As the fall semester draws near, we encourage you to take some time to consider those around you who will need mentoring. We encourage you to consider who you can turn to for advice if you need support – who will be your mentor? If you are full time faculty, we encourage you to take this topic to your colleagues as the semester begins. Build a strong and well structured mentoring program within the department in which you work. There are several different ways to build a mentoring program. Begin by having a discussion about who needs mentoring – new faculty, adjunct faculty, research assistants, graduate assistants, and students.
A mentoring program can be created within departments or colleges to ensure that new faculty are supported. This role should be assigned to someone in the department who is willing to share resources with new faculty and offer support to them as they embark on the journey of teaching. Teaching can be challenging, time consuming and confusing when you are new in the field. Preparing, planning, researching and reading to prepare lessons to teach can be overwhelming. In addition, there are a lot of responsibilities that are involved in the profession of teaching that many new instructors are not aware of. A mentor can help to navigate through the all of the teaching responsibilities.
Adjunct faculty come with diverse experience and background. Some graduate with teaching degrees, and they may have some training, preparation, and experience as a teacher. Others graduate with degrees in fields that are not specific to teaching. They may choose to enter this profession by default, because they’re exploring possible career options or perhaps jobs are not available in their particular field of study. They may also choose to teach adjunct classes to share their knowledge with future professionals. For these reasons, it is important to provide training, resources, and support to them. They need to know who they can ask for advice or consult with if problems arise. The mentor should be someone who is willing to provide assistance and share resources. It is important that this person wants to do so and is not being forced to do this. This individual needs to be dynamic, open, warm, caring, and compassionate. This individual needs to have a desire to help others. New faculty will feel this desire and will be automatically drawn to them. This will make their teaching practice better and will help them develop into valuable individuals who work on your campus with your students.
Mentoring Research Assistants
Research assistants also need guidance. They will be helping with the research process, but are probably still new to the process themselves. Therefore, it is important to teach them the necessary skills to complete the tasks you are requesting. Check in with them regularly. Ask about the progress they are making. By checking in regularly, you will be able to see progress being made and determine if there are areas in which you need to provide more support and assistance. You can share resources or hold short meetings to teach them new skills necessary to continue to move forward. This is a learning process for them, so be prepare to mentor them as they grow as researchers.
Mentoring Graduate Assistants
Taking time mentoring and training graduate students can make your job a lot easier. By spending some time sharing your expectations with graduate assistants, you will have support in and out of the classroom. The more support that is provided to your students, the more successful they will be. What expectations do you have for your graduate assistants? Are they responsible for teaching classes? Preparing lessons? Locating resources to support topics you are covering? Classroom management? Grading? Offering study sessions? Holding office hours? Determine ways in which they can provide support and then share your expectations with them as well as the resources they need to do the job you are requesting.
When you are considering mentoring, also consider how and when you will mentor students. This does not mean offering office hours to assist students with assignments in your class. This refers to mentoring students in regards to their personal and professional goals after college. Discuss career goals with students. Discuss the steps they need to take to reach those goals. Meet with them regularly to discuss the progress they are making.
We have been blessed to have wonderful mentors come into our lives and guide us. They have helped us to make professional decisions. They have supported us in our personal lives. They are not only our mentors, but also our friends. For this reason, we have made it our mission to help people that are coming into the field by providing resources that we use to be successful. We share things that worked really well for us as well as things that did not work – our epic fails. We find that through mentoring others, we become better teachers. Remember that pouring into another person leaves a lasting impression. Whether it is a quick thirty minute discussion over a cup of coffee, a brief discussion at the copy machine, or a monthly lunch meeting, you are providing guidance and wisdom that will leave a lasting mark.