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Lost in translation: mentors learning to participate in competing discourses of practice.

In her evocative account of her experiences as a new Polish immigrant learning English as a second language in her book Lost in Translation, Eva Hoffman (1989) writes,
   Every day I learn new words, new expressions.... There
   are some turns of phrase to which I develop
   strange allergies. "You're welcome" for example,
   strikes as a gaucherie, and I can hardly bring myself
   to say it--I suppose because it implies that there's
   something to be thanked for, which in Polish would
   be impolite.... The words I learn now don't stand for
   things in the same unquestioned way they did in my
   native tongue. (p. 106)

Although written in the context of learning English as a second language, Hoffman's words metaphorically evoke the title of this article. The emotions that transpire from her account speak to the strong sense of vulnerability and emotional burden that recent work has revealed about mentors' work in the Israeli educational system. In particular, recent studies shed light on issues of accountability toward competing discourses of practice in a centralized educational system, on issues of morality and expertise, and on how mentors' personal educational values, beliefs, and actions are shaped by conflicting values and ideologies (Fairclough, 1992; Gee, 1996; Luke, 1996; Miller-Marsh, 2002). Hoffman's account of the problems that she experiences because "the words [that she learns] don't stand for things in the same unquestioned way they did in [her] native tongue" resonates with the confusions that mentors experience regarding familiar behaviors in the discourse of teaching that acquire new connotations in the discourse of mentoring, often positioning mentors as "juggling" competing and conflicting discourses.

Early work identified connections between teaching and mentoring, suggesting that learning to mentor can be analogous to the process of "learning a second language of teaching" (Orland, 1997). Specifically, it proposed that the passage from being a teacher of children to becoming a mentor of teachers is a highly conscious and gradual process of reorganizing the communicative competencies that the novice mentor holds as a teacher to make sense of the new context of mentoring. Recent work, however, has surfaced the distinctions between the two practices, uncovering competing and often contradicting pedagogical and educational agendas that influence mentors' work and that position them, metaphorically, as "lost in translation" in their passage from teaching to mentoring. These distinctions extend the character of the practice of mentoring in the context of in-service teacher education from an intellectual to a cultural and contextual activity (Cochran-Smith, 2004).

Drawing on a cluster of research conducted since my initial study, I discuss the development of my understanding of the process of learning a second language of teaching, from the acquisition of communicative competencies (as identified in an initial study) toward a more discursive view of the process as "participation in competing discourses of practice."


Connections: Learning a Second Language of Teaching

Numerous studies stress the connection between teaching and mentoring as related to the planning of mentoring activities, to what mentors learn about teaching through mentoring interactions, and to how mentors articulate their knowledge as teachers in ways that can help the mentee (Hawkey, 1998; Feiman-Nemser, Parker, & Zeichner, 1995; Maynard, 1996; McIntyre, Hagger, & Wilkin, 1993). For example, in the context of preservice education, McIntyre et al. (1993) and Maynard (1996) described learning to mentor as a process of "reskilling" as mentors learn to disentangle one kind of practical knowledge from another in their work with student teachers.

Likewise, an initial study of novice mentors of English teachers (Orland, 1997) uncovered connections between mentors' knowledge and experiences as teachers and as mentors. Specifically, the novice mentors of the study mentioned having learned to access their knowledge as teachers in new ways so as to "tune in to the mentee" (also referred to as "cue in," "zoom in," or "finding the right window"). Mentors' recurrent use of these phrases to describe the ways in which they were learning to communicate with their mentees, led me eventually to conceptualize learning to mentor as a process of learning to communicate in a new language of teaching in the context of mentoring (Orland, 2001). Drawing on constructs from second-language acquisition, I then maintained that the novice mentors had begun to acquire competencies in learning a second language of teaching (mentoring): knowing what to say, when to intervene in a mentoring interaction, how to characterize a mentoring context (sociolinguistic and discourse competence), and how to make use of their knowledge and experience as English teachers when assisting the mentee (linguistic competence). The following selected excerpts illustrate aspects of the communicative competencies that the mentors of the study claimed they were acquiring (Orland, 2001):
   This is where I am at now ... letting them determine
   the direction ... it has less to do with me and more
   with where the person is at ... the ability to selectively
   listen, the knowledge or the ability to know
   when to interject, when to give of myself and how
   much to give of myself ... where she [the mentee] is

