Mentoring: From Observation to Conversation by Holly Koteen Soule from NW Mentorship Seminar
These notes are the result of discussions among colleagues in the mentoring seminar held by Sound Circle Center in 2011. We explored three steps in the mentoring process – the observation, the inner work of the mentor in processing the observation, and the conversation between the advisee and mentor.
- Acknowledge the inevitable separation between the observer and observed.
- Let go of personal agendas and fixed ideas, look with fresh eyes.
- Be aware that you are seeing a specific moment in time.
- Be open to observing a class in a particular context, as a single gesture in a larger picture.
- Look for something the teacher does better than you.
- Be flexible in your thinking. A good mentor practices and attempts to help the teacher practice the art of characterization. Through characterization, one can connect with and be aware of both the archetypes and the specific individualities in a situation.
- Look for the gift of the teacher.
- Try to imagine the genius, spirit or angel of class and teacher.
- Remember that in all your observations, you are in the picture, too.
- Take good notes.
- Encourage the teacher to share his or her observations so that you have different points of view on the same situation.
Between OBSERVATION and CONVERSATION: Contemplation
- Reciprocity is powerful, and has spiritual activity in it – try to see things forward and backwards
- Try on the habits of the teacher (i.e. speaking and walking).
- Naming can be limiting; staying in the unknown can be helpful.
- Take impressions into sleep life along with a question to seek new inspiration and insight.
- Let go of what you think you know – practice open-mindedness.
- Be interested in the whole life of the teacher - their biography, their individuality, their teaching experience and their capacities – and how these all affect their teaching.
- Commit to doing your own inner work with your advisee over time.
- Be aware of and sensitive to the most effective communication style and be willing to work in that style (i.e. know the temperament of the teacher and what they are struggling with).
- Do not be invested in an outcome – be willing to enter into an exploration together.
- Know when more help is needed, or another perspective could be helpful.
- Build a safe space and trust between mentor and advisee (withhold judgment, don’t be in a hurry, really make it a genuine conversation and partnership, not a view from outside).
- Use questions. Listen attentively.
- Begin positively and speak specifically about effects and results of teacher’s actions – practice good feedback (see feedback article).
- Be willing to share your own struggles and how you were able to make changes.
- Be flexible in your own thinking.
- Pay attention to when the teacher is open and when he/she begins to move inwardly or change outwardly in a positive way.
- Remember the process is not about “fixing” a problem but about gaining insight.
- Create a sense of direction together rather than fixed expectations.
- Consider bringing a question from the conversation with the teacher to the whole faculty to explore.
- Document the conversation.
- Anticipate – look into the future together.