Saturday, 22 November 2008

Mentoring: do we need it in CE?

Can we do without it?

Me, a mentor?

Someone whose work in Conductive Education I have known and respected for quite a few years now recently asked me an unexpected question. Would I agree to ‘mentor’ her. To be frank, I was a little taken aback; one did not ask such things in my day.

Immediate consideration, however, reminded me (as do so many other things), that I no longer live in ‘my day’ and that mentoring is indeed a commonplace kind of relationship, to be met at every rank of professional life. I quickly stopped being taken aback and instead felt rather flattered – till I began to wonder what further, extra, unpaid job I had picked up from Conductive Education!

And then, of course, I agreed.

Due reflection had made me realise that mentoring is hardly a new kind of relationship – it was just the terminology that I had found unfamiliar. I have to admit, though, that I do find the word persistently uncongenial. I do not know where it comes from but it bears the smack of managerialism. I would prefer simply to collaborate or, if some hierarchical relationship in really essential in the transmission and development of knowledge, then just maybe to tutor. Earlier this year, in fact, I had received a similarly phrased request and admit to not having repond to in a positive e nough way that it deserved. I had been put off by the terminology. That was silly of me and I shall go back, make amends, and see whether I might still be welcome.

After all, the role of mentor had been already sneaking up on me unannounced. Earlier this year, Tor Inge Martinsen relinquished the role of Styreleder of the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk. In a brief valedictory article in the Norsk Forum's newsletter, he remarked (too generously by half):

Andrew Sutton from NICE, an energetic and outstanding idealist, has been my professional mentor all the way through, and was probably the first person to see the possibilities that we have to develop conductive pedagogy in Norway...
We had never made any formal agreement (perhaps blokes don’t) but this relationship had indeed proven most enjoyable and productive for us both.

Mentoring in CE: who needs it?

So, is there a general point here? Whatever I do in this repect, be it explicitly ‘mentoring’ or something with no particular name (and I don’t mean ‘supervision’), my own experience can hardly be unique. Is mentoring yet another of those mechanisms struggling into life or even already burrowing away vigorously beneath the surface of the world of Conductive Education. How many of the dots that appear on the map at the top of this page are already joined by thin, invisible lines of personal communication for the transmission and enhancement of expertise and knowledge? After all, there is no need for anyone outside a mentoring relationship to know that it is happening, unless it is specifically published (such as Tor Inge did when ours had run its course).

Is there need for such connections? Put it differently. Consider the nature of the conductive movement, its frequently isolated practitioners and service-managers and others in CE, many of them barely prepared for the issues thrust upon them and desperately engaged in reinventing the wheel in a time of major change. Then ask, how on Earth can we expect to manage without it?

I am assuming that my own experiences of this kind are not unique. I really do hope that they are not and that an ad hoc and unstructured, informal network already exists for mentoring conductors and service managers and others worldwide, at every stage of their professional development. It is horrendous to contemplate a possible conductive world in which the major learning method for isolated individuals and institutions is to learn, primarily or even solely, from their own mistakes, with no means of at least checking the possibly very similar mistakes by those who went before.

Something else that we’re behind on in CE?

If there is indeed a need, how best might this be met? What experience has already been gained (and as ever, not shared), what mechanisms have been successfully utilised (surely the email and Skype should figure rather high here)? And what mentoring know-how is there that has been already elaborated in other sectors and might be productively adapted to the service of mentoring within the world of Conductive Education – so that the very process of mentoring within our own sector is not another one of reinventing the wheel.

I have to admit that my own experience of working like this has been wholly ad hoc, and that I have no intention at this point of undertaking ‘mentoring training’. My own attitude is therefore perhaps hardly a model that conductors and non-conductors alike should adopt in approaching this matter in the future. I excuse myself by saying that I will not be incorporating mentoring into my professional role. I no longer really have much of a professional role, as I do such things unpaid, what I do is by definition undertaken as a gentleman rather than as a player. I am pleased here to remain an amateur in its literal sense, someone doing it because he likes it.
Those who are continuing as professionals in Conductive Education might consider a rather more 'professional' approach, both to finding out what they can learn from the experience of mentoring in more elaborated fields and by looking seriously at how they might incorporate such a role into their present activities – even to the extent maybe of incorporating this into their job descriptions.
And do please note that the question of mentoring raised here is intended to apply to everyone who works in Conductive Education, in whatever role and at whatever level – not just to conductors.
Don't look at me

This article is most certainly not an invitation to approach me or to offer myself in such a role. Life is too short. The intention is simply to put into the public domain the place, value and potential significance of mentoring in Conductive Education. My personal experience shows the possibility of collaboration and learning of this kind within Conductive Education. This might also contribute to the life of a system that has few if any other ways of transmitting and challenging knowledge at a higher level as it moves across generations.

