Mentor was the trusted counselor of the Greek king Odysseus and under whose disguise Athena became the guardian and teacher of Telemachus. "Mentor" has come to mean a trusted teacher - one who passes on technique, skills and wisdom to a younger person (Stom, 1996).
Mentoring is designed to enlarge student's range of vision about their lives and to aid students in academic achievement and success at the workplace. Although Mentors can make a difference in the lives of youth, they cannot provide quickfix answers to problems that have been long in the making. A program in which mentors meet with students for only a few hours per week cannot begin to minimize or mitigate the challenges that face our young people today.
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 program 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?
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: i.e., 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
Characteristics of Good Mentors:
Not all the characteristics that can make a mentor effective, can be listed. However, certain traits can be cultivated and are really important.
Understand time commitment:
Mentors should be genuinely committed to this program. Children who have been let down by others in their lives, cannot be disappointed by a mentor, who for them is someone they look up to.
Provide a support structure:
A mentor is a leader, a guide, a coach. As the student embarks on a journey, the mentor supports and guides the student. A mentor encourages the mentee to think, act and evaluate. They praise, ponder and think effectively. They help in shaping the young person's life. They have a hand in moulding the life of the young person, helping him to follow his dreams, to use his strengths and face challenges in life.
Respect Young people:
A good mentor is open to learning from a young person's point of view. He / She respects the young individual.
Understand the challenges that face today's youth, both in and out of school:
Violence is a way of life for many youngsters, today. In this media oriented society, information comes to them from all directions. They're under great pressure to become and behave like adults quickly.Some of the issues like cultural diversity, AIDS awareness, which were not faced by the mentors themselves, grapple our youth regularly.
Demonstrate a willingness to be as non-judgmental as possible:
Mentors should be motivating factors to get the youngsters to speak out their feelings, dreams and concerns. As an active listener, much care should be taken not to direct the youngster, but rather encourage him to be self-directed. The mentor should provide the mentee ample opportunities to speak cause initially being youngsters, they will shy out to open up to a stranger.
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
Comparison between teaching and mentoring:
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). As professionals we need to keep abreast of all that's happening around us. Mentoring is an ideal way to do this, as our new teachers bring the latest ideas to the schools. 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. No doubt, it's time consuming and there are no extrinsic rewards nor a salary. 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 boosters that cause stimulation, intellectual engagement, 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 to be, needs to let out, speak to a friend/guide/mentor.
"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. Cause many a times, teaching is an isolated job and what the teacher does with a class of 20 -24 students is entirely his/her decision and not monitored or visible to others. Students are the ones who suffer very often as there are moments they cannot understanding the methods or the methodology followed. That's when they need to see a mentor who will try and raise this matter with the Administrators or simply with the people in charge to necessitate the required change. 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.
Mentoring cost analysis and justification:
Mentoring can be provided in various ways and programs 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 programs 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 program that carry quantifiable cost would be:
Training of mentor(s) - comfortably achievable if senior teachers conduct in service professional development for the other staff members, in order to save costs in getting professional Mentors - 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. 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, i.e., number of mentors an number of 'mentees' - if the mentoring is limited to just a single one-to-one relationship then it's largely self-managing - if it's a program involving several mentors and mentees then estimate an hour per quarter (3 months) per one-to-one mentoring relationship - probably the responsibility of an HR/Student Services Coordinator 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.)
Tips on establishing a mentoring service or program:
There are very many ways to design a mentoring program, 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 program or service look and feel like?
What must it achieve and for whom?
What are your timescales?
How will the mentoring program 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 program design?
What methods (phone, face-to-face, email, etc) of communication and feedback are available to you?
What outputs and effects do you want the program 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 program 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?
Mentee End of the Year Evaluation Questionnaire:
Your Name: ____________________________________________________________
Your Mentor's Name: ____________________________________________________
How would you explain your participation in the Mentoring Program?
Excellent Good Not so good Bad Terrible
Describe your relationship with your mentor.
Strong Comfortable Uncomfortable Unhealthy
How often did you meet up with your Mentor?
Never 1-4 times 5-10 times very often
4. Was your mentor present for all the school meetings? YES NO
If not, what was your mentor's reason for his/her absence?
5. Did you attend all the school - based meetings? YES NO
If not, what your reason for not attending? Did you inform your mentor that you would be absent?
6. Did you go on any field trip with your mentor? YES NO
7. Who made the effort to speak during your meetings? You or your mentor?
Yourself Your mentor Both of you equally
8. Now, that your program has come to an official end, will you keep in touch with your mentor?
I probably won't I don't know I probably will For sure, I will
9. Did your mentor have more than one mentee? YES NO
If yes, how do you feel about sharing your mentor with other mentees?
