Episode 204: Crafting Mentoring Moments – An Interview With Jim Strachan
In this episode, we speak with one of our mentor’s, Jim Strachan. Jim authored the work Mentoring For All and has been instrumental in developing successful mentorship programs here in Ontario.
Stick with us and you’ll hear enlightening moment after enlightening moment. Jim shares how to apply some easy to remember (but hard to do) mentoring moves. He helps us learn how we can build foundational elements of mentorship and how being an effective mentor makes an effective teacher and vice versa.
- How to be a “saucy” mentor;
- How to apply some easy to remember (but hard to ‘do’) mentoring moves;
- Why congruence between what you say and what you do is necessary to build trust;
- How using a “3rd point” can assist in building trust with a new mentee;
- What techniques and actions are key when mentoring
Teacher Learning and Leadership Program – https://www.otffeo.on.ca/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/11/TLLP-Executive-Summary-2018.pdf
Mentoring for Mentors site – https://sites.google.com/view/mentoringforall
2022 Mentoring eBook as a pdf – https://sites.google.com/view/mentoringforall/updated-ebook
Appreciative Inquiry – https://express.adobe.com/page/hdrBCPMp4PvZS/
Building Trust – https://express.adobe.com/page/ILRon40Cwtwbu/
Looking in the Mirror – https://express.adobe.com/page/vsU2SatIm6pUt/
Mentoring Webs – https://express.adobe.com/page/77mXiLAbyORIK/
Roles & Stances of an Effective Mentor – https://express.adobe.com/page/SO71hkeEZpsX2/
Coaching Conversation Map – https://express.adobe.com/page/7tx3uF2insMZN/
Classroom Observation & Debriefing – https://express.adobe.com/page/iMm8NrRcFo8iQ/
Third Point – https://express.adobe.com/page/mv8v0/
Learning from the New Teacher Induction Program – https://express.adobe.com/page/aeJmO/
Kayak Moments – https://express.adobe.com/page/7i0u3HyjZ6WMg/
Jim Strachan: Well, you're all here, you're all listening, you're all participating because you want to support others. And how are you supporting yourselves? So what are your... I call them kayak moments. And Kyle knows I kayak every morning, have done so for 22 years. The exercise is great, but it's the time to think, to pause and to reflect. So as you seek to support other people, how are you supporting yourselves? What are those kayak moments? Who are those kayak people who bring you strength, energy, passion, and hope so that you can bring that strength, energy, and passion and hope to your district, to your school, to your students...
Kyle Pearce: In this episode, we speak with one of our mentors, Jim Strachan. Jim authored the work Mentoring For All, and has been instrumental in developing successful mentorship programs here in Ontario. And I got to admit, has had a massive influence on my own growth, my own journey, and I'm proud to call him a friend.
Jon Orr: Yeah, you're going to hear all of that in this episode. So stick with us and you're going to hear enlightening moment after enlightening moment. Jim shares how we can apply some easy to remember, but hard to do mentoring moves. He helps us learn how we can build foundational elements of mentorship, and how being an effective mentor makes an effective teacher, and vice versa.
Kyle Pearce: I'm super excited. Jon, I just want to mention though, those hard to do mentoring moves. I'm going to even maybe reframe it as hard to remember. We can do it, you just got to be aware. And I feel like this episode has so many amazing tidbits to help us remember and get in that mentoring habit. So let's hit it.
Welcome To the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I'm Kyle Pearce...
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr. We are from makemathmoments.com, and together...
Kyle Pearce: With you, the community of math moment makers worldwide, who want to build and deliver math lessons that spark curiosity...
Jon Orr: Fuel sense making...
Kyle Pearce: And ignite your teacher moves. As we mentioned in the preamble, we are here to talk with Jim Strachan, a former ministry officer, education officer of ministry officer. It sounds so official. A Ministry of Education officer, but really classroom teacher at heart. We dive into his earlier days in the classroom, some of his math mentoring moments or his math moments that he remembers. And his journey kind of leading him down this path to mentorship, and what it means to become a mentor or build a mentor-mentee relationship. And Jon, it's been a long time coming.
Jon Orr: Sure.
Kyle Pearce: I'm super excited to be able to dive into this conversation here with Jim.
Jon Orr: Yeah, he's got so many truth nuggets to lay on us. And you're going to be nodding your head along and going, "Oh, that's a great idea. I'm totally doing that." That is coming your way. So let's get right to it.
Kyle Pearce: Here we go.
Hey, hey there Jim, thank you for joining us here on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. Before you let us know how things are going in your world and tell us a little bit about yourself, I want to publicly apologize to the crowd for waiting until the 200s in the episodes to bring you on because your name has been referenced so many times before when we talk about mentoring conversations, including the phrase we use so often, "Pebble in your shoe," that I first heard from you through our experience. How's life going in your world? And tell us a little bit about yourself.
Jim Strachan: Well, you've made me smile and laugh already, Kyle. But it's great to be here. I'm an educator. And I've had a fantastic career, first as a social worker, then doing the real work, like Jon is, in the classroom teaching in this crazy board called the inaudible District School Board for quite a few years.
