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In this Student Academic Mentor Program, I'd like to examine the odds that outnumber the even in implementing the said policy which was started in 2009 and for reasons unknown to many has not been implemented till date. It was an initiative by the IAT Directorate to start this programme for the betterment of student population. In particular this brief addresses the following questions:
Does the SAM program provide mentorship, advice, and
academic guidance to students?
How does it remove learning barriers in order to promote: Self confidence, effective participation and enhancement of individual learning?
Is it really helpful in raising of aspiration, and bringing about achievement of full potential, in students?
Is it a cost effective tool for The Institute of Applied Technology?
Given limited fiscal resources what are the most effective ways to use the policy already in place?
How does it address queries from learners, mentors or managers relating to the program?
What training does it provide for managers and mentors to help them to give effective feedback to young people?
What guidance does it provide for managers about what learners should be doing during this program?
Ideally, mentors should be good role models, exemplify continuous learning, be accepting of beginning teachers and communicate hope and optimism (Rowley, 1999). They are capable of fostering collaborative enquiry and reflection, being empathetic and providing psychosocial support (Carter & Francis, 2001). However, mentors need to undergo training and must be engaging in academic thinking and analysis. They need to be valued for their roles by the higher authorities and their peer group. Imagine schools where the principal and every head of department was a mentor, not because it was mandated by an Education policy directive, but because it was regarded as essential to boosting student learning outcomes, training new teachers, and providing teacher professional development and renewal.
Teaching is our profession, an academic occupation and we need to remind ourselves of this; it is not just babysitting or wasting the time of those entrusted to us. It is trying to achieve outcomes for individuals, where students are people. Expert teachers respond to what is going on in the classroom and teach to assist learning (Edwards & Protheroe, 2004). To remain professionals, we need to keep up with our subjects and academic thinking in the area. Mentoring is an ideal way to do this, as our new teachers bring the latest ideas to the schools. Teachers, however, often feel that academics want to change practice simply for the sake of change but often there are innovative ideas from the university and student teachers themselves. Teachers also need to engage with current research to reciprocate, so that mentoring is a two-way process (Walkington, 2005b).
Even after nearly six years being in the IAT- education system (and 22 years of teaching), I believe in what I'm doing. One of the reasons for this is my mentee, Abdulla Mohammed.
Abdulla Mohammed is now a second year graduate student at the Higher Colleges of Technology. He has learning difficulties due to a very depressing childhood, and coming from a broken home, where his mother left him in the hands of a maid and got married to someone else. Abdullah was a one year old baby when his mother left him. This made him feel insecure, demotivated and an introvert as he knew that his mother lived next door but had no love for him. Constantly this kept eating his mind and getting him into depression. That's where the mentor in me came in and I coached Abdullah for his IELTS (International English Language Testing Skills) test and helped him with assignment writing in his final year at school, and have continued to do this. He is currently working in a bank and pursuing his studies simultaneously. This has, for me, been a revitalisation of my teaching. Abdullah did bring about innovative ideas, enthusiasm and a reminder to think about what I am doing, who I am teaching, and why I became a teacher.
This mentoring, spending time each week encouraging and coaching Abdullah in his assignments and practical work, has been a reinvigorating experience. It is time-consuming; there are no extrinsic rewards nor a salary. You don't get time off to do it and it doesn't even count as professional development - but it is worthwhile. The rewards are intrinsic and from the research (for example, Lopez-Real & Kwan, 2005), other teachers also do it for this reason. These researchers see these intrinsic rewards as collegial stimulation, intellectual engagement, self-reflection and analysis, learning innovative ideas and engaging in mutual collaboration. Introspecting into my inner self has brought about a realisation that everybody however, strong he/she may appear needs to let out, speak to a friend/guide/mentor.
Teaching is indeed an isolated job; teachers go into their classroom and spend time with 20 to 30 students. What they do there is largely their own decision and not visible (Edwards & Protheroe, 2004). "Mentoring" can provide collegial stimulation when classroom happenings are discussed with another individual. An observer can question the reasons for your practice, so that you must reflect on the ' why' rather than just the ' what' of how you teach. Making your private language public is a metacognitive process and part of reflective practice (Vygotsky, in Krause, 2003). Writing about mistakes and successes and evaluating practice is part of improving skills. Everyone makes mistakes but in good teaching practice, one reflects and changes one's practice.
Time in most teachers' days is a commodity in short supply. But knowing how to manage your time and spend it wisely is a necessity. Sometimes this is productive, sometimes it is not. Spending time thinking about your day and sometimes writing a reflective journal to analyse your pedagogy and behaviour helps. Talking to individual students about a conflict and helping them to solve issues is advisable. My mentee has taught me this, as he brought his weekly journal for editing and discussion and we concluded that what he felt had been mistakes and weaknesses, and I did suggest or vocalise what I might have done in the situation.
