Sunday, 23 November 2014

OUT WITH THE OLD & IN WITH THE NEW? ... Think again!

My husband usually takes our eleven-year-old daughter to her Sunday running practice but last week he was in South Africa working. As I sat and watched Mattise with these runners, I found myself feeling very emotional or should I say I felt many emotions. Let’s just say that this is not your typical running training. Although my father-in- law, Bob has passed away, he is very much there at training on Sunday mornings. He was a professional runner and his talent just happened to skip a generation.

After Bob retired from running he was heavily involved in the sport, trained many professional runners, and became a professional handicapper. It was his ‘thing’. I didn’t know much about his running except that he was very good back then and he could have won a medal at the Olympics (1956) but professional runners weren’t allowed to compete in the Olympics at that time. With friends around Australia, Bob would travel to running meets. One of Bob’s running friends, Jack lives here in Sydney. Jack’s life has been quite eventful! Some of his coaching has included training Olympians, the Sydney Swans, the Eastern Suburbs, and Sydney University and he was also involved in the Modern Pentathlon.

Jack training Mel Gibson for Gallipoli

As many of you are full time educators, you understand that we miss many of our own children’s events. Fortunately, a few parents send me text messages and photos of the events. After learning that Mattise had won quite a number of races, my husband and I decided it was time to phone Jack. Jack said he would observe Mattise run to see if she had 'potential'. From that day on, Mattise joined a group of senior runners every Sunday morning. They have all become her mentors and to be honest, as we have no relatives in Sydney, they’ve become her extended family. Runners I met on this day were Richard, Mike, Hewie, Vic and Nick whose ages range from 40 to early 80s. These uncle and grandfather figures advise, question, push, encourage and also adore Mattise. She is now competing in Saturday competitions. I feel so very fortunate that she has these mentors in her life. They are not only mentors in her running but also mentors in her living. They teach Mattise about personal best, resilience, hard work, and being humble. I truly believe the more people you can bring into a child’s life the richer their life becomes.

All these people have so much to offer society and to younger runners. What struck me on Sunday was that we have so many untapped resources available in our society. As an educator who is interested in Design Thinking, PBL and Genius Hour, I wonder how many other senior “experts” we have available to help our students learn? We should value their knowledge, their experience and their expertise and connect them with our students. I have tried to make this happen over the past two years and have seen the learning benefits.

@mesterman @CmunroOz @cpaterso
The following evening, I met up with three educators whom I respect immensely. While I have never officially asked these three to mentor and/or coach, they have done just that! The only person missing from this photo is Jon Andrews, who constantly challenges my thinking. I learn so much from listening and conversing with these guys. They not only give advice but they also give something so precious today… their time. I am able to ask questions, seek clarification and get advice. My students and I have gained so much by surrounding myself with passionate, knowledgeable educators. I feel very fortunate to have these supportive people in my life.

Here are two situations that illustrated to me the value of mentoring. My daughter is receiving not only great advice and training but is developing strong relationships with these experts. I too, am benefitting professionally and personally from having mentors into my life. Mentors not only provide expertise but are supportive and invested in your successes. Just imagine how beginning teachers would benefit from the expertise and knowledge of retired teachers. Why can’t we create a program for them to mentor new teachers? Create a situation where people feel valued and help others value people.

With a strong interest in coaching and mentoring, I see how one can transition from one to the other but at the same time, they are very different. This is my understanding of the various concepts
Jack at 90 with Mattise 11yrs
  • Coaching means to transform thinking. A coach asks questions that generate ideas that belong to the one being coached.
  • Collaborate means to form ideas. Collaborating is collectively creating ideas and problem solving but is not a distributive task.
  • Mentor means to inform. Mentoring is where experts give advice and share knowledge to help improve one’s practice.
  • Evaluate means to conform. Your ability is judged against certain criteria to determine your effectiveness as a teacher.

In my opinion, you need to seek out mentors for your students and yourself. We are not all experts but we all have something to contribute. ‘Out with the old and in with the new” Let's rephrase that... "Go out and connect with the old and get familiar with the new!"

From Richard Gerver’s book ‘Change’ (p. 896), “The most important personal and professional growth cannot take place in isolation; we need to be stimulated, challenged and supported”. Who best to do this but a mentor?