And then the last half of my career has really been around mentoring. And so I was privileged to be the coordinator of the New Teacher Induction Program in the Toronto board for seven years. And then for the 10 years after that, to travel the province and work with school boards around not just mentoring of new teachers, but mentoring for school leaders, for administrators, for coaches, literally from Canora to Windsor, including Windsor. I say that for the health benefit.
And I'm now working as an education consultant, and I basically work on passion projects. And I ask myself, "How will this help students?" And if I can answer that question in the affirmative, I'm involved in that work. So I have learned so much. I've had the privilege of thinking and doing in a really nice balance, and I think that that's sometimes a privilege we forget that those in the classroom don't always share.
Jon Orr: Yeah, that's a great message there for sure to think about. And I appreciate you kind of sharing a little bit of your backstory for the folks here listening. But I'm actually interested... I know that Kyle's talked about you so many times, the work that you did with Kyle. I'm curious, Jim, how did you first meet Kyle? Would you willing to-
Kyle Pearce: Ooh, going back.
Jon Orr: ... maybe think about that and let our listeners know of how did this relationship between the two of you come out to be?
Jim Strachan: Now, there's so many answers I could say, but I know that this is being recorded. I won't mention the 12 step program or anything like that inaudible.
Really how I met Kyle was Kyle was an outstanding teacher who applied for something that I was working with at the ministry called the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program. And what was behind that program was our sincere belief that, who knows the needs of the learners best? The people who are working directly with the learners.
So many, many years ago, there was this crazy project called Tap into Teen Minds. And you had this summit where we brought all the TLP teachers together from across the province. Really powerful, really amazing. And I had a couple of people from the minister's office with me, and I had to take them to see one of the presentations. And I would like to say it was because I'd heard all these great things about Kyle, but the room he was presenting in was across the hall from where I was with these people. So I got to walk in and listen and learn about how this passionate math teacher was using technology, not just for the sake of using technology, but to really enhance the learning experiences of students.
Now there's more Jon, but I know these podcasts run for about 40 or 50 minutes. But from that work, I was privileged to work on a project with Kyle called NORCAN where we partnered with schools from Alberta and Ontario with schools in Norway. And with students involved, it was one of the best learning experiences in my career. So I don't want to pump up Kyle's tires too much.
Jon Orr: No, don't start to do that.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, no, exactly. I'm like, well, I'm good for the night now. I'm ready there. So I appreciate that, Jim. And honestly, I remember going back, and at that time, being so green, we'll say, in terms of, hey, just trying to do good things. Just like every other educator, I firmly believe everyone gets into this field because they want to do good. And sometimes, the challenges, the frustrations that we have, the spinning of the wheels sometimes can get in the way of that, or maybe interfere with people seeing that.
But yeah, I do remember and I look back to that moment and I just think about how helpful that project was for me to learn about how much I didn't know. And I don't say that in a bad way, I say it because in my head, I thought... I was like, "Oh, we've got this, we have this figured out. And it's only going to be a year or so, and everything will be better in math." And that project really helped to teach me what reflection was. And that was something that I don't think I knew how to do in the real sense. So thank you to you and the team and Lindy and all of those wonderful people from the ministry and from OTF that really assisted with that project.
So I kind of got chills as you were talking about it. We've had Brenda Delduca on the podcast to talk about NORCAN with Craig Guthrie, that Craig guy.
Jon Orr: Right. We did bring them on, yeah.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, and we've had these opportunities to chat with people associated. So it's great to kind of come full circle and have that conversation.
So you know what though, Jim? As you mentioned, these podcasts, they can run long, especially when the person you're chatting with and you want to take a deep dive here. But before we miss it, we do not want your episode to be the first one where we forget to ask this very important question. And it revolves around a math moment. You my friend, when I think of Jim Strachan, I think of mentoring moments. And that word moment actually means a lot to me in many ways, including this mentorship piece.
So my question for you is, what is a math moment that you sort of think of when you look back on your own experience as a learner? It could be in the K-12 system, it could be somewhere else, but you as a learner, what would be that math moment that sort of pops into your mind when we say math class?
Jim Strachan: Yeah. Well, I have a very distinct moment and I will inaudible myself. It's the smell of dittos. So this is maybe a little bit before you boys were in school. So there were a lot of dittos in math class.
Jon Orr: You better explain those, yeah.
Jim Strachan: Dittos were before there were photocopiers, and the teacher had this sort of alcohol-based solution, and they cranked this little thing and out came these worksheets. And let me just say they smelled better than they tasted.
And why I mentioned that, all kidding aside, was math came very easy for me. But it was because it wasn't really math, it was memorization, and following wrote things and literally filling in these dittos. And it took me quite a long time, even when I began teaching, to realize there's so much more. And really how it influenced me was we teach curriculum, that's what we teach, but who we teach are students. And the how of what we teach has to be directly influenced by those learners. So gone are the days, I hope, where we... "Oh, it's day 42, let's turn to page 74." Let's just say, in my own experiences, there wasn't a lot of igniting curiosity in the work that you're both supporting so long.