      [As a teacher] I've been there, I've done it all, I've
   experienced it on an emotional level and I can understand
   what they, [the mentees] are going through on
   an intellectual level.... I know how to help them and
   where to go. (p. 60)

Distinctions: Between Teaching and Mentoring

The interrelatedness between teaching and mentoring, as conceptualized through the metaphor of learning a second language of teaching in an initial study back in 1997, yielded, however, a rather unidimensional portrayal of how teachers learn to "acquire" competencies in a new role within the same professional domain. These connections focused predominantly on intellectual, cognitive, and metacognitive aspects of gaining communicative competencies in the passage from teaching to mentoring, closer to Sfard's (1998) "acquisition metaphor" of learning as individual internalization and knowledge construction. Such a portrayal, however, grants partial access to contextual and discursive aspects of the practice of mentoring that distinguish it from the practice of teaching. These aspects, revealed in later studies, pertain to managing professional interactions with school principals and supervisors, dealing with resistances and issues of power relations between mentors and veteran teachers, interpreting content in new and unfamiliar ways, and complying with competing and conflicting intervention agendas. In trying to manage these aspects, mentors conveyed strong feelings of vulnerability, incompetence, and strangeness, alluding to the emotional and moral character of the practice that had not been accounted for in the early study.

Thus, later studies that have extended the focus of investigation from novice mentors of English teachers to experienced mentors of teachers in different subjects in the Israeli school system (Orland-Barak, 2002, 2003a, 2003b, in press), along with important findings from studies conducted in other contexts, have challenged me to extend (or re-create) the meanings that I had attributed to the metaphor of learning to mentor as learning a second language of teaching in 1997. In tune with Lakoff and Johnson's (1980) contention that "we constantly create and recreate metaphors, gaining new understandings, and creating new realities" (p. 235), I write this article to share the re-creation of my initial metaphor of learning to mentor as learning a second language of teaching to suggest that mentors are often lost in translation when transferring communicative competencies from their first language of practice (teaching) to their second language of practice (mentoring), given the multifaceted demands of their new role. To have a better sense of the nature of these multifaceted demands, I situate my evolving understandings of the metaphor in the context of mentoring in Israeli in-service education.

The Israeli Context: Mentoring as a Multifaceted Practice

Mentors' feelings of "being lost and vulnerable," given the different expectations of their work, need to be understood in the context of Israeli in-service education. The Ministry of Education and Culture in Israel, which functions within a centralized educational system, dedicates considerable funding and resources to the induction of in-service mentors into the school system. Initially selected by virtue of their reputation as good school teachers, mentors are expected to provide ongoing assistance in specific curricular and instructional areas both to novice and to experienced teachers in a variety of content areas such as literacy, computers, mathematics, sciences, arts, and second languages. By and large, the type of assistance called for in a particular school or sector is influenced by the field's demands, by ministry policy, and by local educational standards often dictated by a particular district. Assistance ranges from one-to-one support provided by "school mentors" to new teachers in their own schools to support provided by "outside mentors" who are assigned to a particular school to work with the entire school staff (or with teachers of a particular discipline) in order to implement educational innovations and reforms propagated by top-down ministry policy or by individual school districts. Mentors observe and evaluate novice and veteran teachers at schools, organize and conduct workshop sessions, lead staff-development programs, and develop and disseminate new school curricula. In addition to their designated role, mentors almost always maintain part-time teaching jobs at schools.

