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Workshop 1, 24th February 2024

Introduction

58 participants took part in the first workshop, of whom 50 were practising teachers from Macedonian state primary and secondary schools, and 8 were new teachers, some pre-service and some at the start of their careers.
We started the workshop by welcoming everyone and congratulating all colleagues on their enthusiasm to take part in this project, including to attend a meeting on a Saturday! Colleagues from all over the country joined us - see full distribution here:
We thanked ELTAMMK and Hornby for supporting this initiative. We then presented the agenda, available in the handout for the day:

Session 1

We designed our own name tags by putting on sticky labels our names, the towns we come from and a little drawing to suggest something about us; there was space for a caption, which participants added by the end of the day. Here’s a summary of our name tags:
We discussed the ways of working, highlighting the value of experiential and collaborative learning in safe, relaxed and trusting contexts - hence the reliance on hands-on activities (not lectures!) and group work.
In small groups, we exchanged our goals, i.e. what we hope to achieve by the end of this project. There was a good deal of overlap, with the following main goals emerging:
sharing experiences
having new experiences
learning new things
developing new mentoring skills
reflecting on current educational trends
meeting new colleagues/friends, networking
supporting new teachers
supporting each other
contributing to better education in the country
starting new initiatives
improving our motivation
belonging to a sustainable group
having fun while developing professionally, e.g. smiling a lot.
In new small groups, we then discussed how we see mentoring, our attitudes, experiences, feelings and hopes. Specifically we looked at the following questions:
What does it mean to be professional? What do professionals do?
What do mentors do?
What don’t mentors do?
What do mentors need to know?
What’s your metaphor of mentoring? Drawings are fine!
The small groups produced ideas on flipchart paper and presented them to the rest of us:
We responded to each group’s ideas, suggesting additions - note to the groups’ secretaries: please include those additions in this document for completion:

Session 2

In this session we discussed the moving away from our previous understandings of mentoring as a process in which the mentor observes and then tells the mentee what they liked and disliked about their lesson using the so-called positive-negative-positive feedback sandwich, aka the shit sandwich. Research has shown that such approaches promote limited (if any) learning as they put the mentee on the defensive (scrambling to justify their choices rather than remaining open to new learning) while undermining the mentor-mentee relationships, thus jeopardising trust, wellbeing and, ultimately, teacher retention. Hobson and Malderez (2013) label such approaches ‘judgementoring’, i.e. “a one to one relationship between a relatively inexperienced teacher (the mentee) and a relatively experienced one (the mentor) in which the latter, in revealing too readily and/or too often her/his own judgements on or evaluations of the mentee’s planning and teaching […] compromises the mentoring relationship and its potential benefits” (p. 90).
The alternative is Malderez’s (2023) conception of mentoring as a safe one-to-one relationship, in which the mentor essentially follows the mentee’s lead to develop their learnacy (Claxton, 2004), i.e. learning to learn. Learning to learn in the context of teaching very much involves learning to notice and use student feedback, i.e. their response, to our teaching. In Angi’s mentoring discussions, aka mentorials, mentees are supported to work with what they noticed in their teaching and arrive at their own conclusions in a safe, non-evaluative context, with the mentor joining in if and when invited. This typically results in a 10-20% mentor talking time. The context of dialogue enables the mentee to generate new ideas, often without any input from the mentor, while offering opportunities for emotional offloading. This appeared in line with the group’s overall understanding of the nurturing, non-directive nature of mentoring when we discussed our attitudes, experiences, feelings and hopes in regard to mentoring in Session 1 - all good news!
This mini-lecture was followed by a simulation of Malderez’s Systematic Informed Reflective Practice (SIRP) mentoring protocol aka The Five Steps (see handout for the day above) between Elena, in a mentor role, and Marija, in a mentee role. The group then discussed what they noticed in the process:
Marija was able to generate new ideas for herself merely by talking to Elena, i.e. when Elena was not contributing
Elena struggled to keep quiet when Marija was not inviting her into the discussion
one participant suggested that the mentorial felt very “natural, organic”
some participants worried about their mentees having expectations of directive mentoring; we then discussed the need for mentors to let their mentees know about their mentoring methodology as part of the process of getting to know each other
we discussed how often mentoring should take place and felt that it might be sensible to follow the mentee’s lead in this respect, too: they may prefer to have a regular schedule to start with (e.g. weekly, bi-weekly) and be more organic later in the mentoring relationship, e.g. reaching out when they feel they need a mentorial; either way, it’s useful if the mentorial is scheduled soon after the mentee noticed something significant in their class, while memories are fresh and our brain has not gone in a storymaking mode - see more on this here:
References:
Claxton, G. L. (2004). Learning is learnable (and we ought to teach it). In J. Cassell (Ed.), Ten years on: The national commission for education report (pp. 30e35). Brighton: University of Brighton.
Hobson, A. & Malderez, A. (2013). Judgementoring and other threats to realizing the potential of school-based mentoring in teacher education. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 2(2), 89-108.
Malderez, A. (2023). Mentoring teachers: Supporting learning, wellbeing and retention. London: Routhledge, forthcoming.

Session 3

Next, the participants had a go at SIRP in pairs, an exercise which yielded an interesting discussion:
it made sense for some participants for the mentees to choose their own focus so the mentorial can be truly personalised, which is a departure from mentorials starting off with an observation checklist of what took place in the class
some pairs were not able to commit to any concrete action at Step 5 - this can happen, and it’s perfectly fine for some sessions to remain open-ended, subject to being completed later on, when the mentor and mentee have had some time to think about things; not finishing a mentorial can also happen at Step 3, if the mentor and the mentee decide they need to go away and consult some sources before reconvening
some participants noticed that this mentoring approach can be helpful in teaching learners, not only in mentoring - e.g. following one’s learners’ needs, preferences, ‘meeting them where they are’, supporting learning (not prescribing it), helping them arrive at their own conclusions - essentially, developing learners’ learnacy
there seemed to be a consensus re: practice makes perfect with regard to using SIRP.

What next?

We agreed on the following course of action:
Elena will assign student or new teachers to the mentors; when she runs of out student/new teachers, she will assign mentee and mentor roles to the participants:
Our next meeting is scheduled for 5th April, from 3pm to 6-7pm, depending on the group’s pace. By 1st April, therefore, all participants will have engaged in the following:
EXPERIENCE 1: Having a mentorial in an AI-driven reflection application called Noticing, to experience being mentored using SIPR in a non-judgemental way
Getting to know each other: Mentees to get in touch with mentors to arrange an initial meeting; Mentors, see pp. 34-41 for some advice from Angi’s book about your first meeting:
EXPERIENCE 2: Having at least one mentorial with a human mentor or mentee, depending on allocations, using the SIRP (aka Five Steps) protocol:
Briefly sharing on Slack, a collaborative platform, how your EXPERIENCE 1 and EXPERIENCE 2 went.
To log onto Noticing, please go to: using the email address that you receive updates re: the MMM project - this is the address that has been registered for you in Noticing
If in doubt about any of the above, please get in touch with Elena:

Participants’ reactions to the workshop



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