Mentoring is a relationship between colleagues focusing on supported learning. Everyone can benefit from being involved in a mentoring relationship. It can help us feel encouraged in our roles and responsibilities working with children, families, and colleagues. When we feel supported, we are more likely to cope with challenges and feel sustained to assist others.
The mentoring relationship
Mutual trust and respect between the mentor and mentee is the key to successful mentoring relationships. Both the mentor and mentee must feel valued as they engage in professional dialogue and reflection to support learning.
Types of mentoring relationships
The mentoring relationship is not as straightforward as assigning 2 people together. It involves a number of considerations and can occur through:
- Natural mentoring
- Situational mentoring
- Supervisory mentoring, and
- Formal, facilitated mentoring
You can find out more information about these types of mentoring relationships here.
Finding a mentor
Regardless of your experience, or how long you’ve been in your role, being mentored can have profound benefits for your professional growth.
A good mentor…
- Has early childhood expertise
- Nurtures a lifelong learning attitude through ongoing professional development
- Is highly reflective of self and their interactions with others
- Leads through modelling
- Encourages and motivates others
- Is empathetic and understanding of individual learning styles, needs and strengths
- Supports goal development and provides feedback
- Collaborates and communicates effectively
- Is sensitive to culture and gender
- Does not impose their own ideas, values and behaviours onto the mentee
- Is ideally a more experienced peer, rather than a supervisor/manager
Take a moment to think about what else you might need from a mentor.
Being a mentor
Mentoring is a leadership strategy we can use to support the development of less experienced colleagues. When we mentor others, they are not the only ones who benefit. We can develop new insights and understandings about our role, our context, and ourselves. As well as be re-energised and inspired to continue the important work that we do!
Take a moment to think about what strengths you have for being a mentor.
Developing mentoring relationships within your service
Developing our workplaces as ones where a culture of mentoring and support is valued improves the quality of our practice.
Things to consider:
- The size of your service and number of staff
- Staff experience and qualifications
- Staffs’ strengths, interests, and areas for improvement
- Resources available within organisation and community
- Time for meaningful interactions
- Matching mentors and mentees appropriately
- Type of mentoring appropriate for your context
Developing mentoring relationships beyond your service
Mentoring relationships can also occur between early childhood education and care services. This is especially valuable for leaders of services and can help us ensure meaningful professional growth, rather than just maintaining the status quo.
You could consider linking up with KidsMatter services to establish a mentoring relationship. Contact your KidsMatter facilitator to see which services you could connect with in your area or online.
Nolan, M. (2007) Mentor coaching and leadership in early care and education. Thomson Delma Learning, United States.
Waniganayake, M., Cheeseman, S., Fenech, M., Hadley, F., & Shepherd, W. (2012) Leadership: Contexts and complexities in early childhood education. Oxford University Press: South Melbourne, Victoria.
Rodd, J. (2006) Leadership in early childhood (3rd ed.). Allen & Unwin: NSW.
John, K. (2008) Sustaining the leaders of children’s centres: the role of leadership mentoring. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, vol 16, no. 1, pp. 53-66.
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