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Training e-mentors in online communities

"Far and away the best prize that life offers, is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."  Theodore Roosevelt.

"I think that e-mentoring provides me with the chance to work hard at something worth doing. Chris talked about attitudes of people that must be right. I agree with him, but we must go further and be that agents of change. We must do everything in our power to change the way in which people think.

"E-mentoring give people the chance to learn in an unthreatening environment. We must create that environment for teachers, where development can take place."

George Farmer, principal - e-mentor in training, Springbok, N Cape

This is was George's response to an activity on the Schoolnet e-mentor training course. He was asked to comment on the qualities of an e-mentor. George is an example of the quality of people that Schoolnet is managing to recruit and train as e-mentors. 

E-mentors are trained to provide on-going support and encouragement for teachers who are enrolled on The Educator's Network distance learning modules. Most of the e-mentors are practising teachers, but some are also employed in other education sectors and some have retired recently. E-mentors all have recent classroom teaching experience.

E-mentor training takes exactly the same form as the actual distance learning modules. E-mentors are therefore able to experience the dynamics of learning in community. In response to another activity in which the e-mentors are asked the comment on:  

"It is impossible to be a mentor if you are not meeting in person with the mentee. Interpersonal skills are not possible on e-mail" 

Hannah Pretorius (high school teacher, KZN) responds "I think we have already disproved this statement. In a lesser sense we have actually been mentoring each other through our encouragement, endorsement, etc. of each other." Anusha Govender (Grade 4 teacher from Phoenix, KZN) writes "The interaction in Group1 is proof that interpersonal skills exist in e-mail. 

As mentors proceed on their course they are encouraged to make use of an e-diary to reflect on the course progress. Petro Boers gives computer skills lessons to foundation phase learners in Gauteng. Her e-diary comments about the course as she progressed on the course are quite revealing:

Activity 1

This is unknown territory. I am hesitant to start as I do not really feel comfortable in this new adventure. Time will tell let me give it a shot.

Activity 3 I feel like being part of something that is going to change the life of a lot of people.
Activity 4

I have obtained a lot of knowledge throughout my teaching career. I'm exited to realize that I have learned a lot in the past days. This is a wonderful experience for growth.

Activity 7 Looking back from reading the article to the today. I have gained a lot of experience and acquired new skills. If is most probably one of the most empowering things I have done so far.

Learning online has been an eye-opening experience for the e-mentors as they have experienced its empowering effects during online training. Bernie Adams (retired teacher, Cape Town) experienced the encouragement of her mentor and the members of her group and wrote "Your messages encouraged me to read through the CD materials once more. 'Spirit of Inquiry' that's what really got me thinking. Now this is something I'd love to do ! Helping others to help themselves! Thanks to you I'm now determined to complete this mentoring course."

 This is the spirit of the online community. If you are interested in becoming part of such a learning or mentoring community, contact SchoolNet 

Gerald Roos
18 August 2001

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