Effective mentoring is becoming increasingly important for the professional development of individuals working in early childhood education, according to Jessica Horne-Kennedy.
Jessica, a Gowrie NSW consultant, said current research has shown how important it is for early childhood professionals to critically reflect on their practices of working with children and families - and one of the best way to do this she said is through mentoring.
“A mentor can be like a ‘professional friend’ and an ‘experienced sounding board’. Mentoring can help us to look outside the frame of what we currently do to inspire new possibilities and really grow in our practice,” Jessica said.
Mentoring can help educators develop in their profession, as the mentoring relationship provides a platform for quality conversations and coaching, with the ultimate aim of supporting positive outcomes for all children.
Usually a mentor will be someone from outside your centre that can bring a fresh pair of eyes and a neutral perspective to the situation. “Being an early childhood professional brings many joyful moments as well as challenging moments and it is important to talk situations through in order to alleviate any feelings of stress or worry,” Jessica explained.
So what does a mentor do exactly? Firstly the mentor will talk with the centre to establish some background information about the philosophy, context and professional needs.
Following this first contact, a time for an initial meeting will be scheduled and a plan for the individual’s course of mentoring will be established. During the course of mentoring sessions, the mentor will come and spend time with an individual at their service to discuss their role, explore their current goals and professional needs, as well as build knowledge about current practice and legislative requirements.
“At Gowrie NSW, our approach is flexible and we tailor the mentoring to suit specific situations or needs – this acknowledges that every individual learns differently and every centre is unique,” Jessica said.
“I am very interested in the idea of ‘conventional intelligence’ – this is an approach to mentoring that places emphasis on empowering an individual to reach their full potential through the power of quality conversations and relationships built on trust, positivity and connection.”
Jessica said ultimately, when individuals feel a sense of connection through mentoring there is a greater sense of belonging which has long-term benefits for the individual, their colleagues and most importantly, the children and families they care for.