Of course, ‘continuing professional development’ and ‘in-service training’ may also have their part to play, if you can find them and if you can afford them when you do, but in various ways these are not the same as personal interaction with a tutor or mentor.

A silent, informal network of individually arranged mentoring arrangements may prove an important instrument for holding on to the experience of the past (and do remember that, after twenty or so international years, Conductive Education’s past is no longer exclusively a Hungarian one). Like everything else in our world, the conductive movement has now to make its own awkward and unplanned transition into the uncertain future, and the people at the sharp end may need to talk about this, critically, if Conductive Education is keep its point

Note and reference
Styreleder.  Don't you just love the language of the Norsemen? I am as prone as anyone to false etymologies, so I cherish here the image of a sturdy Viking chietain heaving at the steering oar of his longboat, on the way to some hard-earned rapine, burning and pillaging in the villages and monasteries of Northumberland. So much more confidence-inspiring, don't you think, than the contemporary titles 'chairman', 'CEO', 'manager' or 'leader', favoured by the Anglo-Saxons of today?

Martinson, T. I. (2008) Sluttor [End of the road], Medlemsblad for NFKP, May, pp. 6-7


  1. Yes, you are! was me who asked Andrew to be my mentor. As you know, he agreed. To be frank, he is my mentor for many many years now, although he didn't know it. So now it's formal!

    Don't we all need a 'guide to the perplexed'?

  2. Yes, you are! was me who asked Andrew to be my mentor. As you know, he agreed. To be frank, he is my mentor for many many years now, although he didn't know it. So now it's formal!

    Don't we all need a 'guide to the perplexed'?

  3. I wish I had a mentor and I still do. I read it somewhere, when the student is ready the ‘Master’ appears. Maybe I wasn’t ready?(pouting)
    When we were given our diploma (degree?) in CE Dr. Hári ♥ told us… this is not the final stage, you only have a licence to practice and teach. She said Conductive Education is an open system this is how Dr. Petö wanted it to be.
    Dr. Hári ♥ believed that a conductor needed at least 8 years of work before she/he really was ready. By teach she implied about the text, which was written and stamped into our little auburn coloured identity book. It doesn’t exist anymore in Hungary. The stamp was a proof that we finished the training at the Mozgasserultek Nevelokepzo es Nevelo Intezeteben, and it entitled us to do both to work with people with motor disabilities and also to train.(Nevelokepzes)
    Through the years I could only contact two Conductors if I had specific question and they were both always very helpful.
    When I suggested brainstorming (which is nothing really turbulent) on my blog this is what I would have liked to encourage. To share, to co create for mutual expansion. We are all both teachers and pupils at the same time, and learning is never ending.
    I always tell my trainees that asking questions is not a shame. People who really made a difference in the development of humanity, they questioned everything. I know this is what Andrew tells to his trainees…’don’t believe what I am telling you, question everything’...
    We can also see that some really great ‘synchro-destiny’ is happening amongst us as Susie called it, with all this blogging going on.
    I know that so many times I think of something and I put the thought aside, thinking I will follow it up later, and Norman or Susie ,Leticia, Laszlo or Andrew writes about it without us making any direct contact with each other.
    Isn’t this great? And it is so much fun!
    It would be more fun if people out there would start writing, sharing asking, telling… so we could all benefit.

  4. Also it would be so beneficial if people would use more the Library of the National Institute of Conductive Education UK, and recommend it to other professionals too. Gill is always very helpful and extremely efficient in responding to any enquiries.
    There was a very well organised and great collection of CE related published and unpublished literature in Hong Kong at the Conductive Learning Centre’s Library too. My last visit was in 1996 so I guess it is so much bigger and better now.
    The Petö Institute’s Library has been reorganised recently and Andrew promised us a post about it. When I last visited it before it was reorganised I have found many, very important and useful literature.
    Are there any other CE libraries in the world?

  5. Judit - what I actually wrote was that some people would call it synchro-destiny but I call it the conductive seele (soul) at work, a coming together of like minds.

