Establishing Mentor Relationships (Preview)

Part 1: Intro & Objectives

In this lesson, you will learn about how to establish a mentoring relationship that will provide the foundation for trust, communication, and learning. This process of “getting to know you” will require you to listen, facilitate, and clarify how you and your new colleague will communicate so that you each have a “say” in the relationship.

After completing this lesson you will be able to:

  • Understand your role and responsibilities as a mentor;
  • Understand how to build and maintain trust;
  • Introduce the mentoring process to the beginning principal;
  • Welcome and orient the beginning principal.

Part 2: Video Demonstrations

Before you view these videos, consider how you felt the night before your first day as a principal.

  • What were your worries?
  • What were you hoping?

New school leaders have their own concerns that are unique to their situations and their experiences. By establishing some ground rules and communication “norms” early on, you can create a trusting relationship that will enable you and your mentee to explore issues and problem-solve in non-threatening, helpful ways.

Observe and record what the mentor does in the first video to set some expectations.

After you’ve viewed the first video, consider the following questions:

  • Recall a time when you’ve trusted a colleague. What did that colleague do or say that helped establish a trusting relationship?
  • Recall a time when you did not trust. What did that person do or say that did not permit or destroyed trust?
  • How might setting expectations collaboratively establish and sustain trust?
  • What kinds of behaviors might violate this trust?

New principal, Deanna Thompson receives a phone call from her newly assigned mentor, Mike Wallace. Mike calls to introduce himself and to schedule their first mentoring sessions. During the conversation, Mike briefly talks about their roles and the activities that they will participate in together. They discuss how they will communicate and look at their calendar to schedule future face-to-face meetings.

Now watch the second video. As a mentor, your role will not be to “tell” but rather, to “guide.” You will be introduced to the GROWS model for mentoring. As you watch, try to catch what acronym GROWS stands for.

Now consider the following questions:

  • What does GROWS stand for?
  • What does Mike do to set Deanna at ease and begin to build a trusting relationship?

Deanna Thompson meets her mentor, Mike Thompson for their first face-to-face meeting. During the meeting Mike and Deanna get to know each other. Mike explains the mentoring process and shares how the GROWS Model will be used to structure their future discussions.

Part 3: Resources and Activities


Due to copyright law, several readings cannot be hosted on this site. However, we encourage you to ask for assistance locating materials from your library media specialist. Many library services are freely available to educators.

Reflective Journaling

This articles provides information to show the beginning principal how to use their reflections to document their professional practices and accomplishments. Keeping a journal to record reflections and thoughts about the mentoring journey for the mentor and beginning principal can be an important tool for professional development. Collect your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions as you work with your mentee. How can you use these nuggets of wisdom to develop your agenda and mentoring topics?

Contich, M. (2006). Inside the Journal of an Administrator: Aspiring Administrators Learn to Reflect. Journal Of Staff Development,

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Electronic Communication

Coordinating busy schedules for frequent meetings with your mentee will be difficult. Technology makes communication easier and provides a way to give feedback in a timely manner. As you introduce the mentoring process, discuss ways to use e-mail as well as video mentoring when face-to-face meetings are not possible.

Boris-Schacter, S., & Vonasek, G. (2009). Dear Gayle, Dear Sheryl: Using E-Mail for a Principal Mentorship. Phi Delta Kappan, 90(7), 490-494.

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Videos of Practice

Videos of practice in this module provide mentors with examples of how mentoring looks. Create your own 5 minute video of practice on a specific topic. Use the video to spark a discussion about effective leadership practices.

Clark, L. V. (2012). What Leadership Looks Like: Videos Help Aspiring Leaders Get the Picture. Journal Of Staff Development, 33(6), 42-45.

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Letter to New Principal

An experienced principal writes a letter to a new principal. What nuggets of wisdom will you share with your new principal as you both embark on the mentoring journey together? As you prepare your agenda and timeline for your mentoring sessions, write your own letter to your mentee to include in your portfolio. What information and tips will you want to share with the beginning principal?

Hall, P. (2009). An open letter to a new principal: A veteran principal offers sage advise to rookies. Principal, Mar/Apr issue, pp. 8-13.

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Curating Resources

1. Develop a list of resources and professional organizations that you feel will provide support to your mentee. The National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and the National Association for Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and Education World are several organizations that offer a wide range of professional development resources to administrators on a variety of topics. Collect the resources in your reflection journal for future mentoring sessions.

Mentoring Performance Checklist

2. Use the Mentoring Performance Checklist to document your mentoring journey.

Handout – Mentoring Checklist  5 Session GA Doe Prep Guide 071713 pp. 47-50.

Part 4: Review & Reflect

In this lesson, you have watched, read and listened to stories about different mentoring experiences.

  • How does the “spirit” of this mentoring approach compare with your previous experiences or thoughts about mentoring?

Much of this lesson was about opening lines for communication and building trusting relationships. Part of building trust will entail understanding different perspectives. New school leaders have concerns in the beginning of their experiences that might be different from your own and different from your experiences.

  • What will you do to begin to understand what concerns and experiences your new mentee has? How will you communicate?
  • How can the GROWS model set a stage for building trust?
  • Does this reflective model differ from simple “advising”? What do you like and/or what will you change?

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