Strong RE Programs Begin with Strong Leaders
Mentoring and the Religious Education Credentialing Program
Mentoring is an essential component of the UUA Religious Education Credentialing Program. Mentors serve as cheerleaders, sounding boards, and constructive critics for credentialing candidates. Regular, structured conversations with a mentor help ensure that a candidate receives thoughtful feedback, is held accountable for steady progress, and stays on target to complete the program within the established timeframe.
LREDA Committee on Mentoring (LCoM)
While the Religious Education Credentialing Program as a whole is administered by the UUA, the mentoring program is managed by LREDA. The LREDA Committee on Mentoring (LCoM) arranges and oversees trainings, matches candidates with mentors, checks in with mentors periodically, and ensures that the mentoring program runs smoothly overall. LCoM members have completed the mentor training and serve as mentors themselves.
LCoM members serve four-year terms with rotating roles. For the 2013-2014 year, the LCOM Members are Thomas Pistole, Chair; Layne Richard-Hammock, Mentor Training; Greta Porter, Secretary; and Sheri Phillabaum, Data Management. Feel free to contact a member of the LCoM with your questions or feedback about the mentoring process.
Who are the LREDA Mentors?
Mentors are seasoned religious educators and members of LREDA. Many are Credentialed Religious Educators. We see mentoring as an important way for those who have successfully completed the credentialing program to “pay it forward.” We hope that those who have received their credential will pursue mentoring, not only to give back but also to continue in their own professional growth.
How Are Mentors Prepared?
After a screening for intent and suitability, potential mentors participate in a training to learn about mentoring protocol and practice the needed skills. Participants are approved as mentors by the facilitator upon successful completion of the training. (We hope that everyone who takes the training will be equipped and inspired to mentor, but occasionally the facilitator may feel that someone is not ready, or a participant may decide that mentoring is not a good fit.)
How Are Mentors Assigned?
The LCoM assigns mentors to candidates, making use of information from mentor training applications completed by the mentors, credentialing program application materials from the candidates, and sometimes personal knowledge of the individuals. Mentors who have been credentialed are matched with candidates pursuing a level no higher than the level the mentor has achieved; mentors who are not credentialed get approved to mentor at particular levels on a case-by-case basis.
After a potential match is identified, a member of the LCoM will make the contact to invite the mentor to accept the candidate as a mentee. Mentors are generally assigned to new candidates within 4 to 6 weeks of their acceptance into the credentialing program.
How Long and How Frequent are Mentoring Conversations?
Mentoring is a requirement of the credentialing program, and we expect candidates and their mentors to maintain regular contact. Monthly, hour-long conversations are recommended. Except in extraordinary circumstances, there should be no longer than two months between meetings. Sustained email exchanges may occasionally take the place of a meeting. Candidates and mentors need to meet a minimum of eight, and ideally should meet ten, times per year.
What does a Mentor-Mentee Conversation “Look” Like?
Meetings have traditionally taken place by phone, but Skype (or similar) is becoming more popular. If circumstances allow, mentors and their mentees sometimes meet in person.
In their initial conversation, the mentor and mentee typically get to know each other a bit, establish a covenant (rules of engagement), compare schedule and other logistics, and begin to talk about the candidate’s credentialing program needs and timeline. Mentors and their mentees will find their own rhythm for monthly conversations. A typical meeting might include some of the following: brief personal check-ins, identifying appropriate educational opportunities, discussing a draft portfolio section, setting and reviewing goals, monitoring reading list progress with respect to the timeline, and assessing the mentoring relationship. Mentors are encouraged to provide affirmation and encouragement as well as honest, constructive feedback.
Mentors are not responsible for helping candidates with job-related challenges, per se. However, a mentor can help a candidate consider how a professional situation might be used in credentialing – for example, an issue faced by the candidate can be explored and developed into a work experience reflection for a portfolio.
Mentors are familiar with credentialing program requirements but are not expected to be experts on all of the details. A candidate who has credentialing program concerns or specific questions about requirements can be referred to Jan Gartner, UUA Professional Development Associate, who oversees the credentialing program.
What if Problems Arise?
If the mentor wants help with coaching skills or has a question clearly related to mentoring, Helen Bishop is currently the mentor to mentors.
Sometimes a problem or conflict with the mentoring relationship cannot be resolved through communication between the parties (e.g., one party has disengaged). In such cases, a concerned mentor should contact the LCoM Chair or the appropriate liaison; Jan Gartner is the contact for concerned candidates. We do not want unproductive or difficult mentoring relationships to linger; please reach out if something is not working.
What Happens When the Candidate Finishes the Program?
The mentor has been a support person throughout the candidate’s credentialing experience and remains available afterwards in the short-term to help the candidate reflect on the outcome of the process, if the candidate so desires. Then what? It is up to the individuals involved. Some mentor-candidate pairs develop a collegial relationship that continues beyond the candidate’s time in the program, but there is no expectation that this happen. We hope that the time spent together in the mentoring relationship has been useful, enjoyable, and mutually beneficial. If it gives rise to a lasting friendship, that is icing on the cake!
LREDA Committee on Mentoring and Jan Gartner, UUA Professional Development Associate