And it really made me, when I began to teach, think about, how can I connect the learning to the learners? How can I make math real? And when I taught grade eight, that's how we would basically start. Whatever we were exploring, I'd say, "How do you use this? How might this be something that in your real life would be helpful to you?" And so really starting with the learner as opposed to starting with the curriculum, the small C or large C curriculum.
Jon Orr: Yeah, no, and I think so many teachers we talked to here on the podcast have similar stories. Now, not maybe so vivid about the smell.
Kyle Pearce: Maybe not the smell or the taste of a inaudible.
Jon Orr: The smell or the taste of a ditto. But I think a lot of us relate back to, math isn't the math that we see it is today. And I think a lot of us also learn that along the way. But it sounds like you've been pretty progressive on that, and combating what you felt math was in your experience and in how you taught.
I'm curious, when you made a shift like that... We all have this kind of memory as well as a teacher making some shifts in our practice. What was your experience with the students when that happened. When you were like, "Hey, I'm going to-
Kyle Pearce: Parents like, "What are you doing to my kids?"
Jon Orr: ... make this change here." And how did you see the students respond to that? And what did that feel like, what did that sound like?
Jim Strachan: Yeah, that's a great question, Jon. And I made the change when I moved from teaching primary to teaching grade eight. And I really started to teach grade eight like I taught grade two or grade three. And so that whole idea of basing the learning on the learner, the kids weren't used to it. Very honest. And again, this is quite a few years ago. Perhaps you were both in school at the time, I don't know. But it was... Let's call it the early to mid '90s because that's when it was. And it wasn't what the students were used to, to your question, Jon. And some students would've preferred the chalk and talk, and take up the homework, and the way they had in grade seven or in grade six or in grade one or whatever.
I'm not very good at praising myself, or Kyle probably knows this. But I think what really happened is students started to math, they started to like coming to math class. And I was teaching my own class and I was teaching another grade eight teacher's math class. And they didn't quite know why, they just know it felt different. And maybe because we started the class in a community circle, maybe because there was ducks sitting in the back of the classroom just because. But it just felt a little bit different.
And I'll say this. Again, not in a way of tooting my own horn, but I think it felt lighter for them. I think they felt that it was something that they could do. We worked in cooperative learning groups. That's another one of my big passions. And so a lot of the instruction and the assistance was peer to peer, instruction and assistance. And so one source of knowledge was moi, Mr. S., but there were 31 other sources of knowledge. And that was really what the class was about in the bigger sense, was building a community, building inclusion, and then using the community and using the resources within it to help us all learn.
And so I'm making it sound like it was just like, "Oh yeah, roses and sunshine." There were lots of ups and downs. And I think I really came to that from teaching... I taught summer school for my first six years of my career. And it was back when kids quote "failed" grade eight, and I had them for five weeks and I taught literacy and math. And what I had to do in those five weeks was find the strengths and assets and attributes that each student brought to their learning, and somehow connect it to their learning. And was I successful with every student in every single case? No, I wasn't. But to your question, Jon, it really did change the way I taught.
So if we think our students have assets and attributes, then we'll structure ways for them to learn from and with each other. And also, to your earlier point, for us to learn from them. And I think that was the point of my journey where it felt right.
Kyle Pearce: It's interesting because I have to absolutely stamp that comment about, you are never one to talk about yourself or to celebrate the great work you do. But when I take the Jim I know, which unfortunately I never had the opportunity to see you in that space doing that work, which is probably the work for you, and it's sort of evolved into something else.
But then when I think of the work you do with educators, having had the pleasure through NORCAN, through... I was going to say NTIP, but I've seen you working with NTIP teachers. I wasn't personally in an NTIP program with you, but the TLLP and all of those things that you've done, when I see what you do with adults and how you bring them together to discuss, to essentially mentor them through having these great conversations and essentially putting them in a situation where they can be the sharers, they can be the knowers and the doers of the learning, I can only imagine what that must have been like going back.
And I'm picturing in the '90s. Jon, I know you're a little older than I am. But in the '90s, I'm picturing... Math class for me did not look or sound anything like what you just described, but I can envision it looking exactly as you described in your classroom. So I appreciate you sharing that work.
And I guess this brings me to my next piece, and this is one of the reasons we wanted to bring you on is because of... I find how it seems natural. And I'm not a believer in someone's naturally gifted in one thing or another, but it seems natural for you when we talk about the mentorship conversation, you've done some great work including Mentoring For All, and we're going to link all of those resources after.
But it's had a profound impact on who I am as a person, who Jon is as a person. Because we've taken a lot of what you've shared with us, we've read other books on mentorship because of the work you've done, and we bring it into the podcast all the time. We talked about pebble in our shoe, trying to just position people to be more of the speaker and us being more of the questioner, the asker. And I even use some of the things that you do with my own kids. Quick little aside. In the car, I ask my son after hockey and I say... And this is something you told me about when you go into teacher's classrooms. You ask the teacher, "So what would you rate that lesson?"
Jim Strachan: Yep.
Kyle Pearce: And I love that. So I ask Landon after every hockey practice and I say, "What level of effort do you think you gave today?" And the first time was, "Hey, what's the scale?" I'm like, "It could be any scale. You pick it." And then you just center the conversation around what they say because they're the ones who brought it. And that's something again that we bring to this conversation.
