Saturday, March 21, 2009 by Mariskova
Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.
People say they both are poles apart. Like heaven and hell.
One always praises, the other always critizes.
If you were one of those American idol participants, which judge would you choose to have?
You'd probably prefer to hear Paula's sweet praises, but everybody knows that Simon's praise worths 100x more than Paula's, Kara's, and Randy's all togehter. So, as a mentor, who worths more? Paula? Or Simon?
One of my job responsibilities at the office is to be a mentor for candidate teachers. Paula Abdul's figure reminds me of one of those points in "Mentoring for Dummies" guidebook.
According to that guidebook, a good mentor should be able to find 3 strengths of his/her trainee for 1 of that trainee's weakness. So, if I am to follow the procedure, everytime I want to critize my trainee, I have to mention his/her 3 strenghts first. Yeah, right. Easier said than done.
To be honest with you, being a Simon-Cowell-like mentor is by far more effective and efficient. Those trainees won't misunderstand, won't misinterprete the mentor's message. There is no non-sense. And most importantly, it saves a hell-lot of time.
But of course, everyone chooses to hear Paula-Abdul-kind of criticism, no matter how fake it might sound. The theory says people tend to have high anxiety and effective filter once they hear negative feedback. The result is obvious; they won't be able to learn from the feedback no matter how true it is if the feedback is in the form of Simon Cowell. Agree?
I can be honest (and if all of my mentor friends want to be honest) with you, we would loooooooooovveee to be Simon once in awhile. Especially when we meet those stubborn trainees who see themselves too highly. On the other side, when we meet really aggreable trainees -no matter how weak they are- we don't need to unleash the Simon-type of personality in us.
So, here, I just want to give some tips to all candidate teachers who will face their mentoring sessions. You can print these tips and memorize them, especially if you will become my trainee.
1. Lesson no# 1 when you become a candidate teacher is MIND YOUR MANNER. Acting like you are (or convinced you will be) the greatest teacher in the world won't do you any good since you're talking to a teacher with more experiences in terms of years and techniques. So, feet on earth!
2. Almost the same as no# 1, MIND YOUR ATTITUDE. You might have different opinions from your mentor just as the AI participants have theirs from the judges. Respect the comments, though. They are valuable inputs anyway. And people too often look into the mirror instead of looking out ouf the window. Telling your mentor that his/her judgement is wrong will only put a big green on his/her face. My face, anyway. Other mentors won't be so forgiving. They might just fail you and that's the end of your teaching career. It might be a blessing in disguise, though.
3. When you are training to be a teacher, ACT LIKE A TEACHER. And of course, think like one too. Imagine yourself singing in American Idol with body language showing that you are there for trial session. You really think the audience (never mind the judges) will be so forgiving? They won't, of course, neither the students you are teaching. Standing in front of the students with some attitude demonstrating that you are there only to practice will only mean the end of your dignified life. The students will have a great time humiliating you. And, the mentor will be there never to save you.
4. When things go wrong in and outside the classroom and you are too stressfully edgy to think of something else, FORGET the urge to BE A DRAMA QUEEN. The class is not even your real class, the students are not your students! They are somebody else's. They will forget you soon. So, crying, screaming, fainting, darting out of the classrom (not necessarily in that order) just won't work. It won't work with most mentors. It won't work especially with me.
5. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE is probably my most controversial tip. Most mentors are friendly. I know I am. But thinking, suggesting, demonstrating that you are your mentor's best friend after one mentoring session can be very dangerous. We, mentors, like to keep our distance from our trainees so we can keep being objective. We don't like to have feelings. Feelings complicate things. So, at this point, be civil to each other is enough. Later when you have become a fully certified teacher, you are welcome to address your mentor by his/her nickname. I know I do. I'm not sure about most mentors, though.
Okay, then. Five tips for now.
As you can see being a mentor is not an easy job, with or without the camera. Being Paula Abdul is not easy either. Under her motherly look and loving smile, she probably is clenching her fist. Next to her, Simon is probably having the time of his life. Being him is so relieving, so... free. You might want to try it sometimes. The bonus is you could be more than a mentor to your trainee. You could be his/her guru kehidupan, too.
(If you jumble the word mentors, and rearrange it, you'll get a monster. LOL)