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This month’s Mentoring Memo is unique in multiple ways. For starters, the April 2020 Mentoring Calendar is a “special edition” designed to address the challenges we are all facing right now. Be sure to take a close look at it. Additionally, Just ASK Senior Consultant Brenda Kaylor provides a summary of Learning Forward’s March 31st Tweeter Chat “Coaching in a Time of Crisis.” Brenda is currently leading coaching academies in New York and Illinois. (Fortunately that work already included “coaching from a distance!”) Brenda is a co-author of Just ASK’s Creating a Culture for Learning: Your guide to PLCs and More; her article (co-authored with Chris Bryan) titled “Building Blocks of Collaboration” was recently published in The Learning Professional, Learning Forward’s journal. I have long considered her a coaching/mentoring guru since she introduced me to a fantastic induction coaching model many years ago.

  Brenda Kaylor’s Highlights from Learning Forward’s Twitter Chat 

“Coaching in a Time of Crisis”

Educators from around the world came together on March 31st, 2020 to respond to the following questions posed by Learning Forward:

  1. How are you staying connected with your colleagues right now?
  2. What needs are teachers and leaders expressing to you?
  3. How are you prioritizing the many needs coming at you from all directions?
  4. For educators who are struggling (e.g., those with no experience in online teaching), where do your start?
  5. How are you helping your school/district/colleagues address equity issues?
  6. What are you doing to take care of yourself?

For each of the six questions posed by Learning Forward, I provide below patterns I heard in responses, some summaries from Learning Forward, words of advice, specific tweets that made me nod my head in agreement, and a link to a strongly recommended webinar. (If you would like to read the entire transcript, you can download it here.)

Question #1:  How are you staying connected with your colleagues right now?
Response Patterns Noted: Google Meets, Google Hangouts, GChat, texts, phone, email, Freetime, Zoom, Document Sharing, Face Time, themed faculty meetings and more!
My Words of Advice: Newsletters, care packages, Monday morning polls, daily check-in with grade level or content teams, etc. We have so many choices! Pick two or three to add to your repertoire and match the tool to the style and needs of the teacher you are mentoring.

Question #2: What needs are teachers and leaders expressing to you?
Response Patterns Noted: Specifically, teachers are asking for technical support, ideas for balancing workload, support in understanding how to organize and teach lessons virtually, and best practices for collaborating with parents.
My Words of Advice:

  • Teachers want a clear focus of what is expected and needed from them. They want to know what is most important.
  • “Teachers want ideas from others yet simultaneously feel resource overwhelm.”
  • As mentors, one of our jobs has always been to give teachers ideas while being careful not to overwhelm them.

Question #3: How are you prioritizing the many needs coming at you for all directions?
Learning Forward’s Summary for Question #3: “Based on the responses from educators, there is no one way that works best to prioritize the many needs coming at educators during this unprecedented time. While traditional to-do lists work for some, others depend on structures and systems being created by leadership, some have prioritized tasks by who it affects or helps (for example, students and families first), and many reported that taking care of themselves first has equipped them to be helpful to others.”
Tweets That Caught My Eye:

  • “Try to prioritize by focusing on humans first and then on content. Some teachers just need you to listen.”
  • “Acknowledge and accept where people are and how they are feeling.”
  • “Keep collaboration high. Pressure low.”
  • “Create a daily schedule for office hours; block out time to complete your own tasks.”

Question #4: For educators who are struggling (e.g., those with no experience in online teaching), where do you start?
Patterns Noted: One big pattern of response was in the affective realm. Teachers are struggling to find community in the online world. Suggestions about the need to be present and listen were frequent. There were concrete strategies included like: goal for the day, starting conversations with celebrations, refocusing the teachers on “who they are teaching vs what they are teaching.”
Words of Advice: Spend time seeking to understand where and why your colleague is struggling. It’s not helpful to provide solutions to fuzzy problems. 

Question #5: How are you helping your school/district/colleagues address equity issues?
Learning Forward’s Summary for Question #5: “Educators are trying to address equity issues by considering English learners, students with no access to technology, students with no Internet access, and students from low-income households by focusing on individual needs and differentiating supports.”
Tweets That Caught My Eye:

  • Gather the troops. It’s not all on you. Broker help from the amazing educators we know.
  • PLCs are critical to success and can meet online weekly.
  • Support the learners with special needs. Co-plan even if you can’t co-teach.
  • Provide choice boards for assignments.
  • Grace over grades.

Question #6: What are you doing to take care of yourself?
Learning Forward’s Summary for Question #6: “Many coaches are reaching out to their mentors, scheduling uninterrupted time for themselves throughout the day, taking daily walks outside, meditating, journaling, cooking, and much more.”
Highly Recommended Webinar: Learning Forward’s webinar titled “Taking Care of Yourself in Uncertain Times” is well worth the hour it takes to watch. I’ve already watched it twice! It is full of strategies for your own self care as well as for those you mentor. 


Spring 2020 Special Edition Mentoring Calendar


The Spring 2020 Mentoring Calendar, while organized in the usual categories, is not excerpted from The 21st Century Mentor’s Handbook. It is a “special edition” for this unique time during which we are facing “special” challenges. It includes actions/interactions that might help maximize the well-being of not only new teachers, but of you and our students as well. When you take a look at these suggestions, you will see some that would provide additional support but also keep us all moving forward toward professional growth and student learning. Feel free to forward the calendar to colleagues who you think might find it useful. You are welcome to post it on your district or school website or share it on social media.

As Linda Albert wrote, we all need to feel that we are “connected, capable, and contributing.” 

Download the Calendar


Tools of the Month

(All three are referenced in the April 2020 Special Edition Mentoring Calendar)

Click on the graphics to access the tools.




Second Semester Goal Setting Areas of Focus



For Our Parent Partners:  

Google Art and Culture Collection

You and they will be blown away by the absolutely amazing treasures found on this site. While many are magnificent vistas to be enjoyed others include games and interactive opportunities. Check it out! https://artsandculture.google.com


Take care of yourself. We can make it through this!





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 Just ASK Mentoring Statistics


News Flash!

The third edition of Why Didn’t I Learn This in College?
will be available in May 2020!


Just ASK is pleased to announce the publication of EmpowerED 3.2.1 an ongoing series of brief commentaries authored by Marcia Baldanza. Each issue of EmpowerED 3.2.1 features 3 Big Ideas2 Quotes, and 1 Question with lots of links to resources from different perspectives such as business and industry, medicine, athletics, economics, recreation, and parenting as well as music and the arts. The goals of Marcia’s brief commentaries are to introduce us to multiple voices we might not otherwise hear and  to advance our thinking about how this wide array of information connects with and supports our work as not only administrators but teacher leaders as well.  The response to the first issues “Hard Conversations” and “Building Relationships Based on Trust and Integrity Matters” has been phenomenal. 
We don’t think you can find a short read like this anywhere else.