So my question to you is, at what point in your journey did you make this connection? Where in your career did you shift from, "I'm doing this classroom thing," probably loving life... I can only imagine you in that environment, just living the dream every single day. And then all of a sudden, when I met you, you were in Ministry of Education role. What did that look like? What sort of got you on that journey to lead you to the work that you're doing now?
Jim Strachan: Yeah, working with new teachers, working with teacher candidates, hosting teacher candidates from a faculty of education, and then working as a mentor to new teachers. In the school that I was teaching grade eight, it was a very busy place, shall we say, with lots of turnover. And I discovered that I enjoyed working with adults about as much as I enjoyed working with kids. And I went out the classroom as a computer coach, and I like the title of coach and I really got to enjoy working with colleagues who were trying to integrate technology. Now, we're in the late '90s, Kyle. That's right. Still inaudible, but periods have gone by.
Kyle Pearce: Commodores.
Jon Orr: Oh, no.
Kyle Pearce: We Windows 98. Come on, Kyle.
Jon Orr: That's true. That's true.
Kyle Pearce: Yes, yes. Sorry, sorry.
Jim Strachan: But you know what? After three years, I missed the classroom and I went back. And that's not something that in my former school board happened very often. And it was probably the best thing I ever did in my career because it's like if you haven't played volleyball for three years and there's the ball and it's over the net, oh, you should really get that ball. I didn't always get the ball. And it gave me such empathy for how complex and how challenging teaching is.
And then the following year, I applied and I became the coordinator of new teachers. And I enjoyed how that sounded, but I had no idea what I was doing. And so I quickly decided that the best thing I could do was spend as much time in the classrooms of new teachers. And so I would start every Monday by invitation, not just randomly showing up.
And really what I discovered and where I really got hooked on mentorship is that the school district or the ministry or whoever can design these wonderful things and all these... It's at the school where the difference is made. And every day in our classrooms, every day there are these quiet moments of beauty where teachers are making a difference in their lives and the learning of their students. And sometimes, if you ask somebody at the end of the day, we forget about those things. We forget about those 19 quiet victories and we go to those one or two, three or six things that didn't go so well.
And so that's really what a skilled mentor can do, is hold up that mirror and help the person see in the mirror not just the flaws, but their strengths. And where I really got hooked on the mentorship is the hardest thing that we can do is to hold up that same mirror to ourselves. So we fail the best inaudible friend test every single day almost. So if Jon came to you, Kyle, with all his issues and challengers, you'd be so understanding and so empathetic, but we don't always give that same understanding and empathy to ourselves.
Jon Orr: True. How often do we go home and you constantly think about, like you said, those few moments that kind of just got under your skin? Or it bugged you, maybe the lesson, you said the wrong thing in the lesson. Or you made this mistake at the board, and then it just allowed something to happen in the room that you're like, "Ah, wish that didn't happen."
We constantly dwell on those things. And I think you're right, we forget all of these nice moments, these beautiful, like you said, moments that happen. And I think we take those for granted. Those are those supposed to happens, instead of thinking like, "Wow, that was created because of this scenario that we built here together in the classroom." And it's not an accident. These things are built and created. And with practice, we can make more of those types of moments. And I think that's so important to reflect on.
And something that you said, your experience of going back to the classroom, I'm curious about this relationship between being a mentor to educators and then another one to kids in the classroom. And you've got both experiences, and you've had transition from both forward and backwards.
And I'm curious if you had any big, "aha", moments or lessons that you carried forward from one to the other. So, "Hey, I was working with teachers, and this is what I learned and I actually transitioned that back to kids and it worked well." And vice versa. Is there something that works with kids well that you're like, "Now, I'm going to transition to working with adults?" And that also seemed to work well. I know that we have a lot of coaches and mentors that listen to the podcast and I think might be like, "Hey, that makes a lot of sense that Jim said that."
Jim Strachan: Yeah, no, absolutely, Jon. You actually hit it right on the head. So what I now consider the foundational elements of mentorship, when I tell them to you, you'll think they're the foundational elements of effective teaching. So when I work with mentors, we talk about building trust. And you can do a lot of things without trust, but mentoring isn't one of them. And I would submit that you can do a lot of things without trust, but effective classroom environment creation isn't one of them. So we were very explicit in some of the resources that I know you'll be linked to with mentors and all the roles about how are they building trust.
And then once you've built trust, it's the ability to have what I call learning focused conversations. So as a skilled mentor, to base your stance in the role on the need of the person you're working with, do they need consulting? Do they need advice and resources? Is it a collaborative opportunity where the two of you or the group of you are going to work together? Or ultimately, maybe as a mentor, you want to become that coach, that guide, that support.
So when I went back to the classroom... And I'm not skilled enough to change the student's name, but he knows that I use his name. I had a student named Jerome. And do you know that student you've maybe both had, Kyle and Jon, who takes about 99% of your time, love and attention?
