For some of us, the word blog (shortened from web log) may conjure ideas of writers who shout opinions and political views. But many kinds of blogs, not necessarily political or abrasive, can offer ideas or inspiration. WordPress, one of the hosts for free sites for blogs, had 60 million web sites according to a 2012 Forbes story. You can see some of the types of blogs on WordPress at http://wordpress.com/types-of-blogs/
As I hang up my mentoring hat and wish new and continuing mentors a good year of working with mentees, I want to share again some ideas about using blogs as a communication tool in mentoring.
Suppose you have several mentees who work hours apart in your state. Using a blog site to connect, to store and distribute handouts, and to post encouraging or problem solving pieces could be a time-saver for both mentors and mentees.
Look at this example of a blog site that was used for a conference presentation: http://advisingstudentrights.wordpress.com/ You might post links or handouts that all of your mentees could use and allow them to have conversation with you and with each other using such a blog site. (You don’t have to have the blog public to others; you can just invite the contributors you want.)
And isn’t one of the byproducts of a mentoring relationship continued contact and connections with others who are teaching journalism even after our two-year contracts are over? Offering a blog site would be a good way to do this. Leave them with links to JEA, regional and local scholastic journalism organizations; leave handouts or references to particular areas of journalism, and leave the link (encouraging their continued JEA membership) to the JEA Curriculum online.
Both Julie Dodd and Judy Robinson (Digital Judy), former members of the JEA Mentor Commit-tee, continue to offer inspiration and ideas in blogs that they host and write—not specifically about mentoring but often applicable to mentoring. Their posts are worth a look.
Julie’s blog, Teaching, Jobs & Internships, offers topics that are often useful for mentees. A post on tips for successful use of Skype for job interviews could be useful for mentors who are mentoring long distance or who want a face-to-face visit and cannot meet in person.
Judy’s blog, Wren Song: Flutes and Kanteles, includes a recent post on improvisation and innovation that offers good advice. Judy’s tips refer specifically to jamming with musicians, but the experiences can be readily applied to the work we do with mentees. “Take time to debrief with colleagues—celebrating accomplishments and determining what’s not working and how that can be improved” is one of the suggestions for musicians, and that is certainly appropriate for mentors and mentees.
I have been an administrator for a blog for my writing group for a few years now. Thirteen writers in our group have met together for writing retreats for the last 12 years. You might want to start your own blog and start some conversation with others about a special interest not related to mentoring. When we were teaching for all those years, some of us longed to spend a little time writing just for ourselves after retirement—I know I sometimes felt that I had used up all my writing energy responding to student work and writing comments on their papers, so I had little left for writing for me. Take a look at the blog for my writing group of bereaved mothers at http://fartheralongbook.com/ and think of some possibilities for sharing your own writing or photography on a blog.
And most of all, read and follow Mentoring Matters at http://jeamentoring.org. Write about your experiences with mentoring this year and share successes of your mentees and their students for the blog. Clicking “like” on a post shows that you’re offering support for the idea or event. Leaving a comment can start a conversation. And that’s often how mentoring starts, isn’t it—with a conversation.
Read about Kay’s discussion about strategies for structuring group writing and using writing prompts at “Group writing helps writers deal with grief and develop writer’s voice.”
For more information about starting your own blog with WordPress, take a look at http://en.support.wordpress.com/start/ or just search for how to start a blog.
Learn more about creating a blog or providing feedback on blogs by watching Kay’s video, “Blogging and Building Community.”