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A Meeting of the Minds

A mentoring program that allows future teachers to exchange ideas with future colleagues

Freiburg, Mar 31, 2017

A Meeting of the Minds

Photo: Africa Studio/Fotolia

Ever since the winter semester 2016/17 senior student teachers have enjoyed a mentoring program that brings them together with experienced teachers. 15 tandems from various fields have since found one another in order to share experiences and address concerns.

Photo: Africa Studio/Fotolia

„It is so exciting to see how the people come into contact for the first time after such a long planning period,“ says Heike Elisabeth Kapp, coordinator of the skills network student mentoring at the University of Freiburg. Kapp is a matchmaker: she places mentees with the respective mentors. In December 2016 she started the project with a kick-off event. Feedback has been positive, especially in regards to the match between the tandems. „They get along well,“ the coordinator joyfully remarks.

Marieluise Bartmann is one of the mentors. She teaches biology and chemistry at the German-French high school in Freiburg. After completing her masters in biology and her state exam in chemistry, she finished her teacher’s training and has worked as a teacher for the past 12 years. Kapp approached her at a conference; Bartmann learned about the mentoring program and decided to participate out of pure curiosity. „I wanted to have more contact with students in particular,“ she says. „Seniors often ask questions about college. I found it important to better understand what motivates people during college and how things work there today,“ says Bartmann.

Questions at the Café

Her mentee’s name is Giulia Weinkauf. She is studying to become a high school teacher for biology and French and is in her fifth semester. Weinkauf is one of the few mentees who was allowed into the mentoring program semester by the skills network before having completed her internship because her application was so strong. „Right now I am deciding whether or not to finish college,“ she reports. „My mentor changed careers herself. I see now that I have a lot of possibilities available to me. I think that’s exciting.“

Passing on wisdom, getting inspired: Both teacher Marieluise Bartmann (left) and student Giulia Weinkauf benefit from their connection. Photo: Patrick Seeger

The skills network provides a meet-up about every other month in which the various tandems can exchange ideas. Workships on issues such as „intercultural skills“ or „inclusion“ are also being planned. Many of the participants have already met one-on-one. For Weinkauf and Bartman it’s the first time they’ve met informally in a café. Their conversation didn’t only center around professional issues. „We also discussed lesson plans, how much time you have to invest, leisure time and how to balance career and family life,“ Weinkauf summarizes.

The student claims a high level of initiative is required for the meetings: „Each person has to decide for herself how much time she wants to invest and what she wants to get out of it. And then you just wait and see where the conversation takes you.“ After her exams, Weinkauf would like to visit Bartmann’s classroom to get a more practical look at the every day life of a teacher. In addition, they have already contacted other tandems in biology. „An exchange amongst the four of us could be quite interesting,“ says the teacher.

Get inspired

„I hope we can get more teachers involved in the program and that other students start talking about it too,“ says Kapp. The participants decide for themselves how they want the meetings to go and whether they talk about planning their course of study, how to get a teaching job or specific problems teachers face. The mentors are open to the mentees’ wishes, reports Kapp: „They love sharing their experiences. That is why they tend to talk more about the realities of teaching than about the realities of college life.“ It’s not only the mentees who benefit either, says Bartmann: „It’s about inspiriation. Both sides receive input. I am absolutely convinced that I gain benefit too.“

Every other month the skills network offers a meet-up for the various duos to exchange ideas. Photo: Patrick Seeger

Second round

Kapp is particularly interested to see if the teachers will volunteer to be mentors again. It is also conceivable that some of the tandems will continue mentoring on their own. „We are starting a second round this year,“ she states. Students can apply starting in the summer 2017. The program will remain the same, but the concept will be a tad richer. „The mentee are now able to take as well as give in the second stage,“ says Kapp. „Experienced students can then become mentors themselves for their younger counterparts.“

Sarah Schwarzkopf

Freiburg Advanced Center of Education

Mentoring is under the aegis of the Freiburg Advanced Center of Education (FACE). The institution is a cooperation between the University of Freiburg and the Freiburg University of Education. The purpose of FACE is to develop a mutual, on-site network that directly pools skills for teacher training.

For more information about mentoring