by Julie Dodd
JEA Mentoring Committee co-chair

Tony TjanTony Tjan would agree on our approach to the JEA Mentoring Program.

Tjan is the chief executive and a founder of Cue Ball, a venture capital firm in Boston, and was interviewed for The New York Times Corner Office profile.

A major part of the interview with Tjan dealt with how he was mentored and how companies he has led have promoted mentoring.

Tjan said his company’s mentoring is based on five questions developed by Mats Lederhausen, one of Tjan’s partners in Cue Ball. Here are the five questions that the mentor needs to ask the person being mentored:

  1. What is it that you really want to be and do?
  2. What are you doing really well that is helping you get there?
  3. What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there?
  4. What will you do differently tomorrow to meet those challenges?
  5. How can I help, and where do you need the most help?

Those questions sound very much like the questions that the JEA mentors use in conversations with the new teachers they work with.

The four questions we use to help guide the conversation are:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What is your current focus — challenges and concerns?
  3. What are the teacher’s next steps?
  4. What are the mentor’s next steps?

That conversation is structured around the Collaborative Assessment Log that we adopted from our work with the New Teacher Center. The purpose of this structured conversation is to let the new teacher set the goals and also to help the new teachers realize what is going well.

Tjan said that the order of the questions is important. I agree. Those four questions help the conversation start out on the positive and then move to challenges and action — for both the new teacher and the mentor.

Tjan’s first question is: “What is it you really want to be and do?”

That question typically is part of the first conversations the mentor has with the new teacher. But often the conversation isn’t that pointed. Many of the new teachers are focused on making it through the first school year — producing a newspaper or yearbook on deadline, getting the publication out of debt that the new adviser inherited, keeping up with all the demands of grading, figuring out how to take a class on a field trip to a journalism convention, etc.

That’s where the mentors often can see what the mentee can accomplish long before the mentee can — establishing a solid journalism program, advising an award-winning newspaper/yearbook/broadcast, becoming a leader in the school and school district, and/or becoming an officer in a scholastic journalism organization.

The goal of the mentor — whether working with new teachers or the employees at Tjan’s Cue Ball — is to listen to the person being mentored and let that person’s ideas and aspirations drive the mentoring relationship. As Tjan says, understanding the person’s plan and motivation can enable the mentor to know how to help.


Linda Barrington talked about how she used the Collaborative Assessment Log in an earlier post.