Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sitting on my hands-- riding a rollercoaster

It seemed natural-- my career in education having been the richer for the mentors who accompanied me on my way—that it was time for me to pay it forward.

After two years of e-mentoring National Board Certified Teacher applicants, two extraordinary opportunities presented themselves. In the fall of September, 2005, Anne and I met through the commenting feature on her Teacher Cadet blogging project and I have had the privilege of mentoring her students through the comments on their blogs to date. In March, 2006, Darren put out a call for mentors for his students and described his expectations. Despite the risk and it was great as I am not a math specialist (Darren’s students are enrolled calculus and pre calculus courses), Darren allowed me to jump right in. And so began an incredible journey over the past 2+ years that has been a joy and a challenge.

Darren’s recent brilliant initiative has two of his incredibly bright and giving seniors mentoring the grade 8’s in the Thin Walled Classroom of Clarence and Barbara and posting their efforts to a comment blog. Hoping to support this remarkable project and these exceptional young mentors in some small way, I’ve left comments that I hope might that may be of value as they embark on this amazing trek. Today, as I’m writing, Clarence has described the beauty of this “circle”.

In my enthusiasm to share what have seemed to be effective strategies for supporting learners, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to sit on my hands and not get in the middle. Having only moved out of the middle (after an exhiliarating learning experience in MOOM ) late in my career, and striving to perfect my own hybrid practice of teaching with my mouth shut , I’m far from expert. And I find increased tension as those old “instructivist” urges periodically surface. It’s then that I do have to sit on my hands and remind myself of the joy of construction of meaning and the possibilities modeling offers-- Only then, can I hope that my fingers can help me find the right tone for the opening celebration of the post I’m reading as Grey-M did so effortlessly here .

I find the dissonance rising anew while seeking a focus for a comment that might deepen understanding, sharpen focus, or extend thinking. Seeking to understand the protégé’s perspective, and then constructing a meaningful comment that will encourage and nurture, with question that may lead to deeper learning is good, hard work (Grey-M’s comment is a perfect exemplar as is Mr. MrSiwWy's ), especially when distance prohibits gauging reaction by searching deeply into eyes or reading body language. So much easier just to tell; yet always cognizant of Mary’s response to my comments: “You said in such a way it was like a gentle whisper in the breeze.” and her podcast that affirmed that the comments had been of value, I sit on my hands again.

In e-mentoring, sometimes the silence that ensues following a comment is almost unbearable until I remember there is great beauty in the silence of thought that pulls one to new levels of learning. Hoping I’ve been understood, I accept the silence and consider instead the possibilities---

The possibilities for developing meaningful relationships that positively impact the lives of all involved. The possibilities that joyful learning and discovery may ensue. The possibilities that those “Aha” moments will truly be remembered. The possibilities of learning more about mentoring, them pushing my thinking as I push theirs (perhaps this notion of mentor/protégé should be renamed?)-- And the possibilities that their protégés will pay it forward too!

This from an educator of 35 years--- I shake my head in amazement at the maturity and excellence of these teens as mentors, constantly reminding myself that they’re high school seniors-- Filled with exhilaration and the trepidation that accompanies good learning, I’m wondering if Grey-M and Mr. MrSiwWy are riding the same rollercoaster on this trek with me?

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1 comment:

Sarah Stewart said...

I am interested in e-mentoring as a means for health professionals to support each other. So I was very interested to read your post about your experiences and thoughts of young people as mentors. I wish the mature people I worked with were as enthusiastic about this support mechanism as the youngsters obviously are.