Linking Mentoring with Project Tasks:
Linking mentoring with objectives and project tasks or activities is a highly productive and effective modern method of training and developing people in organizations, especially for staff in teams and departments, and for developing organizations themselves.
Well-facilitated 'activity focused mentoring' is consensual, team-orientated, with a personal development and team building focus, across multiple organizational interfaces, particularly to and between management/subordinate/peer levels.
Activity focused mentoring methods also help develop systems (not IT and processes, but overall systems: ie., how an organization works), organizations, management and communications, in an open, dynamic, organic, three-dimensional way.
The activity-mentoring approach uses several integrated techniques which produce more reliable and relevant training and learning outputs, in terms of individual skills, attitudinal development, and direct job and organizational performance improvement. The approach is facilitative rather than prescriptive, and broadly features:
strategic assessment of organisational and department priorities and 'high-yield' training needs
interpreted discussion with line-managers of training delegates and strategic managers of the organisation
pre-training skills/behavioural needs-analysis - all training delegates - and pre-training preparatory work
small groups - practical workshops - short sessions - highly participative and situation/solution-based - focused on practical job issues, individual personality/learning style and organisational priorities
individually agreed tasks and assignments - focused on practical priorities and individual needs (SMART and WIIFM factors)
follow-up coaching and mentoring one-to-one support - giving high accountability and reliable deliverables
ongoing feedback and review with line-managers and strategic managers - coaching/task notes for line managers
The process works on several different levels: individual, team, task, organisational and strategic. Activity focused mentoring also gives strong outputs in skills, behaviour and job priority areas, as well as being strongly motivational and where necessary resolving conflict and attitudinal issues.
Mentoring cost analysis and justification:
Mentoring can be provided in various ways and programmes take a variety of shapes. Mentoring can be external, where the mentoring is essentially provided by external people, or an internal activity, using mentors within the organization.
Due to the relative newness of mentoring as a formal organized process, and because mentoring programmes are so varied, statistics as to general costs and returns across industry are not easy to find. Here however are general cost indicators for a program essentially delivered by internally appointed mentors.
The main elements of a mentoring programme that carry quantifiable cost would be:
Training of mentor(s) - comfortably achievable for £1,000/head - it's not rocket science, but selection of suitable mentor is absolutely critical - good natural mentors need little training; other people who are not ready or able to help others can be beyond any amount of training.
Mentor time away from normal activities - needs to be a minimum of an hour a month one-to-one or nothing can usefully be achieved, up to at most a couple of hours a week one-to-one, which would be intensive almost to the point of overloading the mentee. That said, there may be occasions when the one-to-one would necessarily involve a whole day out for the mentor, for instance client or supplier visits. Say on average a day a month including the associated administration work, particularly where the mentoring is required to be formalized and recorded.
Overseeing the program, evaluating and monitoring activity, progress and outputs - depends on the size of the program, ie., number of mentors an number of 'mentorees' - if the mentoring is limited to just a single one-to-one relationship then it's largely self-managing - if it's a programme involving several mentors an mentees then estimate an hour per quarter (3 mths) per one-to-one mentoring relationship - probably the responsibility of an HR or training manager. If this person with the overview/monitoring responsibility needs external advice you'd need to add on two or three days external training or consultancy costs.
(Mentee time away from normal activities - effective mentoring should ideally integrate with the mentee's normal activities, and enhance productivity, effectiveness, etc., so this is arguably a credit not a debit.)
Mentoring principles and techniques:
Rather than simply give the answers, the mentor's role should be to help the 'mentee' find the answers for him/her. While giving the answers is usually better than giving no help at all, helping the mentee to find the answers for him/her provides far more effective mentoring, because the process enables so much more for the mentee in terms of experience of learning. Give someone the answers and they learn only the answers; instead mentors need to facilitate the experience of discovery and learning. The mentor should therefore focus mentoring effort and expectations (of the person being mentored especially, and the organization) on helping and guiding the mentee to find the answers and develop solutions of his/her own.
Mentors need to be facilitators and coaches, not tutors or trainers. Mentorees need simply to open their minds to the guidance and facilitative methods of the mentor. The mentor should not normally (unless in the case of emergency) provide the answers for the mentee; instead a mentor should ask the right questions (facilitative, guiding, interpretive, non-judgmental) that guide the mentee towards finding the answers for him/herself.
If a mentor tells a mentee what to do, then the mentee becomes like the mentor, which is neither right nor sustainable, and does not help the mentee to find his/her own true self.
The mentor's role is to help the mentee to find his/her own true self; to experience their own attempts, failures and successes, and by so doing, to develop his/her own natural strengths and potential.