    Brainstorming- my understanding of brainstorming is a group of people meeting to share their ideas usually with the aim to develop new ideas and new projects. In my experience this usually takes place without a group leader and can all too often end up in an unproductive chaos.

    Mentoring I believe is something completely different. It is the giving of advice and the sharing of years of experiences, it is giving support and encouragement to someone less experienced, it is not really to do with teaching and learning. Yes, one learns from everything one does but that isn't the purpose of being a mentor. It is guiding and reassuring that the road being taking is the right one or showing different possibilities, helping with the steering around the tight curves in the road. It can give the feeling of having a hand on your shoulder.
    I don’t think one always seeks out a mentor consciously , as Rony says Andrew has been her mentor for many years, it often just happens when one needs one and when the right person is there and is willing, consciously or not, to take on the role.

    Of course there are the "official" mentors, like the one I had when I first started teaching. An older and more experienced teacher who was appointed to look out for me, the new teacher. there were no official meetings, just a chat in the staff room or over lunch, a head around the door and smile, a welcome tip on a “difficult” child every now and then and a mine of information when tapped into. Most importantly it gave me the feeling that I had not been thrown in at the deep end all alone.

    I have had an “unofficial” conductor mentor since my third year of training, it is an “unspoken” mentoring and it has lasted this way for 16 years. This relationship is invaluable to me, I believe to us both.

    I communicate with many conductors we discuss work and developments in Conductive Education. Now I also communicate with a very small but growing network of people through cyberspace, but this discussion, this communication is not mentoring or having a mentor, that is something different. I can imagine that being a mentor could be a little bit like being a big brother who looks out for a younger sibling, it is like the role which an active godparent takes in a godchild’s life. In some cultures the mentor is the role taken on by “The Elders” or a “Guru”.
    It is being or having a trusted and respected guide who prompts and inspires you on the journey through difficult times just like Mentor and Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey.

  6. Aren't conductors, at their best, mentors themselves?
    Reading your comment, Sousie, I could easily change the term 'mentor' with the term 'conductor'.

  7. Rony, I was thinking along the same lines as you as I was writing my comment and I came to the conclusion that there is a difference between a conductor and a mentor but I am still not sure what it is.

    Yes, there probably are similarities but I don’t think it is the same.

    Could it be that in the case of a mentor and a telemachus there is a shared knowledge base which unites the two and the mentor guides the telemachus to using the knowledge/ experience which he already has?
    A mentor doesn't necessarily impart new knowledge, a telemachus can gather this for himself.
    A conductor on the other hand has a base of knowledge which the client doesn't have and the conductor first has to impart this knowledge and then, or at the same time, begin the mentoring, the guiding on how to use it.

    What do you think?

  8. I'm not sure. A parent in many cases is a mentor of his/her children although they don't share a common knowledge base, at least not at early stages of development The mentor, like a parent is a socialization agent. They are both mediators and a transformators.

  9. This is what we need to hear more of.
    Pesquisa da Educação Condutiva em Santa Catarina
    This research was conducted during the year 2007 by educator Célia Diva Renck Hoefelmann with the Special Education Foundation of Santa Catarina.

    This report aims to present the results of a survey that assessed the contributions of conductive education for children and adolescents with cerebral palsy in programs for specialized care ... in the state of Santa Catarina. Participated in this research: Center for Research and Development of Conductive Education, Special Education Foundation of Santa Catarina and APAES Aid Spa Camboriú, Camboriú, Florianopolis, Porto Belo and Iloilo ...
    The results of this study point to Conductive Education of the complexities and difficulties of professionals take ownership of its essence. However, even with professionals still in the learning process, students have reflected positive results. ... You can not deploy it at other institutions without the advice and presence of a driver.

    - Introduction
    - Conductive Education: Its role in learning, essential elements, the driver, the program, a series of tasks, rhythmic intention, the group and basic principles.
    - Route Methodology: The description of reality, the criticism of reality, continuing education and collective creation.
    - The contributions of Conductive Education
    - Final Considerations
    - Reference and Attachments

