Cascading Mentoring (Project Acabado, 2017)

Cascading mentoring is an intentional cultivation of a collection of dynamic relationships that span the breadth and depth of a given profession.  These relationships are mutually beneficial to individuals and collectively empowers the profession and community.

At first fall it started alone.

Each profession has its own precise language, habits of mind, community of practice and levels of mastery in the content, skills and competencies needed to produce outcomes.  This training and exercise shapes a professional’s values and worldview by composing what’s within the viewfinder before sharpening focus on select aspects and softening others.  In a very real sense who we are and what we profess are inextricably intertwined.

A cascade is together.  Yet. It’s not at the same time.  It’s not in the same way.

The learner benefits from the mentor kindling an emerging sense of identity, interest and engagement.  While the mentor reinforces early approximation of habits of mind and emerging capacity related to the profession they are also hotwiring the shared experience between mentor and mentee.  Not only does the mentee feel a growing sense of belonging but the mentor also feels heard and understood. When the profession is valued, the professional feels valued.

A cascade spans the fall.

The benefits of a mentor and mentee spans a career.  Learning and innovation go together.

“Teachers and students (leadership and people), co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling that reality, and thereby coming to know it critically, but in the task of re-creating that knowledge. As they attain this knowledge of reality through common reflection and action, they discover themselves as its permanent re-creators.”

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Mentors benefit in many ways.

  1. The veneer of shallow learning easily rips under the pressure of a good question.  The need for rich understanding becomes real in the face of an eager learner with fragile understanding of a pivotal concept.  
  2. The opportunity to exercise voice helps to develop fluency in the language of the profession and creates stronger cognitive muscle supporting the habit of mind of the profession.
  3. The best way to learn something is to have to teach it to somebody else.  
  4. Typically there is a chasm between knowing the content well enough to pass a class and actually mastering it to ensure the learning is portable and can transfer to real life application.

A cascade is all.  It isn’t a singular story of elements.  

Cascading mentoring is participatory.  

  1. It shifts learning from being spectator entertainment of the real professionals to a participant sport where there is room on the team to share the authentic experience.  Nobody gets a workout watching a recognized expert do their job.
  2. Mentees accept mentors whose expertise is a step above their own.  Indeed the close proximity of skill set ensures fresh empathy and on-demand recollection of the typical barriers to learning and effective strategies for navigating new concepts.
  3. Valuing incremental steps of emerging expertise broadens meaningful participation and exercises needed skills.  It happens because mentors are expected to bring: prior knowledge, active learning, real world applicable examples, thick understanding and adaptive expertise.