It starts early and extends till late in professional life: being supported. Teaching no longer can be performed in isolation; it is surrounded by guiding learning materials, demanding course regulations, supervising school inspection, peeping parents and so forth. Teaching is fully embedded in the Age of Transparency (1) . So, let us forget about teaching as ability residing in the individual; it is distributed, shared among those creating the instructional environment at a school site. The teacher as an individual professional is long gone. We are comfortably accustomed to provisions, support, and care up to a level of dependency. This is not to criticize current state of affairs, certainly not. Teaching is not to be a one-man-show; it requires attention. Initiatives to get teachers to help each other should then receive a warm welcome. And indeed, there have been numerous attempts to share and distribute trade knowledge among teachers. Classroom consultation, clinical supervision, Plc’s, team coaching, inter-vision, peer mentoring; there are really a lot of initiatives (2). Given this, it is good to keep on asking: does it contribute (i.e., in keeping teacher ability high)?
An interesting initiative was set up by a group of Danish developers who started a counseling trajectory to support mathematics teachers. They trained a group of teachers in counseling skills to help their fellow teachers at the school site to deal with students having math problems. The program provided a solid framework. Of interest here is the outcome: For the counselor-teachers it turned out that they had great difficulty with the discursive shift, i.e., not to teach their fellow teachers but to mentor them. The counseling talks were mainly of a kind: “let me tell you how I…”. An interesting side result was that teachers were aversive to reading the literature, and preferred talking. As a positive outcome it was noted that the program contributed to more attention to student math problems.
Teaching is not mentoring, and mentoring is not teaching. It requires special skills to mentor. Although teaching nowadays becomes more and more like mentoring; that is, helping another person to master an unexperienced task, teachers are largely ill-prepared in their role as mentors. Being sensitive to the other’s concerns and needs for help requires not “telling”, or talking over a cup of coffee; but a) reviewing where the other currently is, b) pointing out where to go, c) and selecting the right learning path to get there.
Uffe Thomas Jankvist & Mogens Niss (2015) A framework for designing a research-based “maths counsellor” teacher programme . In: Educational Studies in Mathematics (2015) 90:259–284
Published online: 29 August 2015; Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015.