The multifaceted nature of the practice is also evident in the diverse agendas of induction propagated by the various entities responsible for training mentors for their work. To induct mentors into the above-mentioned range of functions and roles, considerable funding has been invested at a national level for training mentors at the postgraduate and in-service levels. These training programs, initially coordinated at universities, had focused, until recently, on the development of mentors' professional roles as facilitators, collaborators, and reflective professionals, espousing more bottom-up, personal-growth agendas of mentoring and mentored learning. Yet, in light of recent moves in the educational system toward standards as indicators of success, along with a growing dissatisfaction with pupils' low achievements in certain subjects (despite the large budgets invested in mentoring interventions), ministry policy is encouraging programs of induction (not necessarily situated at universities) to focus on the acquisition of pedagogical tools for assisting teachers in raising pupils' achievements at school, through more top-down modes of intervention. The tensions between this latter "instructional" discourse and the initial "developmental" discourse of induction (which is still maintained in most postgraduate academic courses despite shifts in ministry policy) add to the multifaceted expectations from mentors in the system. I return to these tensions in later sections.

Lost in Translation: From Teachers' Roles to Mentors' Roles

Situated in the above context of practice, recent studies focusing on experienced teachers-as-mentors working in different subject areas and in different in-service contexts of mentoring (Orland-Barak, 2002, 2003a, 2003b), indeed, shed light on the complexity of their role, especially in regard to the transition from teacher to mentor. Specifically, mentors conveyed a strong sense of vagueness in regard to the boundaries that define their new professional identity as mentors and also a sense of being lost in trying to translate their understandings of new curricular reforms as teachers into their performance as mentors. For example, mentors described the complexities of transferring their understanding of new curriculum reforms as teachers of children from their own school contexts to their mentoring contexts. The following excerpt, selected from a mentor's case (Orland-Barak, 2002) illustrates this common concern:
   The inspector told me to work with all the novice
   teachers in the Junior High school in order to help
   them to implement the new curriculum [of English]
   in their teaching.... I myself still feel very insecure
   using the document in my own class ... the teachers
   are counting on me to make it work.... I don't want
   to disappoint neither the teachers nor the inspector,
   but I am not there yet. (p. 459)

The above example also alludes to mentors' recurrent reports of their dual sense of accountability toward the teachers to make new reforms accessible, on one hand, and toward the school principals and inspectors to make new reform efforts "work," on the other hand. This was often conveyed through accounts of "being pulled in different directions": "I feel this constant conflict of being pulled in different directions .... It's an enormous responsibility to try to help her [the teacher] to become a good teacher in the eyes of the principal" (Orland-Barak, 2002, p. 459).

Initial studies had stressed mentors' gradual acquisition of "discourse and sociolinguistic competence"--that is, developing awareness of the complex web of interpersonal, organizational, and professional conditions that operate in mentoring interactions. Later studies illuminate mentors' feelings of incompetence in regard to particular mentoring interactions within these webs, such as working with veteran teachers who are often resistant to change and to reforms dictated from above. In their efforts to act as agents of change in interactions with veteran teachers, mentors raised dilemmas of professional identity as they struggled to distinguish between "the teacher in them" and "the mentor in them" and to understand how one influences the other (Orland-Barak, 2002):
   I have become aware that there are three selves
   [my] ... mentoring ... the personal self, what I bring
   with me ... as a person ... the other is the professional
   ... the third self has to do with my ideologies
   and ideas about education. (p. 460)

Mentors' struggle to reconcile these two professional identities resonates with Daniele Blumenthal's (1999) notion of a mobile, multiple, and divided self that emerges out of relating to different people, in different situations, and across time (p. 381), created in collaboration with others and "connected to our previous selves ... which may pop up the present at any time" (p. 383). For example, mentors claimed that they had realized that the teacher in them had helped them to assist other teachers in that they could directly demonstrate specific aspects of teaching or of teacher-pupil interactions, closer to what was referred to in the initial study as the acquisition of linguistic competence in mentoring. Having stated this, however, they also wondered whether by directly demonstrating behaviors "as teachers," they were being faithful to their role as mentors (Orland-Barak, 2002).
   I see mentoring as supporting the teacher in her ongoing
   work and I see teaching as supporting the pupil.
   But with me ... it seems that I cannot distinguish
   between my behavior as mentor and my behavior as
   teacher. When I am doing mentoring, I allow teachers
   to manipulate me into helping the children with
   their computers. As I think about it, it may be that it
   is more comfortable for me that way, to do teaching,
   because that's what I know best having worked with
   children for so many years. I keep asking myself ... do
   I function more as a teacher than as a mentor
   when I do mentoring? (p. 460)

