by Linda Barrington
JEA Mentoring Committee co-chair

JEA mentees shared their experiences about being in the Mentor Program at the Mentee Panel at the JEA/NSPA convention in Portland in April. They also gave mentors some good insight about how they felt when they joined the program and how mentors might encourage other new teachers to become mentees.

Mentee Michael Fell (Portland, Ore.) said when he joined the program he was open to it. He had a positive attitude about wanting to learn how to become a good journalism teacher.  Not all prospective mentees may feel the same way, although they would likely benefit greatly from having a mentor. Attitude makes a big difference.

Bob Berrigan (Vancouver, Wash.) agreed. Some people are burdened with having the publication assigned to them that they don’t want to do, he said. They don’t want a mentor because they don’t want to get good at doing journalism. They just want to resign from the journalism at the end of the year.

On the other hand, there are those new teachers who are excited to do well. “I was thrilled to have Jolene’s [Combs] help,” Jennifer Reichert (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.) said. “There was no one else there to help.”

Mentors often have difficulty persuading a new teacher to agree to being a mentee. One of the mentees explained that in education classes, students are told to act confident to help them get hired and keep their job. New teachers may feel asking for or accepting a mentor reflects a lack of confidence and an inability to do a good job. No way would they admit they could use a mentor.

Six of the eight mentees on the panel were “older,” and one of them observed that they are at a point in life when they realize they don’t know everything and are more open to help. Gary Enoch (Cave Junction, Ore.) said, “I knew what mentors could do and I knew the value of the help I’d receive.”

Kate Moore (Portland, Ore.) suggested that we ask the mentees already in the program to contact the prospective mentees. “We can tell them what it’s like and convince them to join the program,” she said.

“Tell the prospective mentees that they don’t have to fill out forms,” Sharn Matusek (San Francisco) said. “This is a different mentoring model. [The mentors] just drop in once a week and we can call [them] any time.”

Panel members said to tell prospective mentees, “I’m not here to tell you how to do your job. I’m here to help you. I’m not here to judge you, observe you, report on you.”

Great suggestions!  Thank you to all the mentees who participated in this panel. We will incorporate your suggestions into the new mentor training this summer.