The first mentor-mentee meeting is often characterized by anticipation and nervousness. Both parties want to make a good first impression. Relevant discussion topics might be clarification of roles and responsibilities, formal aspects of the mentoring relationship, and perhaps cooperation and collaboration with other mentees at the school. It is the mentor’s responsibility to give the student teachers information about the school and the children. This article focuses on the first meeting between mentor and student teacher.
Nilssen (2010) argues that the student teacher should not be overwhelmed with practical information during the first meeting. She also argues that the mentor should elicit information about the student teachers’ experiences, thoughts and attitudes regarding what it means to be a teacher. Students who choose the teaching profession often have experience coaching children in sports or other extra curricular activities. One mentor explains: “Learning about a student’s personal and professional experience gives me an indication of where the student is in the “teaching and mentoring landscape”. I also think it is important that students have some background information about me as mentor. That they know what my intentions are, who I am as a teacher, and the reasons I have for the kind of mentoring I wish to give. Thus, we “speak the same language” and everything becomes more predictable” (Nilssen 2010: 72).
The mentor and student teacher will often have different opinions about the purpose of the practicum period, perhaps due to different understandings of the teaching profession. Alternative questions for discussion could be:
– What does it mean to be a teacher?
– What is good mentoring?
The answers to these questions will have influence on the mentoring process. The student teachers have responsibilities beyond improving their performance in the classroom. They should discuss student assignments, observe various situations and participate in parent-teacher conferences. Still, many student teachers seem to primarily focus on their own teaching and lesson-by-lesson performance. One mentor explains: “The students often expect me to provide them with specific help and advice on how to handle a classroom situation. I saw that the group that I was mentoring expected me to tell them how things could have been handled differently” (Nilssen 2010:73). Below are some examples (Nilssen 2010: 60):
– Handling chaotic situations.
– Using a language that children/youth understand.
– The expression of ideas and opinions to the students.
– Explaining pedagogical choices.
– Nilssen, V. (2010) Praksislæreren. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.