We explore the beginnings of professional coaching/mentoring relationships between teachers and university mentors in an Australian school. Often overlooked, initial steps are crucial, holding the seeds of eventual success or failure. Our mentoring program was undertaken in a large, independent, co-educational school in suburban Melbourne, Victoria. In our constructivist study, underpinned by our desire to explore on the lived experiences of others, we report on the understandings of three of the mentors/researchers and the teachers that they worked with. We gathered data from teacher-written statements and mentor journals. Using thematic analysis, we developed our findings, performing epoché as we hold both insider and outsider mentor/researcher perspectives. We present our findings under two broad headings: The prior understandings held by all and addresses positions, assertions and anticipations; and First meetings, finding accords, noticing resistances, and recognizing difficulties. We found that the apparent simplicity of first steps masked great complexity. No one entered the first meeting as an “empty vessel.” Some relationships were more problematic than others. Our goals as transformational educator/mentors were to foster deep collaborative, professional relationships with our mentees but were hampered by inherent differences of understanding with the school who sought transactional coaches. Clarity in intent from the outset is crucial to program success.


Mentoring Teachers, Coaching Teachers, Collaborative Professional Relationships, Beginning Mentoring, Accords and Resistances, Thematic Analysis

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Jane Southcott is a Professor, Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia. As a phenomenologist, Jane researches education, cultural identities and hybridity, and community engagement with the arts focusing on positive ageing. Jane also undertakes historical research in music education in Australia, Europe, England and the USA. She is Immediate Past President of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Research in Music Education, Co-editor of the International Journal of Music Education and on the editorial boards of international refereed journals. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jane.southcott@monash.edu.

Dr Karen Marangio is passionate about the teaching and learning of psychology and science in schools. She is a teacher educator in the Faculty of Education at Monash University and her research interests relate to teaching and learning psychology and science (esp. in the middle years) including: understanding nature and values of psychology and science and their place within society; psychology and science curriculum; and developing the pedagogical knowledge of preservice teachers. Please direct correspondence to karen.marangio@monash.edu.

Donna Rady is a Scholarly Teaching Fellow in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: donna.rady@monash.edu.

Dr Maria Gindidis is currently a School Reviewer, Coordinator of Languages and teaches in both Undergraduate and Post-graduate Teacher Education units. Maria's research interests are extensive yet synergised under Brain - based learning and how this impacts on learning second, community and foreign languages. She researches the lived experience of marginalised teachers in community schools struggling to teach community or heritage language programs, Content Language Integrated learning) programs, and languages teaching and learning. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: maria.gindidis@monash.edu.

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