Changing Landscape, Enduring Principles
As a result of increased attention on improving the quality of early care and education, we
have seen a steady proliferation of mentoring programs across the country in recent years. This
has led to an expansion of the types of settings where mentoring takes place, and of variations
in mentoring goals and mentor-protégé relationships. Mentoring historically has been thought
of as a strategy to support new teachers, often within the context of their pursuit of higher
education, but mentoring now takes place in a wider range of settings, and with protégés whose
education and experience vary widely. (For a summary of the variations among mentoring
programs, see Table 1.)
Mentoring can take place in a mentor’s work setting, perhaps as a component of a protégé’s
participation in formal training or coursework—or it may take place in a protégé’s work setting.
Mentoring may be voluntary, or working with a mentor may be a required element of one’s job
or of a center’s participation in a quality improvement initiative. Mentoring may have fairly gen-
eral and broad goals, or the goals may be narrowly defined or even prescriptive—for example,
focused on preparing for an assessment or evaluation, improving a test score, or learning how
to use a certain classroom tool or curriculum. Mentoring can also take place over a relatively
short period of time, in relation to a specific goal, or it may be a yearlong or multiyear process.
Although mentoring programs vary in structure, the relationship between mentors and pro-
tégés has certain basic qualities:
The mentor is an “articulate practitioner,” 11 not only knowledgeable about child learn-
ing and development, as well as pedagogical practice with young children, but able to
articulate this knowledge and skill as she serves as a model and guide to others. She
does not supervise the protégé, but rather facilitates learning and development. 12 The
mentor provides support to the protégé if she falters, and encourages her when her
practice is not all that it could be. The mentor is a trusted counselor who is committed
to a close working relationship with the protégé, offering feedback that can move her
to a higher level of competence and performance. The mentor has a disposition toward
learning and growing, too, and is able to appreciate and benefit from the perspectives a
protégé can offer.
The protégé, ideally, is equally committed to her own growth and development as a
teacher, and to the mentor/protégé relationship. She is willing to learn new skills and
reflect upon her practice with children. Like the mentor, she is ready to learn and grow.
? Questions for Discussion
Varieties of Mentoring Programs
Table 1 lists how mentoring programs, mentor roles and protégés may differ along several
dimensions. • Which of these variables best apply to your role as a mentor, the program in which you
work and the protégés with whom you work?
11. Takanishi, 1980.
12. For further discussion, see “The Differences Between Mentoring and Supervision” in Chapter 3.
8 AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS