Mentoring is high on the agenda, not least because of the way learning mentors are being employed in schools, often to work with pupils who are at risk of becoming disaffected. But the concept of mentoring is much broader than that, and, as Andrew Miller points out, we need to be aware of a political dimension: the Left, for example would say the aim of mentoring is to "raise the education aspirations of students from poor families", while the Right's agenda is more to do with promoting "character education, faith and family values". (Hence President Bush's plan to use ex-military personnel as mentors.) So when we talk about using mentors - for our pupils, or our teachers - we need to be clear about what they are for, and about the nature of the partnership. To achieve that clarity, we need to understand the various philosophies of mentoring and the ways it has been used in the past and in other countries.
We also have to look at examples of mentoring in practice. All this ground is covered in this detailed and very readable book. One of the most useful chapters, "Evaluation and Quality", gives timely, practical advice on how to measure the effectiveness of mentoring.
TALL TALES FOR PERSPIRING TEACHERS By Michael H Baldwin. 2 Chapel Cottage, Chapel Road, Stratford St Andrew, Suffolk 1PA 1LQ.
pound;5. Make cheques payable to Michael Baldwin.
Every teacher has plenty of stories to tell, and Michael Baldwin, in 34 years of teaching in a variety of schools at home and abroad, has at least as many as most. I enjoyed his "Survival Tips for Supply Teachers", which include: "When confronted with a gun or knife, tell them to put it away just as if it were bubble gum. (If this doesn't work, leave the room and don't stop running.)" There are some interesting characters, including the teacher who set fire to his prep school then became a hero in the rescue operation, before confessing to the police. And the non English-speaking student in Los Angeles who got good English grades by measuring the blank spaces he had to fill in on the test paper, then finding in the comprehension passage words of the appropriate length.