    And the conclusions in full copy:
    The results of this study indicate that the conductive education brings many contributions to the students with cerebral palsy, because the search always active and conscious movement. However, the results are more evident when the student can understand and learn the routine of work. Regarding the work done in APAEs, even if configured as an approach to construction, there are many significant results with students, especially with regard to purchases motor, language development, understanding, attention and food. On the report of professionals, the quality of care offered to these students based on conductive education is higher than that proposed in earlier work. As the participating institutions, the professionals are still in the learning process, it is not established relations between the frequency and duration of care in groups with students. It was observed, the big difference was the organization and quality of care and not just the time factor. With regard to students of the Center for Research and Development of Conductive Education, all had important achievements, especially in the aspects engines, cognitive and affective and now show a personality ortofuncional that allows them to have more independence in the context of its functionality. Changes are small, but significant, occurring in a short space of time, ie from July to December 2007. For these acquisitions are maintained and expanded it is necessary to continue the work. The training of professional, in view of this research was very important. The Education conduct, which at first was seen as an easy to understand, showed the group, including the researcher, all its complexity. In a very intense process of learning and teaching, many crises appeared, but were diluted little by little, in that it increased the understanding of the theory. However, it is considered that the process of learning from professionals is not yet consolidated, but in the process of development. This is a consensus among the participants.

    The completion of this project gives the impression that you're interrupting the process. There were a few months to learn so intense. The delay of conductive, due to problems with the visa, undermined the organization of work in this direction.
    There is a consensus among physical therapists, teachers and other professionals regarding the quality of this approach. The physiotherapists, who acted as leaders of the programs, compared to his previous work with the current search and indicated a preference for this. Teachers, in turn, cited the importance of learning this year.
    In the case of teachers, it is important to have a more active role in this process, which reflect on their practice and that may contribute more to the issues of Education. One should not deny the theories of learning already known, but to rely on them to understand the Conductive Education. In contexts where the teacher was actively present, the results were better. The research showed the importance of vocational training and collective work - it should be noted that all actions occurred in groups: the studies, discussions, as well as off, finally, all experienced moments ... Contrary to initial expectations, the research showed that it is not possible to deploy the Education Conduct in other specialized schools of the state of Santa Catarina in the absence of direct or advise a driver. This fact is due to the complexity of the approach. Even the professionals who attended the courses and this project has not yet mastered all the assumptions of this approach. This conclusion is shared by all physiotherapists and other professionals involved in the project. Even in institutions that have developed strategies of Education conduct, if there is the advice of a driver, the process of learning from professionals may stabilize or will very likely go back. There was a large investment of human and material resources of the institutions, the Institute HALEY H Kuerten and the Special Education Foundation of Santa Catarina. Today it is sure that these resources were invested in an approach that really opens up new possibilities for students with cerebral palsy. Recognizing this fact, all professionals and institutions are apprehensive with regard to the unfolding of Education conduct in the state, because this project and other related activities are close by the end of this year and, since then, each institution is responsible for referrals in your space. The main concern is concentrated on the need for some form of advice, since the learning of professionals is still under construction. A viable strategy, suggested by the researcher and discussed in groups, is the consolidation of space to develop the Education Conduct in its essence, with the presence of conductors, so that in the near future, can offer a specialized course in Conductive Education in in the state, seeking to establish partnerships with institutions in Hungary or from England. This procedure is necessary because the learning needs of Conductive Education practice. To build these spaces with quality, it is essential the presence of facilitators motivated to learn. Aware of his needs, APAEs participants discussed the possibilities of this project to hire a driver and the Center for Research and Development of Conductive Education is hiring a driver to continue the work.
    In this scenario, it is essential to maintain the agreement with the CFES, in order to ensure the transfer of teachers to act as facilitators as well as the commitment of all institutions involved with this project to its continuity. Indeed, even as a matter of ethics, we can not stop a process that has
    so many opportunities for students with cerebral palsy. An expectation for them and it must be maintained.
    Finally, one can say that the Education conductive surprised by its complexity, the requirements, the results and also by the extent of involvement of professional studies, reflections, discussions, changes, crises ... but, above all, by great desire of professionals to develop a work which required the
    full development of a student with cerebral palsy.

    For those who wish to read more, they come into contact with the researcher to your questions and information Com a Professora Célia -

  10. As often happens on discussion threads on the Internet (and no harm in that), Judit has introduce a quite new topic, one of great significance in its own right.;

    To match the importance of this, I have published a new posting, dated 23 November and entitled 'Well, shall we discuss it?'.

    I you would like to comment upon this rsearch study, find out more about it, and help take further the questions that it raises, please switch to the posting of 23 November.

    If you would like to comment further, upon issues raised above around mentoring in Conductive Education, as I do, then please do so here.

    Thank you,

    Andrew Sutton.

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