We can see parallels in the relationship between a parents and a child. If a parent imposes his or her ways, methods and thinking upon a child, the child becomes a clone of the parent, and in some cases then falsifies his or her own true self to please and replicate the model projected by the parent. The true self might never appear, or when it begins to, a crisis of confidence and purpose occurs as the person tries to find and liberate his or her true self.
When we mentor people, or when we raise children, we should try to help them develop as individuals according to their natural selves, and their own wishes, not ours.
Tips on establishing a mentoring service or programme:
There are very many ways to design a mentoring programme, whether within an organization, or as a service or help that you provide personally to others.
Here are some questions that you should ask yourself. The answers will move you closer to what you seek to achieve:
What parameters and aims have you set for the mentoring activity?
What will your mentoring programme or service look and feel like?
What must it achieve and for whom?
What are your timescales?
How will the mentoring programme or activity be resourced and managed and measured?
What type of design and planning approach works best for you? (It makes sense to use a design and planning approach that works for you.)
What are your main skills and style and how might these influence the programme design?
What methods (phone, face-to-face, email, etc) of communication and feedback are available to you, and what communications methods do your 'customers' need and prefer?
What outputs and effects do you want the programme to produce for you, and for the people being mentored?
How might you build these core aims, and the implied values and principles, into your programme design?
How can you best measure and agree that these outputs - especially the agreed expectations of the people being mentored - are being met.
How can you best help people in matters for which you need to refer them elsewhere?
What skills, processes, tools, experience, knowledge, style do you think you will need that you do not currently have?
What do your 'customers' indicate that they want in terms of content, method and style or mentoring - in other words what does your 'target market' need?, and what parts of those requirements are you naturally best able to meet?
As per the Directive (30)/2009 Student Academic Mentor (SAM) Program, the Rational is that
Students admitted to IAT secondary program have academic abilities and personal qualities developed through different educational systems. As a career technical education (CTE) provider, IAT assists its students to further develop their academic abilities, career orientation, and personal qualities. This can be achieved through a continuous mentorship program. The Student Academic Mentor (SAM) program will enhance students' academic performance and personal qualities for success at IAT and beyond, is indeed a good thought. But how can this be achieved?
2. Goal and Objectives
The Goal of SAM Program is to provide support and guidance to IAT students and remove learning barriers to ensure a seamless integration into the IAT educational environment in order to promote:
â€¢ Self confidence.
â€¢ Social success.
â€¢ Effective participation.
â€¢ Enhancement of individual learning.
â€¢ Raise of aspiration and broadening of horizon.
â€¢ Achievement of full potential.
Once again, the goals and objectives are defined but there are no guidelines as to how this can be achieved.
SAM Teachers should focus on the following set of objectives:
â€¢ Provide students with positive role models.
â€¢ Provide general advice to enhance academic performance as well as
â€¢ Provide a framework for positive interaction between students,
mentors, and staff.
â€¢ Provide an orientation to students especially at G10 to the IAT
educational philosophy, services, and programs available to them.
â€¢ Assist students to understand the challenges and opportunities of
joining IAT and enhance their opportunities for academic success.
Assist students to plan for their future career by realizing the students' abilities and interests, by explaining the career demands within the UAE, and the opportunities offered by each career field.
â€¢ Provide students with necessary support and advice to uphold high standards of ethical and behavioral conduct.
â€¢ Assist students in developing realistic and guided understanding of the challenges that they may encounter in their personal and professional lives.
â€¢ Encourage and collaborate with other Mentors in the development of leadership and interpersonal skills.
â€¢ Impact positively on the attrition rates of grade 10 students and the over all students of IAT.
3. SAM Teacher Duties
SAM Teachers main duties are focused on offering mentorship, advice, support, as
well as academic guidance. This requires SAM teachers to be conscientious and
creative in addressing these duties. A list of SAM duties includes, but not limited
to, the following:
â€¢ Hold regular periodic meetings (biweekly at least) with their
assigned students to review their progress and address their issues
â€¢ Review students' files and records prior to every meeting.
â€¢ Explain IAT policies & procedures to students especially the new
â€¢ Keep an updated file for each student, with documentation on all
addressed academic and personal issues.
â€¢ Provide support and encouragement for the students.
â€¢ Assist students in acquiring general learning skills.
â€¢ Advise students on developing career plans and career opportunities
within the UAE in coordination with Career Counselors.
â€¢ Liaise with teachers, counselors, Senior Student Services Support
Coordinator (SSSSC), and admin staff to assist students in receiving
support and guidance required for both; improve learning skills and
academic performance, and resolve behavioral and personal
â€¢ Encourage students' participation in various events and extra
curricular activities such as seminars, socials, games nights,
academic and training workshops.
