenever you are trying to talk to them.
Furthermore, the fourth soft skill is listening which links with questioning as you must be able to accurately listen to the response so that you can help mentor the mentee. Again, this links back to the title “mentoring…is an ear to listen” (Crosby, N.D). There are two terms when talking about listening, hearing which is a passive response, whilst listening is more of an active response and involves you concentrating. For you to be successful when mentoring you need to be actively listening so that you can reach a clearer understanding of the responses from the questions you are asking. Listening links with other soft skills such as body language which help to show that you are actively listening such as nodding and making constant eye contact with the speaker. This also helps them feel calm and comfortable when talking to you as they feel like they are being heard and able to discuss it with you. On the other hand, when talking with mentees you need to also allow them a bit of time to think and process and questions you have asked and how they will respond this time is just as important as actively listening to them. (Effective listening skills in mentoring, n.d)