Remote Learning Creates New Ways to Facilitate Mentoring
By Don O'Callaghan published on Nov 4, 2020
min read
Summary: With Covid-19 cases on the rise, many school systems across the country are likely to continue remote learning for the foreseeable future. This unfortunate reality does, however, present an opportunity for rethinking how to facilitate educator mentoring and professional development. Given the nature of remote learning, school systems can pair people together in ways that would have been logistically impossible previously, which could lead to stronger, more dynamic learning opportunities.
Masked person having a video call on a computer.

As cases continue to rise, and the prospect of returning to in-person instruction fades in many regions across the USA, we must continue to search for silver linings and opportunities.

One such opportunity lies in the very nature of remote instruction – the physical school building or physical meeting space is no longer a central organizing principle when access to those buildings are denied.

New teacher mentoring programs generally follow two high-level logistical models:

  1. An intra-school model, usually facilitated by a Principal or Assistant Principal, where a more senior teacher mentors a new teacher or a teacher struggling in a specific area of instruction (e.g. classroom management).

  2. A centralized model where central office staff (or 3rd party vendors) mentor a caseload, traveling to different school sites.

The first model has the potential for more touch points given there is no need to travel, easier scheduling, and more organic opportunities for interaction since both mentor and mentee occupy the same building. The tradeoff is that the pool of mentors is limited to the individuals at the school who may or may not be a good fit for a mentee and also requires them balancing their workload to take on “another job.”

In the second model, there is the opportunity for a more nuanced approach to mentoring given that mentoring is typically the primary job responsibility and also the potential for pairing mentors to mentees based on specific skill specialty and need. In many large districts, (many students or a broad geographic area or both), the frequency of touch points is diminished due to travel and scheduling considerations.

Similarly, when it comes to professional development opportunities, some models focus on delivery at the school site whereas others require individuals to travel to a centralized location.

In the remote learning context, where site no longer has to matter, mentoring programs can be much more strategic in how mentors and mentees are paired. Mentoring programs can also be much more deliberate about their duration and focus, and more dynamic in the ways in which professional development programs are delivered. One can imagine a mentor, with an advanced understanding of how to use Google Meets break out rooms to facilitate the in-person equivalent of turn and talk, paired with a mentee who needs a little more support. The mentor and mentee could be in different schools, and nevertheless productively work together. Furthermore, in a remote setting, it is much easier for mentors and mentees to observe each other practice, whether for modeling different strategies and techniques or getting feedback.

Similar opportunities exist for the delivery of professional development. As school districts face budget challenges, it is much easier to tap existing teachers to offer professional development and reach a much larger audience. One can imagine identifying teachers who have figured out novel strategies for delivering remote instruction and engaging them to deliver an online PD session. Not only does this offer the possibility of improving instruction, but it also could serve as an engagement strategy as we seek new ways to celebrate the work of our educators, create spaces for community, and raise morale whether engaged in remote, hybrid or site-based learning.

Make no mistake, there is no substitute for in-person, face-to-face interactions. But as we seek opportunities to make the best of a very imperfect situation, rethinking how we support our educators and take advantage of the nature of remote instruction--staff's access to remote tools and their facility with them--can be one way to increase opportunities both during COVID and after.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Torace might help you take advantage of remote mentoring, contact us--we’d love to talk with you.

Remote Learning
Professional Development
human resources
school leader

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