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Good, Bad Mentor

When I researched the word Mentor in the dictionary, I came up with this statement. "A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor who provides guidance, support, and advice to a less experienced person, often in a professional or educational context. The mentor helps the mentee develop their skills, achieve their goals, and navigate challenges by sharing their knowledge, expertise, and insights".

Throughout my 35 plus years experience holding leadership position both public and private international schools my overall experience with mentors has varied. Some have been exceptionally good, while others have been outright bad. I encountered personable, thoughtful, helpful, kind, and supportive mentors and had a few mentors who were less than ideal. The good mentor experiences were instrumental in my professional growth. The one bad mentor cast doubt, provided little support, breached confidentiality, and labeled me as the "Wild Card Principal". However, These negative experiences, while challenging, have also shaped my understanding of effective mentorship and reinforced the importance of integrity and support in guiding others.

What I learned is that, a quality mentor has the unique ability to tell you exactly what you need to hear in a way that inspires action. They provide honest feedback about your strengths and areas for growth, listen attentively, and offer advice in a positive and productive manner. Great mentors are rare, so when you find one, be sure to hold on and cherish the ongoing benefits they bring to your personal and professional development.

I encountered my first exceptional mentor during my doctoral program at Nova SouthEastern University. She was a classmate with years of leadership experience. Meet Kathleen Sciarappa the Good Mentor (pictured above). Her knowledge and guidance were invaluable in my first leadership role as an assistant principal. Kathleen helped me navigate the complexities of politics in public education, and I was able to apply her experiences, stories, and advice to various leadership topics such as curriculum and instruction, academic rigor, supervision and evaluation, mentoring and coaching, and aspiring leaders. To this day, reconnecting with Kathleen in person and from afar has been a wonderful gift.

As I transitioned to other schools in leadership positions, I was assigned mentors who were less effective. These mentors, often were either retired or direct senior supervisor leaders, who believed their way was the only right way to support a newcomer. As I look back on these individuals, I found that they struggled to understand or appreciate the different perspectives that new leaders bring to a school which in turn limited their ability to provide meaningful guidance.

The valuable aspect of having a good mentor is that the relationship is not a one-time occurrence; it becomes a lifelong connection. The insights and guidance from a good mentor stay with you, making them a constant sounding board. I've found that mentors who are detached from your organization often serve as the best listeners and guides during times of crisis. These mentors are crucial, providing support both personally and professionally. They made me feel worthy of leading by highlighting traits they saw in me that would lead to success, and they made a point of sharing those observations.

As I progressed in my educational career—from classroom teacher to adjunct professor to school leader -I was fortunate to have people who believed in me and saw potential in me that I hadn't yet recognized. They continuously pushed me to improve. Everyone, no matter how successful, needs a coach or mentor. I have been blessed with my strongest supporters, my husband, family, siblings, and a growing network of international teachers and leaders, all encouraging me through each new turn in my life path. For the past 20 plus years, I have drawn strength and motivation from those early conversations and interactions, especially when I need a boost.

I encourage all leaders in education, be it newbie, middle level, and long-term administrators, to reach out and find a mentor in your life right now. Start actively seeking that guiding influence. Why? Because no matter where you are in life as an international leader, you still have a lot to learn and areas to grow. A mentor can provide invaluable insights, support, and perspective that can propel you to new heights in your personal and professional journey.

In addition to offering advice and sharing their own experiences, a mentor can help you navigate the complexities of educational leadership, offering practical solutions to challenges you may face. They can introduce you to new strategies and resources, broaden your professional network, and inspire you to set and achieve ambitious goals. Moreover, a mentor can serve as a sounding board, providing constructive feedback and helping you to reflect on your practices and decisions. Embracing mentorship not only enhances your leadership capabilities but also contributes to a culture of continuous learning and improvement within the educational community. Remember, the journey of growth is ongoing, and with a mentor by your side, you are better equipped to make meaningful and impactful strides forward.

Ever wish of having invaluable insights and support while embarking on the journey of first time leadership, or perhaps academic training to open a founding school? Look no further! International Educational Consultants brings years of extensive experience in higher education, private, public, and international schools, along with a vast network of experienced colleagues, to work directly with you.

Contact Dr. McFarland at International Educational Consultants to leverage her expertise in addressing your leadership training, mentoring, school policy, startup school queries, or just overcoming challenges of day to day operations. We offer Webinar training sessions, idea-sharing, attentive listening, and face to face workshops. Connect today with International Educational Consultants.

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