Jon Orr: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Jim Strachan: Just times that by about 100 and that was Jerome. So Jerome's stuck on a word. I can be a consultant, I can give him the advice. Oh, because, B-E-C-A-U-S-E, it's fast, gets Jerome the answer, off he goes. But what's the danger if I only ever consult with Jerome? What does Jerome learn? That's sort of a rhetorical question. Well, what he learns is to ask Mr. S. So as a skilled mentor, as a skilled teacher, maybe I need to look for authentic opportunities to collaborate. "Oh, Mr S., I'm stuck on a work." Well, why don't we look at the spelling strategies chart. What are some things we could try? "Oh, I could write it out three times. We have these orange things called dictionaries. There's a spell check on the computer." Great, giddy up. And he actually would giddy up, like a little horsey dance. It wasn't as fun as it sounds at first. The first time I laughed though, Kyle, and then the 412th time I didn't
Kyle Pearce: You have your camera on, Are you okay with modeling inaudible? Because we're big-
Jim Strachan: I would like to model.
Kyle Pearce: ... into modeling for mathematics.
Jim Strachan: But maybe my ultimate goal as a teacher, as a mentor, is to foster the independence of Jerome. "So Mr. S, I'm stuck on a word." And I would say to Jerome, "Well, you know a lot of strategies. What are you thinking of trying?" And maybe just maybe, Jerome doesn't even need to ask me. So to me, that's that example, Jon, of your question of mentoring as teaching, mentoring as learning, and teaching as mentoring.
Kyle Pearce: Even just the way you word... And I've mentioned this to Jon many times before. The way you word things has a massive impact. And we actually had a question. We're in a Google Doc... For those who don't know how we run the podcast, we have a Google Doc open, and we're kind of brainstorming as we go. Where do we go next? And the question we were going to ask is, how do you build trust?
But I heard it in your answer. You build trust at least one way. And maybe you have another way to articulate or maybe something that encompasses more options. But what I heard is you put yourself... Because the we. Like you said, we. Instead of, "Why don't you go do this?" And I know I've been guilty of that, to say to students like, "Well, did you check your note?" Now, it's an on you thing. But when you're there as a team, it's like you've almost built in trust automatically. We're on the same team, so of course you're going to trust me, and it just feels more natural.
Are there any other things that you maybe remind yourself of in order... Jon and I, before we get on a coaching call or a mentorship moment or a mentoring moment episode, we constantly say to each other, "Ask more questions. Don't just tell, ask more questions." Are there things that you use as a cue for yourself to... Maybe it's so automatic now that maybe you don't need to do these things. But when you started this journey, was there something that was like, "I need to remind myself to blank in order to ensure that I build this trust or I build the relationship of the student or the educator that I'm working with?"
Jim Strachan: Absolutely. So the first that I needed to remind myself to do is to listen. And that sounds simple, but it's deceptively complex. So sometimes, if we're not careful, we listen to speak. So somebody comes to us with a challenge or a question or a wonder, and we let them talk for about 10 seconds, and then we interrupt them with either autobiography... "Yeah, I like that too." Or, "Yeah, I don't like that person too." Or advice. To your point, Kyle, you should on them. "Well, you should do this." So sometimes, that person wants autobiography. It is a way to build rapport. Sometimes, they do want advice. But more often than not, they want to be listened to.
If we think about a learning focused conversation, which is what you've described, that first piece is that listening piece. And listening with uncertainty, listening with an open mind and an open heart. And listening with curiosity because I might learn something from this conversation, even though you've asked me to be your mentor or to do whatever.
Then the next piece, the next move if you will, is the paraphrase. When you paraphrase... Not word for word, that's just annoying... You either paraphrase heart, how the person's feeling, or content, what they're feeling about. Or if you're feeling saucy, both. That paraphrase really lets the person know that you've listened. And if you've got it wrong by the way, they'll tell you, "Well, it's not really this that I'm worried about, it was this."
And then in that coaching stance, having the person explore their options. So you're entering the conversation with this person, but they've already given this issue a great deal of thought. So in that coaching stance, so what are some things that you're thinking of trying given all that you know? And how will if those things are effective? And then if needed, "How can I help or how can we work together?"
And if you do find yourself giving advice, you're using I instead of you. So something that I tried when I had a problem like this, or something that I ran across that was similar, that worked for me as opposed to you shoulding on the person. And then it's funny because you use the you when you're coaching. So in that collaborative stance, it's we. What are our best thinking? What are our next steps? What should we try? But in the coaching, that is on the other person. It's, so what are you thinking of doing next? How will you know if it works? So that's a very long answer.
Jon Orr: No.
Kyle Pearce: No, but super helpful.
Jon Orr: Yeah, it is.
Jim Strachan: And then the other thing I'll just throw in any mentoring relationship, whether it's at a district level or school level or classroom level, beginning the relationship with a goal setting conversation where people... In the case of a teacher, the teacher shares their learning goals for the students, the mentor or a coach shares their own learning goals. And I always started off with their hopes, wishes and dreams. So if I'm having a conversation, Kyle, with you about how you hope to progress, I would say, "What are your hopes, wishes and dreams? What are the next things we can do to help you with that?"
So it's complex though, and relationships are complex and messy and need continued care. So it's not like, "Oh, well, I had this goal setting conversation, I'm listening." No, everything will be fine. It really is a flexible stance and role based on the needs.
