Mentoring in Waldorf Early Childhood Education, WECAN

About mentoring . . . to begin with . . .

Mentoring is a collegial relationship which contributes to the personal and professional development of both the mentor and the student, teacher, or caregiver being mentored (called the “mentee” in this handbook). Mentoring is a process of mutual adult learning.

The mentor, an experienced teacher, supports the growth of the mentee through observation and the mentoring conversation, sharing the fruits of her experience in a way that helps the mentee to see her own work more clearly and to feel encouraged in her striving. It is important to keep in mind that mentoring is distinct from evaluating.

The mentee, who may be a student in a training program, a new teacher or caregiver, or an experienced professional seeking renewal, offers the mentor an opportunity for new insights on her own path.

In mentoring, the experienced educator serves the Waldorf movement by helping to insure that programs are rooted in a strong Waldorf early childhood offering; a mentored teacher or caregiver is able to enhance the health of the setting where she works. In a fundamental sense, the mentor serves children and their parents through her work with their teacher or caregiver.

The work of the mentor grows out of an understanding of, and gratitude for, the insights of Rudolf Steiner. Keeping these insights at the forefront in the mentoring work—in a way that is thoughtful, not dogmatic—fosters the development of a Waldorf movement with integrity, true to its essential qualities.

The quality of the mentoring visit will be heightened by communication in advance to ensure clarity of purpose, expectations, and process. The follow-up record of the visit and conversation will contribute to the usefulness of the experience for the mentee.

In Mentoring in Waldorf Early Childhood Education, we have enlarged on these key aspects of mentoring, with chapters on the essentials of Waldorf early childhood work, the paths of self- education and adult learning, the “nuts and bolts” of mentoring, and the nature of a fruitful mentoring conversation. Our hope is to follow this publication with a companion handbook on teacher evaluation.

Each chapter retains the voice of its author, but was written after thorough work among the Task Force members and other experienced mentors. We hope you, the reader—whether a mentor, mentee, or member of a school committee—will feel free to read chapters in whatever order seems most useful.

We gratefully acknowledge the Waldorf Educational Foundation for providing support for the work of the WECAN Mentoring Task Force over the past two years.

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Table of Contents

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

I. Self-Education as the Basis for the Art of Mentoring
Andrea Gambardella . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

II. The Role of Mentoring Early Childhood Teachers and Caregivers: Context and Purpose
Connie White . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

III. Laying the Basis for the Mentoring Visit
Nancy Foster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

IV. The Essentials of Waldorf Early Childhood Education
Susan Howard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

V. The Mentoring Observation: What Do We Look For?
Nancy Foster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

VI. The Art of Fruitful Conversation
Carol Nasr Griset & Kim Raymond . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

VII. Pearls of Wisdom: The Role of Advice in Mentoring
Nancy Foster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39

VIII. Accountability: Written Records
Nancy Foster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43

IX. Meeting at the Eye of the Needle: Mentoring on the Path of Adult Learning
Susan Silverio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45

References (listed by chapter) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

About the authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55

Introduction

Along with a growing interest in Waldorf education, and the proliferation of new initiatives, comes the need for more early childhood teachers and caregivers. And along with the preparation of these professionals—through early childhood education programs and individual inner work—comes the need for collegial support. Such support is of value not only to new teachers and caregivers as they launch into this vital work, but also to those with experience who are seeking further professional development.

One of the great gifts of Waldorf education is the stimulation of the human capacity for life-long learning. This capacity is nurtured in both the students and their teachers. Rudolf Steiner admonishes us never to become stale, and certainly the children who come to us are asking—indeed, demanding—that we continue to grow and learn. We are grateful to Rudolf Steiner’s insights which provide the substance for our work and enkindle our enthusiasm.

Through the mentoring partnership, professional growth of both mentor and mentee are encouraged and supported. Early childhood education is a challenging profession, and having a supportive colleague can be a crucial factor in a teacher’s developing competency, pedagogical artistry, and self-confidence. There is a wonderful passage from Ecclesiastes (4: 9-10) which expresses the essence of mentoring:

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall one will lift up his fellow. Woe to him who is alone. When he falls he has not another to lift him up.

The Mentoring Task Force of WECAN was formed in 2004 in recognition of the essential role of mentoring in the healthy development of Waldorf early childhood education and Waldorf early childhood teachers and caregivers. Our mandate was to find ways to offer support and guidance to those who are mentoring others. In consultation with other experienced Waldorf early childhood
mentors from all over North America, we have created a document which we hope will be informative and helpful to mentors, to those who are being mentored, and to schools and other settings which may be establishing in-house mentoring practices.

We offer practical guidelines for clarity in the mentoring process, thoughts on the role of
self-education, and a look at the underlying essentials of Waldorf early childhood education, We also include chapters on the nature of advice and on the art of fruitful conversation, which is the heart
of the mentoring relationship. The final chapter, an examination of the path of adult learning and self-development, could be a valuable resource for faculty study. A list of references concludes the handbook.

Our intention is to provide a working handbook for the mentoring partnership. Such a handbook is necessarily incomplete, a work-in-progress. Mentoring, like teaching, involves continual growth, questioning, and learning. We hope this book may play a part in that process.

—Nancy Foster, for the WECAN Mentoring Task Force

Mentoring Task Force: Nancy Foster, Andrea Gambardella, Susan Howard, Carol Nasr Griset, Kim
Raymond, Celia Riahi, Susan Silverio, Connie White

Click here for the entire booklet:  MentoringWaldorfECE

 

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