Ending a relationship long troubled by mixed sentiments is never easy. May be at first a feeling of relief is noticed but then the consequences become painstakingly clear. You have recognized you have to move on, no matter what. For those who thought differently this is about mentoring. At a certain moment in time a mentoring relationship becomes mature and at its final stage (never precisely determined at what time during the relationship it occurs) a point comes where travelers choose different roads to go on. It is a familiar problem in mentoring (1). The mentor being disappointed after so many hours of attention and care falls back in soul searching about what went right and where chances were missed. The mentee still ignorant about how to go on but confident in personal ability to pursue reassesses the relationship as one that has lost prospects. Establishing that moment of leave is both complicated and frightening.
In a mentoring study it was sought to determine whether different patterns in talks between a mentor and a mentee occurred depending on the phase or stage of a relationship. It turned out that the nature of communication changed over time. At later phases of a relationship more action oriented speech acts initiated by the mentor and advice giving talk were present. Whereas in early stages of a mentoring relation more orienting and questioning speech acts were noted.
It is almost as if in a relationship it is felt that conditions and needs have changed or matured above what can be offered or provided. It is not only courageous to dare to break the relationship at that point it is wanted.
Question though remains: is the new and challenging situation do-able and sustainable to act upon by the independent self-regulator. You never know. No matter what, in mature relationships the part that comes after a leave is also ruled by positive intentions of care and welfare. Nothing ends definitely, it only continuous differently.
In schools you will find teachers. Quite normal. They are supposed to be working as a team for the benefit of students. As one might expect. It is, however, not always turning out that way. So, what is wrong? It is not that teachers are not dedicated professionals. On the contrary. Work engagement is high in the teaching profession and motivation to help students in their learning is known to be the prime drive of teachers (1). It is also not true that teachers like to be distant from their colleagues and perform as ”isolated professionals” (2). Collaborative work is quite common in schools. Still, working as a team is a bit of a problem in many schools (3). It takes quite a lot to be a team, for sure. Teams share a common philosophy, distribute defined roles and tasks evenly among each member, and are enabled to work as a team based on sufficient resources. But even when team conditions are fulfilled it may not flourish. Collaboration in a team requires a lot of individual stress regulation.
A study among early childhood professionals working as a team (in day care centres) conducted in Finland looked at the physiological signals that could indicate what happened when working together. The researchers measured cortisol levels, alpha-amylase enzyme in saliva as indicators of psychological stress. This measurement was related to team work related demands. It showed that it was not so much work engagement or motivation (which are attributed to individuals) but far more quality of the work environment (i.e, clear goals, defined roles, and resources) that contributed to the regulation of stress. Teams that are energized to work well together are able to manage their work demands.
A link between physiological and psychological states is one thing the study managed to establish, the other perhaps is that person related factors (work engagement, motivation) are not the stressors per se but the quality of the work environment really is. The good news remains that teachers are devoted to their work, just let them be able to enact it. Stress is part of work life but it helps when it can be regulated through enabling conditions.
Mari A. Nislin, Nina K. Sajaniemi, Margaret Sims, Eira Suhonen, Enrique F. Maldonado Montero, Ari Hirvonen & Sirpa Hyttinen (2016) Pedagogical work, stress regulation and work-related well-being among early childhood professionals in integrated special day-care groups, European Journal of Special Needs Education, 31:1, 27-43, DOI:10.1080/08856257.2015.1087127
…ness. No, this is not about how to change your life by meditation. It is about change though. Real change in schools, for instance when they take part in an innovative project, is known to be a demanding and long road when it needs to come to actual, sustainable effects. Travelling the innovative path emanates all kinds of resistances and obstructions, not to mention the hardship of recognizing that change requires new changes and adaptations not envisioned before. Schools know that often better than the enthusiastic innovators who come to support (1). It is a lengthy road. Schools (and innovations for that matter) are made by people. Change travels on thoughts and considerations of persons who are involved in and caring for their school. This is the more manifest, when it comes to achieve durable and sustainable outcomes. Innovation has to find its space in the minds and actions that occur daily in a school; which essentially means that each change will turn out differently depending in those who travel the road. So, how come that this is ignored so often in many innovative projects?
A study from Norway recognizing the need to look in depth at what happens in school teams when adopting a change project analyzed discussions among the teachers about the consequences and steps to take in teaching. It pointed out that exchange within the team while scrutinizing their multiple perspectives is crucial for an advanced understanding and school wide sustainable implementation of the proposed change. It is the plurality of perspectives that makes the change concrete and tangible for action, not the uniformity in thinking. A school team becomes innovative by adjusting and transforming individual viewpoints into a collective framework.
Change is construction work, mainly with ideas and notions as building blocks, and executed by thoughtful persons. The thing is what makes perspectives shift, altered over the course of the construction work (2)? It is not merely enough to exchange perspectives in a team (as the study notices as well). Of course, understanding of each other’s insights is a ground to build on; but more than that is needed a commitment to apply – a willingness to make it a success and to put agreements into personal repertoire.
The emergence of innovative work in school development by Kirsten Foshaug Vennebo & Eli Ottesen.
Journal of Educational Change (2015) 16:197–216
www.DOI 10.1007/s10833-014-9234-0. Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014.