Mentoring with Meaning: a Q&A with Dr. Carlos McCray

68d28-mccrayDr. Carlos McCray is an Associate Professor in the division of Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy. He teaches courses on urban sociology, ethics, qualitative research, and strategic thinking and planning.

He is the co-editor of Mentoring with Meaning: How educators can be more professional and effective (2015), and Mentoring for school quality (2015).

What was your motivation for pursuing this project?
We saw a vacuum in the literature dealing with effective mentoring for educators and school leaders.

Dr. Bruce Cooper and I wanted to bring leading scholars and practitioners throughout the field of education together and have them lend their expertise on the topic of mentoring.

Can you share a few insights from the book?

One key insight is that mentoring is multidimensional, meaning that good mentoring occurs on multiple levels. There is no “one size fits all.”

For good mentoring to take place, the mentee and mentor need to cultivate a relationship based on authentic care and effective communication.

Also, organizations, especially educational institutions, have to do a better job in creating an infrastructure for good mentoring to take place.

In many instances, mentoring is organic and that works well for many. But in circumstances where one can’t find a mentor in an informal or organic way, organizations have to do a better job of pairing up newcomers with seasoned individuals.

What makes a person an effective mentor?

  • An effective mentor is vested in the mentee, someone who is going to make him- or herself available for over a substantial period of time.
  • The mentor also needs to be available, i.e. someone who the mentee can seek out for advice when necessary.
  • An effective mentor has to be willing to cultivate a relationship genuinely based on caring. It’s hard to be a good mentor if you truly don’t care for the person you are mentoring.
  • The effective mentor has to be able to communicate honestly and effectively to the mentee.
  • Mentoring takes place on a personal and professional level. A good mentor has to have the requisite information and expertise within his or her field in order to answer the mentee’s questions and guide the mentee in the right direction.

How does an educator find a mentor? How crucial is it for an educator to have a professional mentor?
There are two main ways in which an educator or anyone in any organization finds a mentor.

  • Informal or Organic
    This way occurs when the mentee meets someone who is willing to take him under his or her wings and provide vital information to reach desired goals. This process is often more advantageous to both parties.
  • Formal
    This way often takes place when the leader of the organization creates a partnership that will add value to the mentee’s initial experience. Unfortunately, this formal form of mentoring is often haphazardly implemented within many schools. Oftentimes, there is not enough consideration given to the compatibility of the mentor and mentee.

One thing is for sure: school leaders and educators have to eradicate from their psyche the notion of “sink or swim” when it comes to newly appointed teachers.

In urban schools, the attrition rate of teachers is way too high. We believe the attrition rate can come down with the advent of good mentoring programs.

It is absolutely critical for educators to have a professional mentor in the beginning of their careers.

What have been your experiences as a mentor/mentee?
The one lesson I have learned is that you often need multiple mentors at a given point in your career. There are certain things that you may not be able to receive from just one mentor.

For instance, one mentor might be good in providing information concerning navigating the political terrains of the field or organization. Another mentor might be good in giving sound feedback on your work as well as providing opportunities for career advancement.

I have been quite lucky to have multiple mentors throughout my career. As I became a more seasoned professor, I have started to give back to others who are coming up in the field.

The one thing all my mentors stressed to me was that I had an obligation to mentor others just as I had received mentoring throughout the years.

It is a rewarding experience. It is truly satisfying to see others reach the goals they have set out to achieve for themselves.

Can you describe what we will learn from the book’s forthcoming companion, Mentoring for School Quality?
Mentoring for School Quality will focus even more on K-12 schools and the mentoring process. There are great anecdotes and researched materials from seasoned scholars and practitioners from around the country. These two volumes are the most comprehensive works on the mentoring to date.

We want to generate conversations about how mentoring takes place in our educational organizations.

If the mentoring process improves as a result of this work, then we are satisfied.


One thought on “Mentoring with Meaning: a Q&A with Dr. Carlos McCray

  1. Pingback: Mentoring for School Quality: How Educators Can Be More Professional and Effective |


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