While striving to accomplish the objectives of SAM program, SAM teachers should realize that a key element in carrying SAM duties is the establishment of a positive relationship with the students. In many aspects, the mentoring relationship is similar to establishing valued human relationships. Therefore, SAM teachers should have a genuine desire to understand the capabilities and expectations of their students, and respect and become sensitive to their feelings and needs. At the same time, mentoring relationships differ in an important way from other personal relationships because they are professional in nature. Hence, SAM teachers are responsible for conveying and upholding the standards and values of IAT.
4. SAM Procedures
The SAM program is established and carried out using the following the general
â€¢ The campus SSSSC prepares lists of SAM's students groups from all
G10 students. Students groups should include members with
heterogeneous abilities and personalities.
â€¢ Teachers are attached to SAM program duties based on assignment
from the Campus Principal.
â€¢ Both, students groups and SAM teacher assignment are presented
to the Campus Academic Committee meeting.
â€¢ Each SAM teacher is assigned a group of no more than 10 students
and remains their mentor until they graduate. In the event of a
mentor leaving IAT, a replacement is to be appointed by the
â€¢ In cases where a severe lack of interaction or a negative interaction
is taking place between a SAM teacher and a student, the student
mentoring is assigned to another SAM teacher based on an approval
of the Campus Principal.
â€¢ SAM Teachers are eligible for a 2 periods/week teaching load
reduction and to be indicated in their teaching load form. Moreover,
the participation of teaching staff in SAM program will be a factor in
their annual performance review and promotion.
â€¢ The campus SSSSC maintains full mentorship records updated
periodically in coordination with SAM teachers.
Below are the various recommendations and concerns for implementing the SAM program from a logistical point of view. Each idea has been listed, outlining strengths and weaknesses.
Students are assigned a specific time (2x10 min) to meet with their mentor during the G 10 break periods of both teachers and students.
one to one interaction
students have specific times to meet with mentor
students lose some of their break time (10 Min)
mentors lose some of their break time (20 min)
students may not show up at appointed time
certain issues may necessitate more than 10 minutes causing total time to be extended more than 20 minutes for teacher
students waiting to see the mentor may be delayed because mentor has extended time with another student
students may not show up at all
Extend end of day (one day) of the week by 20-30 minutes.
Free time created for both students and teachers
grades 11 & 12 students will have to wait until grade 10 students
increased chances of waiting students to be involved in mischief
complaints from parents about students arriving late
group sessions rather than individual
Create a "zero" period one day a week
all grade 10 students and teachers free
ample time to meet with students
students assigned a mentor class to attend
students will be locked into a timeframe
classroom setting - semi private sessions can occur
virtually eliminates 11 & 12 teachers from participating w/o changing schedules
grade 10 class timings to be altered for that day
classroom setting - private and individual sessions can not occur
yet another schedule change during this 1st term
Implement a flex plan for both mentors and students:
mentors in control of scheduling when to meet with students based on available time, e.g.
*before classes start (7:00-7:30)
*during class time (if necessary) with agreement from subject teacher
*non instructional days or periods like National Day, CEW, student assemblies, etc
neither mentor nor student loses any break time unless by choice
students can be seen one-on-one
mentor not restricted to a specific amount of time to see student
grades 11 & 12 teachers can participate w/o constraint of G10 schedule
more teachers participating means less number of students to mentor per teacher which helps minimize scheduling time to see student
SAM program becomes totally voluntary for both students and teachers as designed; therefore students less likely to not show up
mentors will have to be more vigilant in tracking students' academic and behavioral activities
more time management and coordination skills will have to be utilize
After analyzing the above options, I recommend IAT Dubai implement option 4 (Flex Plan). This relates only to logistical issues. Goals, objectives, and mentors' duties remain the same as per directive 30.
This plan meets the criteria put forth in Directive 30 as a voluntary program. As with any new initiative, periodic review will be necessary in order to insure maximum program effectiveness.
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Edwards, A., & Protheroe, L. (2004). 'Teaching by proxy: Understanding how mentors are positioned in partnerships'. In Oxford Review of Education, 30 (2), 183-197.
Krause, K., Bochner, S., Duchnesne, S. (2003). Educational Psychology for Learning and Teaching. Melbourne: Thomson Nelson, Australia Pty Ltd.
Lopez-Real, F., & Kwan, T. (2005). 'Mentors' perceptions of their own professional development during mentoring'. In Journal of Education for Teaching, 31 (1), 15-24.
Martinez, K. (2004). 'Mentoring New Teachers: Promise and problems in times of teacher shortage'. In Australian Journal of Education, 48 (1), 95-108.
Rowley, J. B. (1999). 'The Good Mentor'. In Educational Leadership, 56 (8), 20-22.
Walkington, J. (2005b). 'Becoming a Teacher: Encouraging development of teacher identity through reflective practice'. In Asia Pacific Journal of Teacher Education (Vol. 33, pp. 53-64).