Mentors' efforts to define their professional identity are reminiscent of the tensions that student teachers experience in the process of constructing a professional identity, as they negotiate different and opposing conceptions of teaching between the university and the school (Smagorinsky, Cook, Moore, Jackson, & Fry, 2004). Suggesting that professional identity is relational, is interwoven with context, and develops as a result of engagement with others in cultural practices (Smagorinsky, Cook, & Johnson, 2003), the findings of their case study resonate with mentors' accounts of being torn in between worlds, as they try to develop a new professional identity as mentors (Orland-Barak, 2003b). Thus, just like learning to teach, learning to mentor seems to constitute "part of a process of constructing an identity in the midst of [multiple] systems of relations ... involved in overlapping, often conflicting activity settings that make this identity formation quite challenging" (Smagorinsky et al., 2004, p. 10). These new insights, emergent from recent studies, marked the shift in my thinking toward a more discursive perspective of learning the practice of mentoring. Such a perspective calls our attention to the "necessary fragment" that distinguishes mentoring from teaching--one that entails the competing discourses within which mentors function, and which often position them as lost in translation.

Lost in Translation: Participating in Competing Discourses of Teaching

Returning to Eva Hoffman's Lost in Translation, mentors' sense of vulnerability and their distress as revealed in recent studies resonate, metaphorically, with the "strange allergies" that Hoffman developed toward "new expressions" and with her sense of frustration because the "words ... [or situations that mentors encounter in the context of mentoring] didn't stand for things in the same unquestioned way they did in [their] native tongue [mentors' context as school teachers]." Additional evidence of mentors' sense of being lost in translation in their effort to negotiate competing discourses of practice derives from a study that investigated the connection between mentors' beliefs about mentoring conversations and their actual realization in practice (Orland-Barak & Klein, 2005). The study, conducted in the context of a postgraduate university course for training mentors, surfaced gaps between mentors' expressed beliefs about mentoring (which conveyed a more collaborative, democratic view of mentoring) and their mentoring conversations "in action" (which were more prescriptive and controlling). Notice, for example, the gap between Sarah's (one of the mentor participants) stated beliefs about a mentoring conversation and her actual actions. Her annotation conveys her strong belief in the importance of developing a symmetrical and harmonious mentoring conversation: "A mentoring conversation creates harmony between the mentor and the mentee. At the beginning they are strangers to each other and at a later stage they are able to 'sing' together ... [in a] collaborative relationship" (p. 380). Her actual actions, documented from an observation of a conversation between her and the mentee following a physical-education lesson, reflect, however, a rather asymmetrical and controlling approach to mentoring--one in which she instructs, judges, and "corrects mistakes" made by the mentee:

12. Sarah: Why so much whistling? It sounds like a life saver at the seashore, it already loses its effect!

13. Mentee: Of course, at the beginning of the lesson we decided that whistling would be the shared code.

14. Sarah: A shared code should be one whistle only and you whistled three times sequentially.

26. Sarah: You made another mistake. The lines [of children] were scattered all over the playground. (p. 380)

The gaps identified between mentors' expressed beliefs and realized actions shed light on the competing discourses of induction into mentoring within which mentors juggle, as elaborated in an earlier section. They juggle the bottom-up discourse of dialogue and collaboration espoused by academic professional development programs with the more instructional, top-down discourse of mentoring geared toward pupils' achievements propagated by recent ministry policy. Likewise, as elaborated in the following section, recent studies have disclosed mentors' efforts to manage issues of morality and expertise in their passage from teaching to mentoring.

