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 Mentors' Area


Expectations of Mentors

Expectations of Technology - A KanCRN mentor should have access to Internet email and the World Wide Web.

Expectations of Expertise - It is helpful if a KanCRN mentor is matched with a project in which they have some degree of experience and interest that could benefit the student scientists.

Expectations of Time - Mentors will attend an annual student KanCRN Research Conference (1 day) in the spring. Additionally mentors with Internet access will participate in e-mail and web forum contacts with students and teachers. Mentors would be expected to check KanCRN e-mail and / or KanCRN web based discussion forums for questions posed by students and teachers at least every other day. Responses should be made within 48 hours. Although there is no way to quantify exact time commitments it is estimated that this process will take from 15 min / week to 1 hour / week. Committments should be for a minimum of one year.

Relationships and Ettiquette- It is very critical that mentors place importance on the social aspect of telementor relationships. Being courteous, timely, respectful, sensitive, are just as important if not more so in telementor relationships as in face to face relationships. Telementoring can be most effective if it is accompanied by some face to face meetings. It is suggested that mentors visit a selected KanCRN class at some time during the year.

Support of the management and supervisors in the mentors company - The role of the mentors' employer must not be overlooked. It is very important that the mentors' employer is supportive of the KanCRN project and does not discourage or inhibit the process. Some corporations may have objections based on time commitments or sensitive security issues and these must be respected. KanCRN does not wish to create unwanted impositions on it's corporate partners. The ideal situation is where the employee (mentor) and the employer are both interested and committed to furthering young student scientists.

Where do I begin? Instructions for Mentors and Telementors

*Starting a telementoring relationship - (Some tips borrowed with permission from David Neils of the Hewlett Packard Corporate Mentoring Program)

A good beginning for telementors is to send an introductory message about yourself to the KanCRN discussion forum on the KanCRN project site of your interest. This introductory message should include information about the mentors career, interests and areas of expertise. It should also serve as a social introduction of yourself to students and teachers. An inviting message, welcoming questions and discussion will start things off.

It is a good idea to keep initial communications brief. Use this time to assess students' ability to communicate via e-mail. Try to avoid the risk of overwhelming students in the beginning with too many questions or very long messages. Perhaps three questions in your first message would be a good start. Phrase your questions clearly. Try to ask open-ended questions. That is, try to avoid questions that can simply be answered yes or no. During this time also try to assess the students' amount of access to the technology that allows them to communicate with you.

This process can give you a good idea of how best to proceed along with having an appropriate level of expectation for the relationship at the time. Some of the most effective aspects of these mentoring relationships is that they are student-to-professional and continue over the duration of the school year. What is ultimately important is where things are at by the end of the year. Great strides can be made over the course of the school year with the patience and care of a mentor!

1) Establishing a relationship first

Take the time to share common interests and listen to the students' dreams and hopes for the future. There is an old teacher adage that states students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. The time it takes initially to establish a non-threatening relationship is well worth the strong foundation such an approach will provide for future communication that will evolve around academic issues and projects.

A good way to get the ball rolling is for you and your protégés to exchange messages that provide information regarding each others' personal/academic/professional interests and expectations for the telementoring relationship. It would also be a good idea during this time to include the school contact in the cc loop so she or he can see that the relationship has begun and is moving forward.

During this time work with your protégés to develop a routine schedule of communication. Share this effort with the school contact for she or he may have a better idea of how often and when the protégés will be able to communicate with you.

2) Communicating with your school contact

One of the more critical factors for success is the level of communication between the mentor and school contact. It is appreciated when a mentor takes the time to ask questions. Such communication can make all the difference in the world. Asking the school contact to provide brief background on the class is a good place to start. School contacts may be able to provide important insights and suggestions that can be applied by you in the mentoring relationship. As you know, teachers are very busy professionals who work not only with your protégés, but also with many other students every day. Your patience and understanding will be greatly appreciated by the school contact.

3) Developing a plan of action

The teacher should communicate to you and your protégés their expectations for the mentoring relationship and how the relationship will relate to what is going on in school. If this information is not forthcoming, definitely ask the teacher for an explanation of her or his integration plans. Both you and your protégés should have a clear idea of what the teacher has in mind.

4) Correcting student mistakes

While it is a goal of this program to have protégés communicate professionally via e-mail, your protégés may not come to you at that level at the beginning of the relationship. As stated earlier, it is advisable to first build a trusting relationship with your protégés. To do so will allow your protégés to take your future critical feedback on aspects of their communication and/or academic performance in the spirit with which it will be intended.

When beginning to correct mistakes it is a good idea to start slow and focus on one area or aspect while ignoring others for the time being. If at all possible, try to use a praise-critique-praise format of feedback. Whenever possible, try to point out positive examples in the students communication or work that reflect what you want to see along with any critical feedback.

Educational research has found that most students often emulate classroom behaviors that are addressed and stressed by the teacher - even if the teacher's attention to the behavior is negative. A classic example is a teacher who spends excessive time pointing out the negative behavior in the classroom - identifying, if you will, what she or he does NOT want to see. In such classrooms, students learn that more attention is given to off-task behaviors and the rate of those occurrences increase. An alternative is for the teacher to spend more time pointing out and attenuating to positive behaviors. Those teachers who do so usually have a high rate of frequency of those behaviors in the classroom.

This finding can be applied by you in your mentoring relationship. Take a student's writing for example. When critiquing a student's writing try to point out examples of what you want to see. Something as simple as writing . . . "I really like the way that you capitalized and punctuated your first sentence in the previous message you sent to me (include a copy of that occurrence in your message). Please try to make sure you do that on all your sentences before you send your messages." . . . is very different from a student merely reading . . . "Some of your sentences aren't capitalized and are missing punctuation marks."

Even though there may be other areas that still need work, take the time to acknowledge improvement in your protégés' writing that is based on your feedback. Celebrating with your protégé her or his successive approximations of where you would ultimately like their writing to be will be rewarded over time.

5) Troubleshooting

Teachers are well aware of how valuable your time is. Please do not hesitate to communicate with the teacher if you have concerns, frustrations, or troubles communicating with your protégé. If the problem cannot be resolved via that channel of communication, you are HIGHLY encouraged to use the KanCRN contact page to bring the issue to the attention of the program manager and facilitator. Most problems brought to the attention of the program coordinators can be quickly resolved.

It is also advisable to maintain copies of all communication related to this program. Such a record will be very useful for future communications and resolving any problems that arise.

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