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My Motivation to Become an Effective Mentor

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As I revisit my past a decade ago, I realized I didn’t have a proper mentor to guide me as a mentee. I learnt on my own, using trial and error. Through my journey, I see myself as a mentor, guiding and sharing my expertise in teaching. As Spencer (2004) highlighted that mentoring helps in building ‘a relationship which gives people the opportunity to share their professional and personal skills and experiences and to grow and develop in the process’. Back then, most centres I worked in had no formal mentoring programme in place. There was only a buddy system who would give the new teachers ad-hoc advice when needed. When I entered as a vice-principal, I observed that there was no proper mentoring plan. I was informed by the other teachers that there were few teachers were mentors to the newly joined teacher. However, they were also facing challenges as most were those with less than five years’ experience. This resulted in a dilemma on how to ‘mentor’ the newly joined teachers, furthermore with minimal guidance from the principal.

Attending this module and looking at the benefit of this mentoring process has been an eye opener to me to reflect myself as a leader. What can I do to guide these teachers who try to fulfill their duties as early childhood educators? I have a few teachers who are currently pursuing their diploma in early childhood, and they need guidance. They have recently made a career switch, thus causing a shortage of experienced teachers who are capable of mentoring. I witnessed how they struggle in managing the children due to lack of experience. One of them shared that on her first year, she was upset, lost and even wanted to quit and return to her old job. Fortunately, I came to guide her which helped regain her confidence and decided to continue her journey as an early childhood educator. Mentoring helps novice teachers reduce their stress and anxiety, which helps them be positive, secure and confident in their respective work environments.

The main challenges in adopting an established mentoring programme are the shortage of experienced mentors, which is caused by the centres’ inability to retain good teachers. It happened when one of my novice teachers decided to return to her former job as a nurse as she was felt overwhelmed with daily responsibilities and centre and parents’ expectations as an early childhood educator. Looking at this issue, I felt that I failed as a leader for being unable to convince her to stay. It was a waste of talent as she was already mentored (although it was not a comprehensive mentoring programme). Every teacher who leaves the industry is deemed to be a financial loss as it includes tuition grants, recruitment, training the teachers before they leave and employing foreign teachers. In an effort to implementing the mentoring programme, I still struggle with overwhelming tasks of mentoring the newly joined staff and novice teachers. I then realised time is the main factor. Meeting and communication via face to face, reflection logs or journals is critical in mentoring relationships.

My role as an effective mentor is to instruct and support my mentees in developing capabilities. As I assume my role as a ‘trained’ mentor, I ensure and embrace the following:

  • Being a role model – demonstrate how things are done in daily practice, all of the time, educators get a feel for how they should operate daily.
  • Encouraging reflections and self-assessment
  • Provide advice on direction and goal-setting
  • Provide instructional support inclusive of selection of teaching strategies and relevant resources.
  • Providing emotional support

Lastly, is to be a good listener. As a mentor, I have gained an understanding of sympathy and empathy as well as their differences and the importance of body languages. It welcomes mentees and allows them to feel comfortable, without being judged. Roger & Farson (1987) believe that an important way to bring changes in people attitudes and behaviour is to be a great listener. When people are really listened to, they will want to correct the situation themselves. As I aspire to implement the mentoring programme into place, I believe that with the knowledge that I gained from this collaborative module, I am able to conduct the mentoring programme to my best ability. In addition, using the guide from ECDA “Mentoring Matters” will help me push the teachers to reach their fullest potential.

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