Lost in Translation as Expert Teachers: Issues of Expertise and Morality

The "twisting path" (Smagorinsky et al., 2003) of gaining expertise when translating understandings from teaching to mentoring was revealed in a study that focused on mentors' critical incidents. Indeed, as Berliner (2001) contends, although one might be considered an expert teacher in one context, he or she might be defined as a novice in another context and, consequently, experience dissonance and a sense of emotional burden. Specifically, a recent study of experienced mentors' perspectives of critical incidents in their work (Orland-Barak & Yinon, in press) suggests that when mentors succeeded in automatically transferring their experiences from teaching to assist the mentee, they were closer to what Berliner would describe as acting as an expert. In such instances, informed by strong ethical values as teachers, mentors claimed to have reacted automatically and autonomously according to what they believed was in the interest of the mentee, sometimes independently of mandated agendas of intervention. Confident in their experience and subject-matter knowledge as teachers, they were able to "translate" directly from "their language of teaching" to the context of mentoring, in order to rescue the novice mentee from distressful situations (Orland-Barak & Yinon, in press):
   As an experienced teacher, I could see numerous scenarios
   in my own school between coordinators and
   teachers ... this often happens at school.... I
   also knew that maybe as a novice teacher Isabel
   might have overreacted.... Contrary to my convictions
   about leading the novice teacher through a
   process so that she herself can find her own solutions
   a ... and even contrary to the project's approach
   that the mentee has to find her own solutions
   to the problem, with one there only as a collaborator
   in the process, I decided that in this situation, I had to
   tell her what to do.

Alternately, however, when mentors failed to draw on "automatic responses" from their experience as teachers, they claimed to have been unable to assist their mentees successfully:
   The whole staff room ignored me completely ... they
   did not want to talk to me.... I felt blocked ... in my
   insecurity and sense of failure I felt like a first year
   teacher again because I didn't know how to act.
   (Orland-Barak & Yinon, in press)

Being blocked by the experience and unable to act autonomously and automatically, mentors were lost in translation and exhibited a behavior closer to what would be described as that of a novice (Berliner, 2001). Thus, mentors' actions and behaviors "sometimes as novices and sometimes as experts" speak to the twisting path (Smagorinsky et al., 2003) rather than to the linear progression that professional development and expertise take in the passage from one role to another even within the same domain.

The picture that emerges from the above studies, thus, extends the metaphor of a second language of teaching beyond the acquisition of competencies to acknowledge the discourse within which the practice develops, embedding particular values, ideologies, and behaviors (Gee, 1996; Luke, 1996; Miller-Marsh, 2002) as integral to the process of translating from one language to another. Put differently, learning what to say, how to intervene, and how to behave in the process of acquiring communicative competencies in mentoring should also account for the pedagogical, moral, and educational conflicts brought about by tensions between internal and external professional agendas and between top-down and bottom-up orientations to educational change. This suggests that just as in the case of preservice mentors (Elliot & Calderhead, 1993, Maynard & Furlong 1993; McIntyre et al., 1993; Wang, 2000), in-service mentors' roles and practices are shaped and influenced by many "players in the system," such as inspectors, school principals, and professional and academic course leaders.

Hence, there is a need for mentors to acquire unique registers of communication in order to successfully manage vulnerability, as they juggle the competing discourses that influence their work. These competing discourses call for developing registers that are of a social, political, and organizational character, such as learning to interact with inspectors and project leaders in order to disseminate top-down reforms, learning to negotiate agendas with school principals in a particular school culture with specific local needs, learning to manage resistances among teachers, adapting forms of assistance according to teachers' needs as novices or experts, and learning to mediate between agendas of new reform projects and agendas of a particular population of teachers (Orland-Barak, 2002, 2003a, 2003b). Viewed in this broader cultural and contextual perspective, learning to mentor speaks to Sfard's (1998) participation metaphor as mentors learn to take part in and to mediate competing discourses of practice.