10. Did the mentor program help you personally? Briefly explain.
11. What activities would you like to be included as part of the Mentoring Program?
12. What are your suggestions to improve the Mentoring Program?
FOR THE MENTOR:
Please "introduce yourself" to your mentee by giving him/her a brief BIO of yourself. Don't forget to write your name, your contact details, and what are your likes and dislikes. Let him know your strengths. Also, be sure to inform him how you got involved in the mentor program. Write as much you want, but be sure you write things about yourself, that you want your mentee to know.
What do you prefer to be called? ___________________________________________________________
When were you born? _______________________________________ Age? ____________________
Who do you live with in your home? ______________________________________________________________________________________
What is your favorite?
Sport to play /watch? ________________________________________________
television show? __________________________________________________
food or type of food? __________________________________________________
type of music/artist? _________________________________________________
What activities are you involved in after school? (job, club, sport, hobby)
Describe what you like to do in your spare time and on weekends. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Do you have an after-school job? YES NO If yes, where?
How many hours do you sleep most nights? ______________________________________________________________________________________
What do you plan to do after graduation from IAT?
What do you like best about school? ______________________________________________________________________________________
What do you like least about school? ______________________________________________________________________________________
What is your favorite academic subject? Why?
What is your least favorite academic subject?
How much time do you typically spend studying/doing homework after school? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
For which subject(s)? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Who has had the most influence on you? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What has been the most influential/life-changing event in your life thus far?
Describe your talents. What do you do well? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
If you had a choice, where would you spend your time? Or where would you like to travel? Explain in your own words.
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.
As per the policy document, 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 personal qualities.
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.
â€¢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.
If you go back to the goals and objectives of the SAM program, it clearly states that it is to provide support and guidance to IAT students and remove learning barriers to ensure a seamless integration into the IAT educational environment. But the objectives stated are much much moreâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.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. At this juncture, the teacher has to play the role of a teacher, a mentor as well as a career counselor. Couple of questions that come to mind are.
Are the teachers aware of the job opportunities in the UAE?
Are they well versed with all the companies that IAT has signed a memorandum with?
Do they at least know what the careers open are for these youngsters?
Having worked simultaneously as a Career Counselor/Internship Supervisor for the past three years, I can say that the answer is negative. So, as per the objective of the policy document, this is not feasible as teachers need to be trained and made aware of all the above, before they begin.
Impact positively on the attrition rates of grade 10 students and the over all students of IAT. This is another objective that causes a bit of a conflict in the overall aim of the policy. The aim of the policy was to start the Mentoring program for Grade 10 students only. However, without a careful study of the policy or adding any clauses, it was made mandatory for all the students at IAT, which included Grade 10, Grade 11 and Grade 12 students. While all of this sounded like a good idea, it turned into a fiasco. First, the proposed mentoring program was not connected as per the policy document and secondly, the school, the coordinator and the volunteer mentors all had vastly different expectations about the objectives of the program.
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 and concerns.
â€¢ Review students' files and records prior to every meeting.
â€¢ Explain IAT policies & procedures to students especially the new ones.
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 matters.
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.
As per the SAM policy document, the SAM teacher duties are clear, but confusingâ€¦ Encourage students' participation in various events and extra curricular activities such as seminars, socials, games nights, academic and training workshops. Our students are in the age group of 14 -15, and encouraging them to participate in socials and games nights, needs besides mentoring, monitoring as well. Speaking from past experiences, much care has to be taken to make sure that the student participates in culturally sound activities, as otherwise it could have an adverse effect on the youngster. Moreover, care has to be taken to ensure that the student reaches home after such events.
4. SAM Procedures
The SAM program is established and carried out using the following the general guiding procedures:
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 Principal immediately. 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.
In the event of a mentor leaving IAT, a replacement is to be appointed by the Principal immediately.What happens in a case where the Principal leaves? Much time is lost as the new Principal has to study the policy back again and see the positive as well as the negative aspects of the Policy as to why it was not implemented, and come out with solutions. So, who suffers really are the mentees. It happened at IAT, we've lost valuable time as the said policy, has not yet, been implemented and needs careful reviewing, moreover as we have yet another grade level added to our education system - the Grade 9 students, who all the more being younger, need mentoring and proper guidance to achieve the IAT standards of Education.
Mentoring in Action:
Below are the various recommendations and concerns for implementing the SAM program from a logistical point of view. A committee was formed as the SAM Committee which comprised of the Vice Principal, Student Services Support Coordinator, the Career counselor, Student Council Advisor, two teachers and a Student Service Officer. 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, Career Exploration Week, 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. However, a new policy is in the making with minor amendments, so that, we could cater to the Grade 9 students as well.
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.
Mentoring is not a new concept but one that has increased significance in the realm of preparing youth for successful careers in today's world (Stom 1996). We do remember all the people who made a difference to our lives. Our parents, a neighbor, a teacher, a friend or anyone who spent time just listening to us and taught us a skill of how to achieve what we want to achieve. Mentoring programs do allow these relationships to develop. To ensure that your program is a success, start small, remember to include all parties in the planning stages, establish regular communication vehicles and train both mentor and student in program expectations Dykman, 1996).