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Mentoring the EduMentors

How often have you had the chance to be a mentor? Sometimes it is a genuine pleasure to be able to be able to stand alongside another person who has similar interests and concerns to you, someone who is starting out on a new endeavour or in a new role who you can offer advice to, someone who is open to being asked clarifying questions or being nudged into action.

Mentoring the EduMentors

As a Professor of Teacher Education, I am interested in and invested in mentoring as an approach to support professional learning and development.  I am also still thrilled when I can offer to be a mentor.

So, I am very pleased to be able to mentor Abul Kalam and Aaron Berry, especially when their work is itself focused on mentoring. 

A few weeks into Covid-19 lockdown a new initiative, EduMentoring, was launched on twitter [@Edumentoringuk by London-based Abul Kalam [@HereToLearn]. EduMentoring is a virtual, rather than face-to-face, mentoring scheme through which teachers can volunteer to act as mentors to others looking for mentoring at any stage of their career. Abul was quickly joined by Aaron Berry [@aaronaberry], a teacher based in Settle who offered his support to the project. The two of them have already had 600 requests for participation and have been busy making matches in mentoring partnerships.  

Setting up this initiative is timely during the Covid-19 pandemic. As schools have made the transition to teachers supporting home-learning and reallocation of school provision to keyworker childcare, teachers and school leaders have had their routines disrupted and expectations on them expanded. In a recent blogpost I reflected on the fact that student teachers and newly qualified teachers have experienced some inevitable disruption to their existing mentoring relationships. Having acknowledged that it is timely, one ambition that I share with Aaron and Abul is that the new EduMentoring initiative will last much longer than the pandemic. In this respect it is interesting to me to reflect on the significance of shared concerns and common goals is in mentoring relationships.  

It is also interesting to follow the development of #EduMentoring through their twitter hashtag. Here we can see glimpses of the early impact of the concept (quoted with tweeters’ permissions). For example, @JWilsonteaches tweeted that ‘Today was the first of what I hope will be many interactions with my @Edumentoringuk mentor, I’ve already started researching what we talked about and I’m so excited to see what the future holds’.  His mentor @Claire_D_teach reflected ‘Enjoyed meeting my @Edmentoringuk mentee @JWilsonteaches virtually for our initial conversation today, we considered how our informal mentoring/coaching setup will benefit both of our development as it evolves.’ These tweets generated a response from @SuzanneCulshaw which recognised that ‘This kind of critical friendship can be transformational, for both partners.’  One of the exciting elements seems to be the sense of future partnership and collegiality and given our current lockdown uncertainties and anxieties this is worth celebrating.  @naomi_toland for example tweeted ‘Had such a great first #edumentoringuk meeting catch up with @misskbNQT. Are we the same person? Excited for the possibilities we spoke about creating in the very close future.’  These tweets illustrate how even early mentoring conversations can create a sense of buoyancy and optimism.  

Alongside my mentoring Abul and Aaron are now working with CollectivED who will provide additional advice and support through Rachel Bostwick’s partnerships and enterprise team. It is very much intended that this initiative will grow through partnership, research collaboration and additional professional development support for their mentors. 

In the meantime, CollectivED offer EduMentoring our wholehearted congratulations for imagining and developing a project which has already started to make a difference to teachers. Sometimes these are the first two significant acts of a mentor; affirming the potential contribution that their mentees will make in the field and recognising that the journey has begun.

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Professor Rachel Lofthouse

Rachel Lofthouse is Professor of Teacher Education in the Carnegie School of Education. She has a specific research interest in professional learning, exploring how teachers learn and how they can be supported to put that learning into practice.

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