The Research Contexts as Opportunities for Professional Learning

In retrospect, one might wonder why my initial contention that learning to mentor can be interpreted as the acquisition of competencies did not account for a more discursive perspective to the process. One possible reason might be the fact that conflicts brought about by competing orientations toward the practice of mentoring were less prominent during early studies. Another explanation might have to do with the mentor population involved in early studies--that is, novice mentors. By nature of their novice state, participants were probably less sensitive to conflicts brought about by systemic influences (Berliner, 2001) and, consequently, did not voice such concerns in the interviews-as-conversations. By contrast, later studies have focused mostly on experienced mentors who, by nature of their expert state, usually exhibit a higher awareness of the influences of the system on their practice (Berliner, 2001).

The strong emphasis that mentors in recent studies attributed to the emotional burden experienced in trying to translate from one language of practice to another can also be explained as triggered by the nature of the research context within which the mentors voiced these issues. By contrast to earlier studies conducted as one-to-one interviews-as-conversations between researcher and mentor (preceded and followed by observations of each mentor at work), recent studies focus on documenting and interpreting collaborative professional conversations around the sharing of mentors' cases and critical incidents. By virtue of its collaborative nature, such a framework allowed for joint exploration and mutual scrutiny of mentors' practices. My conjectures were corroborated through recurrent accounts made by participants regarding the value of professional conversations as a context for professional learning (Orland-Barak, in press):
   Much of the success of the conversations had to do
   with assisting each other in finding various solutions
   to problems that we encounter in our daily
   work as mentors.... I liked the way we connected to
   each other and learned about how we differ in our
   approaches and also what we share as mentors of
   teachers.... The conversations enabled us to revise
   and scrutinize our own practices as mentors--a kind
   of introspective journey into our professional
   world ... something that 1 had not really experienced
   before, I mean, in other professional frameworks.

This has led me to assume that the latter research context of collaborative conversation, which invites participants to expose cases and to raise dilemmas, may contribute to uncovering controversial aspects of the practice. Informed by my thinking on the design of recent studies, I now turn to the conditions that can assist in the passage from teaching to mentoring.

Dialogues of Practice

The collaborative conversation contexts of recent studies, which allow for dilemmas and controversies to emerge, sharpen the value of designing professional-development programs that follow constructivist, dialectical approaches to adult learning. Specifically, conversation frameworks designed around the writing, sharing, and reflection of participants' critical incidents seem to constitute effective and safe spaces for making sense of the process of developing expertise when professionals move from one role to another within the same domain, especially in a context of accountability and competing discourses. The dialogic nature of such frameworks allow for solving problems and burning issues, for constructing understandings about differences and similarities across mentoring practices, for making sense of the dissonance brought about by experiences of distress in the passage from teaching to mentoring, and for articulating instances of being lost in translation. As such, they corroborate once more the potential of teacher inquiry communities described by Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) as spaces for fostering deep intellectual discourse about critical issues and for scrutinizing uncertainties and questions intrinsic to teaching and mentoring--which can become incentives for new insights and new ways to theorize practice.

In particular, the different dialogues that emerge in the conversation spaces prompt a discourse in which professionals expose, scrutinize, and contest deeply ingrained assumptions about instrumental or conceptual aspects of their practice. In Bakhtin's (1981, p. 435) terms, these dialogues can prompt more "internally persuasive discourses," whereby participants' thoughts "begin to work in an independent, experimenting and discriminating way." As such, they can challenge "authoritative acknowledged discourses" (Bakhtin, 1981), which are, in the context of mentors' work, the external agendas dictated by project leaders and/or inspectors to which mentors see themselves accountable.

Implications for the Selection and Preparation of Future Mentors

The findings of the above studies shed light on an area of mentoring that is not often visited: mentoring as a vulnerable practice that entails the management of problems and dilemmas in the context of competing discourses. In particular, they point to the importance of preparing mentors for developing what Goleman (1995) calls "emotional intelligence" and what Denzin (1984) refers to as "emotional understanding," that is, learning how to build trust in a way that touches on the core emotional and professional identity of the teachers/mentees in their work with pupils in an educational context of accountability. Such an aspect in the preparation of mentors seems essential to successful mentoring, and it cannot be assumed that all mentors will find it easy. Furthermore, it suggests that the selection of mentors is not unproblematic. In the context of Israeli education, it raises questions such as the following: How may mentors in the Israeli context manage the dual role of support and of being a policy instrument? Should mentors be expected to play both roles? and Might the result of duality of role be less effective?