Jon Orr: Yeah, I appreciate those helpful... We call them moves, or obviously these listening moves, but reciting back and-
Kyle Pearce: Mentoring moves.
Jon Orr: Yeah, they're mentoring moves. And it reminds me of a couple that we've learned along the way from The Coaching Habit, which was a book that we've also referenced here on the podcast. And Michael Bungay Stanier I think is the author. I think I may have butchered the middle name there, but he's got a great move. And I'm curious if you've used this move as well, that once you dig a little deeper and do a little bit more probing and do the listening, his key move, he says it's the best line, he would always say, "And what else?" It keeps the conversation going.
Because what we find is that someone will go deeper, and then almost start to think about the solutions or what the next step is right after they have to answer, "And what else?" It's kind of like there's more to this, and you know it and you have to say it. I think that's a key move.
And I'll throw in this other part for you to think about as well on the what else question. But if you're thinking in that... Say we're having that conversation and we're having a moment together, and you're listening to what I'm having to say, how do you end that? So it's like you've listened, you've kind of got them to think about what you need to do next or what's the next thing to do, and then how does that conversation naturally come to a close in your experience?
Jim Strachan: Yeah, so that's when I would ask a self evaluative question. So how will you know if this is working?
Jon Orr: Got it.
Jim Strachan: "So that's great, I'm going to do all these things. I'm going to set up my class in centers and blah blah blah. Oh, fantastic." How will you know if it's working? And not every conversation is like a clean, "Oh, okay, now we're this." Because then the next piece of that would be, "How might I be of assistance?"
And Kyle mentioned the pebble in the shoe. And another approach that I use all the time is appreciative inquiry. So Jon, imagine I haven't seen you in five weeks. Appreciative inquiry doesn't start with the pebble. It starts with, "Tell me the best thing that happened in your classroom in the last five weeks." And so we hold up the mirror and we start with something positive. And then, "Okay, Jon, what are those stones in your shoe or pebbles in your shoe?" And pebble could be the size of your whole shoe or it could be just a tiny little grain of sand. And then what can we collaboratively construct in terms of a strategy harvest of ideas to help address that pebble? And that conversation could be five minutes or it can be five days. But it's that idea of deliberately starting with the positive that often takes people aback.
And so when I work with school leaders, oftentimes, they're out of their school, and of course they'll come back the next day and they'll be issues and challenges. And so some of them, what they do is they ask their office assistant and say, "What was the best thing that happened yesterday?" Then what are the pebbles and what can we do about it? But-
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I've already had a couple takeaways earlier, but that for me is something... And I know Jon, you're probably thinking the same thing because I feel like it's so easy to kind of get to work.
You don't intend it to be that way, but unless you are intentional about it... And in this conversation, something else that's hitting me. So if you're a classroom teacher listening to this, you're teaching math... Or other subject areas, we have a lot of multi-subject teachers... And you're in the classroom, it's just like in the math classroom, you are observing, you are listening. You are obviously looking at product as well, but you're really, in the moment, trying to decide what does that look like and sound like. However, it sounds like there's that kind of a nice framework there. I've noticed you've named certain things, like you said, "I might use a..." And I'm going to have to get the names for them, but you've named sort of certain moves that you might make.
So in this moment, I'm going to potentially use a this type of question. And I think that's really helpful to at least get you in the right ballpark of, "Hey, we're going to start with an asset-based the look in the mirror," as you mentioned. It's like, how will that look and sound? It might look a little different depending on the situation, but I sort of want to start in this realm, and then we're going to work our way towards this learning focused conversation, as you had mentioned. So that's a big takeaway for me for sure.
I'm wondering... And I wondered this earlier, but I didn't want to interrupt the conversation. You had mentioned about when you were working with new teachers and how you would start the week off in the classroom, and you had said, "It's not like I just show up, it was by invitation." I know that there are people that are in mentorship, coaching, any type of role where they might be working with other educators in their building. Do you have any moves? How do you sort of start from like "Hey, I'm the new person in the building that's supposedly helping all these teachers," how do you break the ice there? And again, I'm going to guess that there's probably an idea and there's different strategies, but might you share one with the group?
Jim Strachan: Yeah, I'll share a few. The first, I think... Again, and it's back to trust, is this idea of congruence. Congruence between what you say and what you do. So not alignment, we're not at all perfect, but that following through and listening and all the different things, those are ways to build trust. And in terms of going into someone's classroom, even though we like to think that we've privatized classroom practice, your mileage may vary.
So one of the most effective strategies, we did some longitudinal research where we followed new teachers for the first five years of their career. Not in a creepy way, Kyle, actual research. And one of the most effective things that a mentor did with a new teacher, it wasn't visit their own classroom or it wasn't even have the mentor visit the new teacher's classroom, the mentor and the teacher went together and visited what we call a inaudible point. So a site of learning.
So imagine, Kyle, you're a new grade 10 teacher and I'm your mentor, and we go to Jon's classroom. And then we have a third point. And what's powerful about that is it's great learning. It's better than watching 79 slides in PowerPoint because it's going to be complex and messy. And then we have something to talk about together afterwards because the observation is just the raw material. And I heard you talk about being in observation protocols, Jon, in podcast 200. The observation is really just the raw material. It's what you do with, it's the making sense of it. And that's really powerful. So as a mentor, creating those third points.
