By Linda Barrington, MJE
JEA Mentoring Committee co-chair, JEA Wisconsin mentor

One of the things I like best about the JEA Mentor Program is its emphasis on tailoring each mentoring experience to the needs of the individual mentee.  Even though I may not have experienced the same situations and struggles as each of them, I do have a wealth of experience to support me, and my mentor training has provided me with a toolbox of resources.

My favorite tool is the Collaborative Assessment Log, which we’ve adopted from the New Teacher Center.  When Nick Ferentinos explained the Log at mentor training, I remember he said the use of the Log depended on your own style and situation.  He said there wasn’t a “right” way, but that it had to be used to support both the new teacher and the mentor.  I’ve found that my mentees and I both benefit from using it.

As a new mentor this year, I learned that visits to my mentees have different purposes: sometimes I’m just dropping off a resource; sometimes I’m staying for the class period to work with students; and sometimes we have time for a longer conversation.  So, I don’t want to use the Log on every visit; I like using the log just three times a year.

First time: Early in the school year, just after we all sign the mentor agreement, I meet with my mentee to talk about what I can do to help.  This is an important conversation and one that is best recorded with the log. It spells out what the new journalism teacher is doing well, provides a place to write down what areas the mentee needs help with.  In this way, the log serves as a guide for each of us.

Then we each identify what our next steps are.  This gives the mentee ownership and responsibility for improvement. It gives me a concrete list of ways to help.  With four mentees, I find it surprisingly easy to forget what I said I’d do for which mentee.  Having it in writing keeps me on track with each one.  Before I leave, we agree on the next time I’ll meet and we each get a copy of the log.  (Love that NCR paper!)

Second time: Mid-year is the next time I use the log with my mentees. It’s a good opportunity for each of us to summarize insights on the first semester, bring up new areas to work on and identify next steps or solutions to concerns

Third time: I like to use the log at the end of the year to look back on all the accomplishments and evaluate what still needs to be done.  It gives me a chance to bring up new possibilities for growth for the students and the adviser. This is also a good time to talk about going to state and/or national convention in the coming year and how to prepare for this.  Mentees who want to improve their own skills may want to meet with me over the summer to do this.

I don’t think it’s necessary to have a perfect log each time with multiple comments. I am finding that it’s already becoming second nature for me, and I think the process guides my mentees in a new kind of dialogue that helps shape our work together.    It’s a nifty tool in my mentor toolbox.

What experiences have you had in using the Collaborative Assessment Log?