The issues and actions that emerge from these questions touch upon two interrelated themes posed at the outset of this article: mentoring as connected to teaching and mentoring as distinct from teaching. In relation to mentoring as connected to teaching, the selection of teachers to function in the role of mentors seems to constitute a key issue. In particular, what criteria should be applied? Should they be expert teachers according to Berliner's (2001) definition of expertise, or should their expertise go beyond the cognitive qualities and skills to include those of emotional intelligence, such as the quality of their "reality testing" (Bar-On, 2000), empathy, and a disposition to and active involvement in self-inquiry and reflection? If so, criteria that touch upon some of the tendencies identified in Smith and Strahan's (2004) prototype of expertise in teaching might be applicable to expert mentors as well--having a sense of confidence in themselves and in their profession, having the ability to develop relationships with teachers, contributing to the teaching profession through leadership and service, and showing evidence that they are masters in content areas (p. 365).

In relation to mentoring as distinct from teaching, raising awareness of the social, political, and organizational contexts within which mentors work seems to be an essential aspect of the preparation of mentors. If mentors are not aware and do not understand the dynamics of power relationships within the new accountabilities, it is unlikely that they will be able to find room to maneuver and juggle the competing discourses that shape their work. In this sense, we might look to Judith Sachs's (2000) model of the mentor as activist professional.

Finally, and most importantly, mentors need to be those teachers who have a clear vision of what being and behaving as a good professional in changing classrooms, schools, policy, and societal contexts means. Good mentors, like good teachers, must be more than technicians who are technically proficient or even experts. They must be models of emotionally and socially responsible citizens who hold and express a holistic rather than instrumentally narrow vision of the good teacher. This also entails learning to become culturally responsive (Villegas & Lucas, 2002) to teachers' idiosyncratic interpretations of educational and pedagogical issues and concepts--that is, accepting the view that different cultures may legitimately view the same phenomenon in different ways and avoiding judgments as to whose notion of a concept is most authoritative (Smagorinsky et al., 2003).

Thus, at an operational level, the study supports many important studies (Clark, 2001; Cochran-Smith & Paris, 1995; Day, 1998; Feiman-Nemser & Parker, 1994; Feldman, 1999; Korthagen & Kessels, 1999), which indicate the definite need to prepare teachers for the passage from teaching to mentoring. In particular, the empirical evidence that derives from all of the above studies can guide policy makers in the design of professional-development programs that (a) encourage mentors to examine similarities and differences between their roles as teachers and their roles as mentors, (b) provide opportunities for critically reflecting on how systemic factors shape the nature of their work, (c) create contexts for mentors to share their own stories of practice as teachers and as former mentees, and (d) expose mentors to situations that challenge their ingrained beliefs and assumptions, prompting them to examine instances of dissonance between their educational agendas as teachers and as mentors.


From Communicative Competencies to Participation in Competing Discourses

Mentoring is, indeed, embedded in the practice of teaching in ways that connect and distinguish between the two practices. On one hand, the process of learning to mentor entails becoming aware of how the mentor's experiences, educational agenda, and moral values as a teacher can contribute to assisting the mentee. On the other hand, learning to mentor also engages the mentor in becoming aware of the necessary fragment that distinguishes mentoring from teaching, as elaborated in earlier sections. Without appropriate exposure and preparation to manage these aspects, mentors will probably find themselves lost in translating their first language of practice (teaching) to the second language of practice (mentoring), consequently experiencing feelings of incompetence and strangeness.