And then just another piece, as a mentor, as a colleague, your role is not evaluative. So there's a section in the work that I know you're referring to that talks about how we can give feedback in a non-evaluative way. So using things like appreciative inquiry and scaling questions and being cautious of you shoulding, those all build trust. So those small quiet ways. And also, to be very honest, getting to know each other as people.
And then one last piece, as the mentor, you're not the only support. And again, I'll lean on our research. What we found was there was actually no correlation to being matched to a mentor and growth in a new teacher. There was high correlation to being mentored. And that's very different. So ones a structure.
And this is one of my learnings, I know you both talk about your own learnings. So when I was first a coordinator in the TUSB and we were hiring a thousand new teachers, I would ask them, I was really proud I was getting this data, "Do you have a mentor?" And it took me two years to realize the question I should have been asking is, "Are you being mentored?" They're two very different questions. So what we found with our high growth new teachers in Ontario is they didn't have a mentor, they had five to seven different mentor supports. So I call it a mentoring web. So it takes the pressure off that one person.
So you might know a lot about assessment, Kyle, and you're going to really help me when it comes time for me to start really thinking about my assessment practices. But if I go to Jon's classroom and he's part of my web, he might have some really engaging pedagogy that I could go back and use with my learner. The board person at the school district office might have some great resources, and they can be part of my mentoring work. You get the idea.
Kyle Pearce: That makes so much sense because really, if you're being mentored by a single person, let's assume you're blocking everything else out, it's like you're basically relying on that person having everything you need. And we know that that person doesn't exist, especially because you're different people and you need different things and you have different experiences.
And the part there I wanted to go back to is your third point. I think it feels like a no-brainer now.
Jon Orr: No.
Kyle Pearce: But it's not something that was obvious to me before. So my guess is it wasn't explicit, but I think it was implied, is that third point, you're going to go and it's going to be someone you probably have a relationship with. So it comes back to trust in relationships again where, "Hey, maybe for me it's Craig," right, Jim? Craig trusts me, and Craig trusts that I'm going to come into his classroom. Or it's Jon, and Jon knows I'm not going to come in and we're not going to be talking about the things that didn't work right in his, classroom and that's going to welcome it in. I feel like the mentee seeing the trust between the two others builds that confidence to go, "Oh, okay, I can trust this person." They're trusting each other. And to me, that seems like, again, another huge takeaway that feels obvious now, but never occurred to me.
Jim Strachan: Yeah. And you're adding a strand to that person's web because now that person's connected with Jon as well. Even if there's four people in a classroom, there's four more strands in that web.
And then the third point as a mentor when you're providing feedback is just sticking to observation as opposed to how you feel about something. So I sometimes had to go into classrooms, and I'm sure you both have, where there were some significant challenges. And so when we're debriefing, I might have felt like, "Boy, those kids weren't listening." But that's not what I'm going to say to the teacher because then I'm evaluating that person and I'm sort of basically shutting them down.
But observation third point is I noticed there were about four students who seemed to get out of their seats a lot. Why do you think that was? That's a question that we can wonder about together. It leaves my colleague's dignity intact. I'm not implying value or judgment, not you shoulding them. So the third point is really powerful in terms of sticking to what you saw or what you heard, not how you felt about what you saw.
Jon Orr: Right. The other great point here is that you're both seeing these things that if it wasn't a third person, they were coming into view say my lesson, and it was just them observing me, then I'm going to be relying on what I've witnessed. And we know then what a teacher is seeing while the teacher's delivering the lesson is not what say a witness or a third partier sees in the background. We miss a lot. And we've learned a lot of that when we've done lesson study at our schools, is that so much you see about that lesson that the teacher didn't see. So both of you get to see those things and then go away and chat about it. I think that's a great point.
Jim Strachan: Yeah. And the crux of it is what's happening in the classroom. I know I made fun of the slides, but that's where learning is happening and that's where all those complexities are happening. And I think that the more professional learning that is classroom-based, relational, the deeper it is. So gone are the days of the seagull.
And I've been the seagull, you probably both have too. Lois Brown Eastern's work where the seagull flies in, deposits, using that word literally, then the seagull inaudible. Yeah, thanks for laughing. And then inaudible. If that kind of approach was going to change the world, the world would've changed a long time ago. So the approach that you're both taking, that mentorship approach, the different layers of support and the different tiers of support, those are strands, potential strands in your listeners' webs. And so Kyle and Jon are not the answer, but they're a strand in the web towards my own professional learning and growth.
Kyle Pearce: I love it it. I love it. Jim, it's funny because I reflect back as you're talking and I reflect on our early conversations, and in those moments, I don't realize that I was in mentoring conversations. I know that they made sense later.
Jon Orr: He tricked you.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah, well, you know what?
Jim Strachan: He's too good.
