The mentoring program sponsored by CETL works on building peer-to-peer relationships between colleagues. In this review, Dr. Jennifer Haber (Communications, Tarpon Springs) and Amy Karol (Communications, Tarpon Springs) share the challenges and benefits they encountered as a team at St. Petersburg College.
What does the mentoring program involve? What work or tasks are you expected to accomplish?
Dr. Haber – The mentoring program is threefold: Establishing a connection with the mentee, being available to meet and/or answer questions, and keeping the relationship open once the formal program ends. Hopefully by the end of the year, the mentee has a resource–and a friend.
Amy – I think the mentoring program has a different meaning for everyone involved. Since I had already been teaching at the college as an adjunct for several years before being hired as full-time, I did not have the same needs as someone new to SPC or teaching at the college level. For that reason, I wouldn’t describe my experience as work; it felt more like having a buddy assigned to me to show me around my new school.
What motivated you to want to become a mentor? Have you worked with a mentor yourself?
Dr. Haber – I like working with new faculty and sharing the knowledge that I have (and the idea of helping someone is important to me). I know that when I started, I really didn’t have anyone to talk to or to ask questions of. I like the idea of forging a relationship with someone early on.
Amy – I don’t know if the new cohort members had a choice to participate; however, it was reassuring to know a mentor had been assigned to me. As I mentioned before, I was not new to the college or teaching at this level, but I was new to the campus and the role of full-time faculty, so I did have questions. I am also the type of person who likes to have guidance and reassurance that I am doing things the right way, so I probably would have gravitated toward my mentor as someone with more experience and picked her brain anyway.
What do you feel you should be expected to do? What do you find yourself asking about most?
Dr. Haber- A mentor should be someone who is available (and being on the same campus is a huge part of this process). A mentor should have an open door and make the mentee feel comfortable. I found that since my mentee had already worked for the college (as an adjunct), I was sharing little pieces of information–rather than the big picture. She knew how to teach, so I was helping her understand more of her role on a specific campus–and, of course, at the college.
Amy – I think the role of the mentor depends on the mentee. I found that at the beginning of our relationship, I frequently popped in with questions for my mentor about operations on the campus, like where do I go for ___, who do I speak to about ___, what happens when ___? The culture, policies and procedures are so different at each SPC campus, so I think that was the biggest adjustment for me. Then, I really had to get used to my new role as a full-time faculty member, so I had lots of questions about office hours, scheduling, paperwork, etc. I think it took me the full fall semester to get used to my new campus and position; in fact, I didn’t really feel at home here until this past fall semester started.
Even though I had experience at SPC and in the role of a professor, I knew I still had a lot to learn, and I was eager to meet new people who could offer me their expertise. Since my mentor has been at the college a while and is respected by her colleagues and the students, I was happy to be her mentee; I knew I could trust her and her guidance. I felt my role was to be open about what I didn’t know, so that I could ask questions and get answers, and I figured it would make her role as mentor easier if she knew what I needed.
What were your expectations of this experience? How did they differ from the reality?
Dr. Haber – Actually, my expectations met my reality. I was looking forward to the experience, and it was a great opportunity. I would love to work with more new faculty in the future.
Amy – I thought at the beginning of my first semester as a full-timer that I wouldn’t have too many questions since I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I was right. As that first semester progressed, there were gradual waves of feeling overwhelmed, but then I just reached a point where I started to feel more confident and comfortable in my new role and campus home.
What qualified you to be a mentor? What do you see as your greatest strength? What do you see as your greatest challenge?
Dr. Haber – I think being a part of the institution qualified me for being a mentor. Not only have I taught for many years, but I have taught in different formats, and I have served on different committees. I think I have a full picture of what the college’s mission is and how it functions (both in and out of the classroom).
Amy – I think that being a mentee puts a person in a vulnerable position. The mentee has to feel confident enough to admit what she does not know and be willing to hear that there are different, and sometimes better, ways of doing things. I think a strength of mine is that I have no problem asking when I am not sure of something or simply do not know. I genuinely like meeting people, picking their brains, and learning from them; after all, I may hear something that could help me improve my teaching. I didn’t see anything challenging about this experience. I like the relationship I developed with my mentor, I still feel comfortable seeking guidance from her, and I appreciate that she took the time, and still does, to make me feel more at ease here.
Thank you, Professors Haber and Karol, for sharing your insights into the experience of mentoring!
What feedback helped you become a better instructor? Share your story in the comments section below!