This semester, I’m leading a learning community on campus focused on faculty mentoring. While our university has an informal mentoring process that pairs new faculty with more experienced mentors, we’re examining other mentoring processes we could use to not only support early career faculty but mid-career and late-career ones as well.
Most of our conversations have been guided by the book Faculty Success through Mentoring (Bland et al, 2009). For each meeting, our group reads a few chapters and examines how the concepts would play out on our campus. My hope is that the discussions form the foundation for a more formalized faculty mentoring process down the road. In preparation for this week’s meeting, the group is reading chapters on phases of effective mentoring and building effective mentoring relationships. Buried in those chapters was a quote that really resonated with me and has me thinking about how we as faculty support each other and our students. On pg 71 of the text, the authors share this quote from Daloz (1999):
“Trust is the well from which we draw the courage to let go what we no longer need and receive what we do. Without a reasonably well-established sense of basic trust, it is difficult to move ahead.”
While Bland and her colleagues shared the quote to talk about the necessary affective dimensions for effective mentoring, the quote stood out to me because it captured an interaction I had with a struggling teacher candidate recently.
Since it is the mid-point of the semester, many of our teacher candidates have been receiving assessments from their field supervisors. The assessments are designed as formative measures to provide feedback for growth and improvement. When a teacher candidate receives several unsatisfactory marks, a group of faculty will convene to meet with the struggling teacher candidate to discuss ways to improve. A few colleagues and I met with a candidate yesterday and it was clear that trust played a huge role in her struggles as a teacher. But it was also impacting her role as a learner. Let me explain.
In our meeting with the teacher candidate, we discussed the areas where she was struggling. As we talked about the different areas (student engagement, classroom management, attention to student learning), I recognized that many stemmed from the fact that the students didn’t see the teacher candidate as being “on their side.” The field supervisor commented that the teacher candidate seemed disinterested in the class, rarely called students by name and didn’t work to build relationships with the students. Without the teacher candidate working to establish “a sense of basic trust,” it was clear that her students were having trouble “moving ahead.” And that led to the struggles she was experiencing in her classroom.
But trust was also impacting her ability to “move ahead” and develop as a teacher. Throughout our meeting, the other faculty and I came up with a list of different strategies the teacher candidate could incorporate to reach her students. While the other faculty and I communicated our suggestions were intended to help her grow and improve, the teacher candidate kept making excuses and seemed resistant to implement the changes we suggested. I got the sense that she didn’t trust us or our motivations to help her. It was going to be difficult for her to move ahead.
“Trust is the well from which we draw the courage to let go what we no longer need and receive what we do.”
As teachers, as colleagues, and as mentors, we have to dig that well. We have to cultivate trust with one another. I know that can be a difficult task considering the constraints under which we work but it’s the only way we can collectively move ahead.
Bland, C. J., Taylor, A. L., Shollen, S. L., Weber-Main, A. M., & Mulcahy, P. A. (2009). Faculty success through mentoring: A guide for mentors, mentees, and leaders. R&L Education.
Daloz, L. A. (2009). Mentor: Guiding the journey of adult learners. John Wiley & Sons.