Mentor Training Programme

I recently attended the final day of a training programme that I started last October. The training is being provided to current and former school principals who have volunteered to work as mentors.  Our work is to provide support to new school leaders who are taking on a principalship for the first time in September 2017.  This event in Athlone was organised by the Centre for School Leadership – the group charged with putting in place a range of programmes for both current and aspiring school leaders.

The CSL Mentoring Programme is a government funded initiative that has run for the first time this academic year.  The feedback, some of which was shared with us last Friday, indicates that it has been well received by both the new appointees and their mentors.  The keynote speaker was Jacinta Kitt who was addressing the theme “Bringing Positivity to the Mentoring Relationship”.

The presentation was 90 minutes in length, which is a significant period for both speaker and audience, particularly when the speaker is dealing with a group of well in excess of a hundred people. Thus the delivery of the session was primarily, and of necessity, by means of a lecture and the speaker really did an excellent job on her delivery of this.

Jacinta Kitt is a wonderfully engaging and energetic speaker and someone who practises what she preaches in that her talks are infused with positivity from start to finish, as well as sharing interesting material and references based on her long record of engagement in this area.

Jacinta has the ability to discuss a lot of serious issues in a very effective manner yet the topic never seems heavy or burdensome. She addressed the vulnerability that young teachers and indeed newly appointed principals feel and the impact that negative behaviours can have if they are allowed to thrive. She referred to research that indicated it can take as little as 3 days “to knock the enthusiasm” out of a new appointees if the school culture is negative.

To counter balance these negative forces, members of the school community need to demonstrate prosocial behaviour, and actively look for opportunities to build an organisation that is positive and optimistic in outlook. This means cultivating an openness to change that counterbalances the influence of the “difficulty staters”. As Jacinta put it, “in some places a good idea is like a declaration of war – you have to been at least 15 years in the school before you are allowed to come up with one!”.

Jacinta’s new book “Positive Behaviours, Relationships and Emotions: The Heart of Leadership in a School” has recently been published by NAPD, the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals.

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