Kyle Pearce: And I guess it's just like I was just oblivious, and I could only imagine how challenging that would be as a mentor. And I'll call it an informal mentor. A lot of times, we were together going into classrooms. But I remember so many things.... And I'm sure I didn't understand so many things that we had the conversation about, but I feel like I've had a lot of growth since when we first met. And in a way, I know I shouldn't be, but I'm almost embarrassed as to probably my mindset or where my head was at those times.
As you share this seagull story or analogy, I'm kind of thinking back and I'm like, "Yeah, that was exactly what I thought at the time." And you were probably sitting there going, "Oh, I could just tell him. I could just tell him right now that this isn't going to work." But you do such a great job. You're so graceful in how you engage with people and how... I feel like people are constantly learning with you and alongside you.
I've already shared a bunch of takeaways. My question for you is, before we wrap this thing up, if there was one thing that you wanted the Math Moment Maker community to take from this massive conversation of so many great takeaways and goodies, what would that big takeaway be for you?
Jim Strachan: Well, you're all here, you're all listening, you're all participating because you want to support others. And this isn't just from COVID, although COVID was a magnifier. How are you supporting yourselves? So what are your... I call them kayak moments, and Kyle knows I kayak every morning, have done so for 22 years. The exercise is great, but it's the time to think, to pause and to reflect. So as you seek to support other people, how are you supporting yourselves? What are those kayak moments? Who are those kayak people who bring you strength, energy, passion and hope, so that you can bring that strength, energy, and passion and hope to your district, to your school, to your students, to whoever is in your sphere of influence?
Jon Orr: What a great and lovely thought, Jim, to leave with us. Before we sign off here, where can the listeners go if they want to learn more about the work you're doing or the work you have done?
Jim Strachan: Well, there's this crazy thing called a Google site where I've posted all my work today, ebook and all the modules. There's about 22 around webs and trust and conversations and feedback and monitoring designs. So sites.google.com/view/mentoringforall. And I know that'll be in the show notes too. I believe in this work. And both of you have alluded to this, but I have learned so much from this work and that's what I think is powerful. And the people who are listening, you're stepping outside your classroom or you have stepped outside your classroom, and I think there's a tremendous amount of courage required to do that. And so I'm hoping that some of this mentoring work and resources can be useful to you as you continue your own professional learning and growth.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. Jim, it has been an absolute honor, not only to have had the opportunity to do so much learning with you, some traveling along the way, which has been a bonus. Meeting a guy named Nick. We'll just leave that. We don't need to go down that rabbit hole. I feel like a great, not only mentor-mentee relationship, but also a friendship. So I really appreciate the work you do.
I know folks listening are going to be really thinking about this one. And hopefully, a few people will go back and re-listen because I know I'm going to in order to pick up on a few of those mentoring moves so I can build them into my repertoire. So thank you so much, Jim, for spending the time with us. And I'm looking at the time, you got to get yourself to bed because I know you like kayaking pretty early in the morning.
Jim Strachan: #5:30.
Jon Orr: Thanks so much.
Kyle Pearce: We'll see you soon there. Thanks so much, Jim.
Jim Strachan: Thank you both.
Jon Orr: All right. In order to ensure you don't miss out on new episodes as they come out each week, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and also head on over to YouTube and check us out over there. Hit subscribe, hit the bell. We are posting our episodes and videos over there every week.
Kyle Pearce: I love it. I love it, Jon. Hey, not only do we have show notes, resources, transcripts, all of the wonderful, wonderful resources that Jim had mentioned in this particular interview over on makemathmoments.com/episode204, we also have an opportunity for you to continue learning through our virtual summit. The virtual summit is coming up and you can register for free on November 18th, 19th, and 20th. That is a summit you can attend live from anywhere in the world over at makemathmoments.com/summit.
And guess what? If you want, you can enter our Share The Summit giveaway over at makemathmoments.com/giveaway, which will not only enter you into a draw for white books, for our favorite math books, as well as some other goodies, you will also be asked to share it out with others to get some additional entries into the draw. So head on over to makemathmoments.com/giveaway, and we look forward to seeing you over at the summit.
Well, until next time, I'm Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I'm Jon Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High Fives for us.
Jon Orr: And high five for you.
Speaker 4: (Singing).
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and we'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
DOWNLOAD THE MAKE MATH MOMENTS FROM A DISTANCE CHEAT SHEETS
Download the Cheat Sheets in PDF form so you can effectively run problem based lessons from a distance!
UP YOUR DISTANCE LEARNING GAME IN THE ACADEMY
There is a LOT to know, understand, and do to Make Math Moments From a Distance.
That’s why so many Math Moment Makers like YOU have joined the Academy for a month ON US!
You heard right: 30 days on us and you can cancel anytime. Dive into our distance learning course now…
Thanks For Listening
- Apply for a Math Mentoring Moment
- Leave a note in the comment section below.
- Share this show on Twitter, or Facebook.
To help out the show:
ONLINE WORKSHOP REGISTRATION
Pedagogically aligned for teachers of K through Grade 12 with content specific examples from Grades 3 through Grade 10.
In our self-paced, 12-week Online Workshop, you'll learn how to craft new and transform your current lessons to Spark Curiosity, Fuel Sense Making, and Ignite Your Teacher Moves to promote resilient problem solvers.