What is the NIFDI School Leader Mentoring Program:

The NIFDI School Leader Mentoring Program is a structured yet flexible year-long program for new and experienced school or district-level leaders who want to increase their effectiveness in supporting Direct Instruction (DI) at their schools.

What is the purpose of the School Leader Mentoring Program?

The purpose of the mentoring program is to increase the skills, awareness, and confidence of building coordinators, assistant principals, and other administrators in supporting a Direct Instruction (DI) implementation.

What is the rationale of the Mentoring Program?

Just as teachers benefit greatly from receiving coaching after they have successfully completed a preservice (program) training in a particular level of a DI program, leaders benefit greatly from a supportive mentoring program after they have received training on their roles and functions. The training entails simulating the classroom environment in stages with examples and activities designed to convey to participants the essential functions of instructional leaders. However, the training environment cannot replicate the variety of situations that leaders will encounter in real life. Mentoring by an experienced DI expert can help school leaders apply the concepts and procedures discussed during training to actual school situations. The mentoring program provides a supportive, systematic yet flexible bridge between the simulated environment to the real school environment.

Who participates in the mentoring program?

The mentoring program is best designed for school leaders who have a solid grasp of the fundamentals of their role but have not had a great deal of experience fulfilling their role as an instructional leader in their current position. The number of mentors participating in the program can vary. The greater the number of participants, the greater the energy and the collegial support in implementing DI. However, the greater the number of participants, the more difficult it is for the mentor to customize the mentoring program to the specific needs of any single leader.

What are the prerequisites for participating in the program?

The mentoring program is intended for school leaders who have attended the Administrator Leadership Institute at the national DI conference or a similar comprehensive training for leaders of DI implementations. If a school leader has not attended the Administrator Institute, they can still participate in the mentorship program, but their progress may be slower than the progress of mentees who attended the Institute and possess all the prerequisite background knowledge needed for the mentoring program.

What is the primary mechanism of the mentoring program?

The primary mechanism for the program is the mentoring call, which takes place via Zoom or another video-conferencing application. These applications allow for the sharing of documents, pictures, and data, which can enhance the effectiveness of the mentoring sessions. In addition to the Zoom sessions, mentors can make site visits and respond to texts or emails on short notice with a response within 48 hours during the work week.

How often do the mentoring sessions take place?

Weekly mentoring calls can start before preservice (program) training and continue through the end of the fall semester. The frequency of the calls can decrease after winter break if the school leader feels comfortable with reducing the support.

How is the content of the mentoring sessions determined?

Mentees select the topics that are the focus of the mentoring sessions. The mentors draw from several sources, including their own experience, to suggest topics for the mentoring sessions, but the mentees determine what the focus of the sessions will be.

The leadership mentor will refer to the following two sources (among others) to help structure and support the mentoring program:

During the Administrator Leadership Institute, participants are introduced to several Big Ideas for supporting a DI implementation, including:

  • Acceleration and Accountability
  • The three functions of instructional leaders: Setup, Monitoring, and Responding Actively
  • The Implementation Priority Pyramid.

During the Administrator Leadership Institute, participants successfully completed activities that provided opportunities to learn the fundamentals of these Big Ideas. During the mentoring program, the mentor will reference these activities and apply them to the current situation at the mentee’s school as appropriate.

What happens during the mentoring sessions?

The mentoring sessions will follow a general agenda:

  1. A review of last session’s action items. Were the action steps implemented? Did they fully address the need that was identified? If not, what additional step(s) should the mentee take to meet the need that was identified?
  2. The selections of topic(s). The mentor will suggest topics based on the time of year and previous topics covered. Mentees will select the specific topics to address during the mentoring session.
  3. The sharing of data, procedures, data, or rationale. The mentor may share background information, graphs, or other tools regarding the selected topics. The mentee may be asked to share data from in-class observations or student performance data that relate to the selected topics.
  4. Forming consensus on the next action steps. To end the session, the mentor and mentee will select up to three action steps the mentee will take before the next session. As with all learners, it is important that mentees not get overwhelmed by too much to learn or too many assignments. The mentees should build their mastery of essential skills and knowledge systematically.

How do the mentors prevent confusing mentees with multiple inputs?

As in any mentoring program, there’s a potential that mentees in the NIFDI School Leader Mentoring Program can get confused with multiple inputs – inputs from the mentor and other inputs from colleagues or supervisors at the mentee’s school. When there is a difference in the input from the mentor on the implementation of a DI procedure from different sources, the mentor will:

  1. provide the rationale for the NIFDI version of the procedure,
  2. defer to the mentee and the school on the procedure they wish to follow.

Mentors provide information, not direction. If there appears to be a conflict between the information provided by the mentor and the school’s practice, the mentor will be available to discuss with the mentee’s associates or supervisor(s) any aspect of the procedures discussed during the mentoring session, but the mentor will “follow the lead” of the principal on the procedures used at the school.

What type of written report follows each mentoring session?

Within 48 hours after each mentoring session, the mentor writes a short report, which is shared with the mentee and the mentee’s supervisor(s). Each report contains:

  1. A description of the status of action steps identified during the previous mentoring session.
  2. A list of the action steps/foci identified during the most recent mentoring session.
  3. A statement about when the next mentoring session will take place.
  4. Any other concerns, questions, or supplementary steps related to the mentee’s skill development.

What appears on the final report for the mentoring program?

At the end of the school year, the mentor will write a final report to be submitted to the mentee and their supervisor(s). The mentor will describe the mentee’s growth over the school year and provide advice on next steps for the mentee. The mentee will write a reflective summary that will be included in the final report. In the summary, the mentee will describe what was accomplished over the course of the year and what else they can do in subsequent years to become an even more effective leader.

What do mentors need to know about their mentees to get started?

Mentees will need to fill out a questionnaire to provide critical background information on their role and the role of DI in their school. Here are the items included in the preliminary questionnaire:

  • Name:
  • Position:
  • School and location:
  • Years already implementing DI:
  • Grades DI covers at the school:
  • Subject areas DI covers at the school:
  • Role of DI – core instruction or intervention?
  • Goals for the implementation of DI in your schools:
  • Specific obstacles/challenges to meeting the goals:
  • What are you most confident in re: your school/district’s ability to implement DI?
  • What are you most concerned about re: your school/district’s ability to implement DI?

What are the next steps in arranging a mentoring program?

Each mentoring program is custom-designed to fit the needs of each partner school or district. If you are interested in finding out more about how the mentoring program can work for you, we can arrange a call to discuss the program. After we talk, we can submit to you a cost-and-services proposal specifically designed for your school or district leaders.

To get started, fill out the preliminary questionnaire, or call NIFDI at 1-877-485-1973 or email info@nifdi.org with questions.

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