Mentoring: Unleashing the Full Potential of Tomorrow’s Teachers
Friday, 07 September 2018
By Assistant Professor Leong Wei Shin, Assistant Dean, Degree & Student Life, Office of Teacher Education
Mentoring is an important aspect of personal growth, and a key feature of the NTU-NIE Teaching Scholars Programme (TSP). It not only elevates the learning of student teachers, it sharpens the way the mentors engage the students and deliver the lessons.
At the core of the TSP is a robust mentorship programme whereby dedicated mentors are specially assigned to all TSP scholars from the first day of their university journey in NIE. Over the course of their four years as NIE student teachers, TSP graduates are given many opportunities to seek the advice of the faculty members. Beyond obtaining leadership insights and deepening education practices, these interactions often create a close mentor-mentee relationship that is valuable for the personal development of TSP students.
We were initially inspired by models of mentorships from renowned institutions. For instance, the daily personal one-to-one tutorial system in University of Cambridge is the institution’s open secret to success as to why there are so many research innovations and breakthroughs on a single campus. We wanted to adapt and contextualise such models for the TSP. An example will be modelling important values through ‘walking the talk’ from the perspectives of both mentors and mentees. As mentors, we have to regularly ask ourselves questions like how to live our lives and create an environment where all students can learn actively especially after they leave NIE.
Mentorship is a two-way interactive relationship and journey. Both mentors and mentees will grow from their journey together, exploring the full expanse of the knowledge universe in the four years at NIE and likely into the future. While mentors are inducting their mentees to the world of education, academia and working life in general, they also play an important role helping student teachers to crystallise their respective teacher identities and values. In turn, the mentors can learn and understand from their mentees the aspirations and concerns of the younger generation. And while mentors possess the subject matter knowledge, teaching skills and life-long experience, the mentees can bring new ideas and refreshing perspectives to their mentors, possibly leading to new interpretation of conventional knowledge.
To be an effective mentor, one needs have an open mind, an open heart and open hands. An open-mind that is non-judgemental is required to encourage students to become better people. An open heart that is honest and genuine for sharing of vulnerabilities and to stay empathetic. And open hands to reach out to help whoever is in need.
The last is particularly important as we want our mentees to pay forward and eventually take on the role of mentors for future students—just as many of the current mentors had been assisted when we were students ourselves. Ultimately, as mentors, we do not aspire to be just role models for students to emulate, we want to actively engage and be involved in the students’ lives and character development.
Students should not contact their mentors only when they face difficulties or troubles. Term time might be a busy period, but to make the most of the mentorship, students should learn to engage their mentors, say over a cup of coffee during lesson breaks, to get to know one another at a more personal level. I see this as a part of the training to manage time well and be resourceful in building important life-long relationship; just as the student teachers will be doing when they have their flock of students to mentor in schools.
There is currently no formal arrangement for mentoring non-TSP student teachers. There are however opportunities for faculty members to interact with them during one-to-one sessions in education research and practicum, as well as during and outside classes. I believe mentorship can benefit more students and mentors as it did for the TSP and myself. This is something perhaps we could introduce more extensively in NIE as part of life-wise learning.
On mentorship by the TSP Graduating Class of 2018 and their mentors
“Right from the word go, Siyue was always an open book, willing to speak her mind to help us iron out the kinks of a programme we were building from scratch. We were partners from day one, partners committed to developing the best programme we can for the future batches of TSP students. She was mini agony aunt for all her juniors offering them wise advice about the multiple global opportunities-where, when to go and why. Today, we are proud partners in education-committed and impassioned to bring about the best education possible to our students- one student at a time. I thank her mum (previous Associate Dean) for her belief in NIE, for allowing Siyue to select TSP as her first choice, when, in reality, all other choices were wide open.”
- Prof Low Ee Ling, Dean of Teacher Education
“Prof Low took really good care of us, checking in often and making sure we were alright. Besides academic-related advice, she also gave us practical tips for how to cope with our studies. She was also very willing to listen to our feedback about the programme and use it to make it better for the future batches.”
- Ms Lin Siyue
“Jiaxun has been a fabulous student – one who is willing to invest his time and energy to develop a strong bond in this mentor-mentee relationship. I enjoyed the times we spent agonizing over the data analysis for his URECA project, gossiping, wondering about his cGPA, planning for the future and more importantly, watching him grow and mature in his craft as an educator. Thank you Jiaxun for allowing me to be part of your TSP journey.”
- Assoc Prof Tan Aik Ling, Natural Sciences and Science Education
“My academic advisor is like a mother to me in NIE. She cared for my wellbeing in both my studies and my personal life, and I cherish the many fun interactions we shared. Perhaps only in NIE can this friendship between a professor and a student occur.”
- Mr Chua Jia Xun
“It’s been a great learning journey for me as much as it was for Roysmond as we walked through the past four years learning to teach and teaching to learn. I had enjoyed interacting with him, listening to his aspirations and ambitions, and his frank feedback about the programme. I am happy to see him achieve success in his studies, and wish him all the best in his teaching career.”
- Asst Prof Jennifer Yeo, Natural Sciences and Science Education
“Throughout my four years at NIE, Dr Jennifer Yeo was a constant source of encouragement and support, guiding me along in my educational journey. She offered ready advice on becoming a holistic educator and constantly ensured that I was coping well with school life. As supervisor for my URECA project, she was always patient and thorough with me in improving my writing. It was a real joy to be under her mentorship and I am extremely thankful to her for being my teacher and role-model.”
- Mr Roysmond Sim
This article was first published in the September 2018 issue of NIE’s quarterly newsletter, NIEWS. Click here to read more.