Trainee teachers are almost always allocated a mentor and if you are starting work for a new organisation, you may also find yourself supported by a more experienced member of staff. Here is a selection of tips gleaned from ex-mentees, which include advice on how to start, sustain and conclude the relationship:
1. Be yourself and in return, ask your mentor to be honest and authentic with you. The notion of a "critical friend" may feel a bit cliched, but what may at first sound like criticism from your mentor comes only from a desire to help you grow.
2. Remember that the relationship is temporary. Many teachers keep in touch with mentors throughout their career, but respecting and acknowledging that there needs to be a formal beginning and ending will help you to mark these significant moments as "rights of passage" in your own career.
3. Realise that your mentor may seem far more experienced than you, but they were once in your place and they will be learning from you too. You bring fresh ideas, a new perspective and in due course you will even be able to give your mentor ideas and feedback as to how they can improve their practice.
4. Listen to your mentor. Take notes on what they say. You may be just one of the many balls they have to juggle, so the more responsibility you can take for recording meetings and writing up your targets the better. Technology can work brilliantly here with new mentoring apps becoming all the time. Using cloud storage such as Dropbox is another easy way to share documents, allowing you both to comment on e.g. lesson plans or resources.
5. Make the most of this period of time. It is precious. In my case I am still learning from the experience of being mentored as I reflect on what worked and didn't work well for me in order to support and train the next generation of mentors in my organisation.
We can all make excuses about lack of time, lack of payment or lack of recognition given to mentors, but when times are hard, the strongest relationships tend to be forged. Each mentoring relationship is unique and should be valued as such. Adopting a mentoring mentality seems to me to be a key tool with which to navigate the ever-changing seas through which further education must sail.