The necessary fragment that distinguishes the practice of mentoring from the practice of teaching acquires a particular connotation when examined against the context of a centralized school system, such as the case in Israel. Under such conditions, mentors' work becomes of a highly vulnerable nature, as they find themselves juggling competing discourses of practice: those demanded by policy makers who employ them to function as agents of change in a particular area and culture (which often follow instrumental, product-oriented agendas), those demanded by training academic courses (that usually follow developmental, process-oriented agendas), the demands of teachers from the field, and their own personal agendas. Thus, like teaching, mentoring is also a political and policy problem, characterized by a practice that is strongly embedded in the values and ideologies of existing systems of power and privilege, each carrying its own assumptions about what is mainstream and what is marginal (Cochran-Smith, 2004, p. 298). Understanding mentoring, thus, entails being attentive to the competing political and policy powers that determine the process and outcomes of the practice.

So What? What Have I Learned From All of This?

The above studies have contributed to my thinking in various directions. I have formed a more encompassing picture of the metaphor of learning a second language of teaching, one that accounts both for competencies to be developed and for discourses to be acknowledged and within which mentors might often get lost, failing to translate from one language of practice to another. The answer to the questions, So what? What have I learned from all this? can be resumed as "evolving assertions" (Loughran, 2003), which, together, add new meanings to the metaphor of mentoring as a second language of teaching and raise questions regarding aspects of the practice that often position mentors as lost in translation.

Assertion 1: There is a need to extend current definitions of mentoring that focus on subject-matter issues and on the representation of knowledge for teaching to aspects of the practice that include communicative competencies and skills of interaction for managing the competing discourses that shape the practice. These discourses embed various functions and "players" within the school system and are integral to successful mentor-mentee relationships.

Assertion 2: The practice of in-service mentoring in a centralized educational system seems to be strongly shaped by a struggle between competing discourses, whereby mentors often find themselves lost in trying to translate one discourse of practice into another. The result is that, often, mentors find themselves "speaking one language" and practicing another one. Future research agendas might explore the impact of such duality of roles on the quality of mentoring practices.

Assertion 3: In light of the above, it is important to provide professional inquiry contexts that are safe and challenging for dealing with the conflicts and tensions brought about by these competing discourses. These spaces can encourage mentors to scrutinize authoritative discourses and to articulate, instead, internally persuasive discourses. In these conversation spaces, participants can solve burning issues, conceptualize differences and similarities across their mentoring contexts, establish links between their work as mentors and their work as teachers, and reflect on their educational agendas as teachers and as mentors.

Directions for Research on Learning to Mentor

Recent studies have, thus, extended my understanding of the initial metaphor of learning to mentor as learning a second language of teaching to reflect new queries that I have raised regarding connections and distinctions between teaching and mentoring. The reflective research journey has sharpened my awareness of the importance of accounting for the systemic, political, and ideological context within which a practice is acquired, even if it occurs within the same professional domain, such as the passage from teaching to mentoring. Thus, just as research on teaching and on learning to teach has gradually shifted from a focus on the individual teacher and pupil to how the educational and sociocultural context(s) shape teacher-pupil interactions and the nature of teaching and learning (Clark, 1995; Cochran-Smith, 2004), research on mentoring and learning to mentor needs to extend its focus from the acquisition of skills to how the contexts within which mentors work shape the character of their work, the skills that they develop, and the nature of the passage from teaching to mentoring. Viewed in this broader perspective, and constituting an important aspect of teacher education, mentoring must also be understood as "an intellectual, cultural, and contextual activity" (Cochran-Smith, 2004, p. 298).

This article, thus, invites further exploration of learning the practice of mentoring in educational systems that are influenced by different policy and political agendas from the one described in this article. In doing so, we can begin to construct situated portrayals of the context-bound nature of learning the practice of mentoring.

Author's Note: Special thanks to Dr. Ella Mazor for her critical and insightful readings and observations on this article. I also wish to thank Prof. Christopher Day and Dr. Roza Leikin and the anonymous JTE reviewers for their thoughtful and constructive critiques of the article.


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University of Haifa

Lily Orland-Barak is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education, University Haifa, Israel. Her research focuses on mentoring and mentored learning, second language teacher education, and curriculum development in pre-service and in-service teacher education.
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Author:Orland-Barak, Lily
Publication:Journal of Teacher Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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