A Call for Researchers and Practitioners: Mentoring Utilizing Critical and Culturally Relevant Perspectives

“Despite evidence that race and ethnicity plays an important role in mentoring relationships, there are limited research-based guidelines in the practice field regarding how race/ethnicity should be considered. Some of the most important resources in the field, such as Elements of Effective Practice (MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, 2009a), pay little attention to the role of race and ethnicity in mentoring programs (Sanchez, Colon-Torres, Feuer, Roundfield, Berardi, 2014).

This statement is the mentoring field’s call to action. While the newest edition of the Effective Elements does begin to address race and ethnicity, these nuanced issues are outside of its purview. Also, there is still a regrettable lack of information in this area, and much of it stems from a lack of critical and culturally relevant perspective, at least in documented ways, within the field. The Youth Mentoring Action Network seeks to establish a collaborative partnership and institute that will bring together mentoring researchers and practitioners to collaborate on projects, papers, training curriculum and other tools that can help make critical and culturally relevant mentoring a national and global reality. The development of this group will begin this year (2016) and will work to organize researchers, provide connections, and ultimately provide opportunities and resources for the support and promotion of this work.

We are currently seeking interest from mentoring researchers and practitioners who study and write about mentoring. After compiling a list of interested researchers, we intend to convene 1-2 meetings this year to establish a set of goals and objectives for our work. To guide our work, we have created the following guidelines for mentoring practice and research that is deemed critical and culturally relevant.

For Mentoring Practice:

-Mentoring that fully considers race, ethnicity, gender, class and sexuality when building the infrastructure for programs. Including programmatic structure, recruiting of mentors, training of mentors, support of mentoring relationships, mentoring activities and finally, target outcomes.

-Mentoring that is focused on critical consciousness and transformation rather than assimilation and adaptation

-Mentoring that places emphasis on the whole community, the whole protégé, rather than just parts of the whole

-Mentoring that includes, from its very inception, the needs of the community and the needs of the youth in the community (not about us without us)

-Mentoring that promotes and supports mentor/protégé partnerships for community transformation
For Mentoring Research:

-Mentoring research that utilizes critical frameworks; i.e. critical race theory, critical pedagogy, etc. for the analysis of mentoring relationships, mentoring outcomes, programmatic structures, and outcomes, etc.-Mentoring evaluation that moves beyond standard evaluative strategy and utilizes evaluative strategy that empowers the protégés and highlights programmatic outcomes beyond statistical ones. For example, empowerment evaluation, photovoice, etc.

-The full recognition of naturally occurring mentoring relationships as well as structures to “harness” and study them

-Challenging the mentoring meta-narrative with new and critical forms of research

E-mail tweiston@gmail.com with questions or other inquiries.

Submit Interest Here

Why We Need Critical Mentoring in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore and Everywhere Black People Are

We need critical mentors in schools, we need critical mentors in communities, we need critical mentors in churches, we need critical mentors in corporations, we need critical mentors in law offices and courts, and we need them connected to our youth. We need critical mentors everywhere Black people are.

Read the full article here…

Young Lives Matter

”I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled …”      Jonathan Swift

Rhetoric around both the literal and abstract concept of “lives” has inundated most Americans via mass media in the last year. Since the Black Lives Matter Movement and Black Spring have erupted, discussions about which lives matter, matter most, or matter most immediately have become central to daily conversations. Teachers, professors, news anchors, activists, writers, etc. have weighed in on which “lives” we should all consider most valuable and when. Polemics declaring “Black Lives Matter” fill our social media feeds, retorts declaring “All Lives Matter” quickly follow, satirical pieces proclaiming “All Lion Lives Matter” have also made their way onto our screens and finally, the new decree that “Police Lives Matter” has emerged in response to recent police officer killings highlighted in the media.

But, in all of these “lives matter” discussions, very little has been said about youth; Black youth, Latino youth, Native youth, etc., youth who struggle daily to navigate schools, communities, institutions, places in which many may have little to no agency or advocacy. Maybe I haven’t been watching closely enough, maybe i’ve missed it, but I have yet to hear someone declare or proclaim that “Young Lives Matter”. Some might argue that the movement ultimately benefits our youth as they have a stake in the future it will create, others might argue that youth are at the center of these movements, that this is, in fact, a youth movement and in that way, they are being addressed. If either of these points are correct, then why has no one clearly declared that “Young Lives Matter”? Why have I not heard it proclaimed that education be examined? Why have the movements who claim to be working on behalf of our future, done very little to critique or even access schools, where most of our youth can be found? The education system is the root of many of the issues we see played out in our society. Education reform rhetoric consistently uses youth of color as it’s poster children, promising to level the playing field. Yet, outcomes consistently tell us that charter schools, temporary teachers (TFA), Common Core, and increased standardized testing have done little to ensure that minoritized youth have the support and access they deserve. America eats it’s babies. We see the evidence in unaddressed and systemic poverty, urban gentrification, health and medical disparities and most importantly, in education.

Most recently, Dr. Shaun Harper’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at Penn GSE released a report on the overwhelming number of suspensions among Black youth in southern schools. We know these suspensions result in lack of educational access, that they feed the school-to-prison  pipeline and that they often mirror much of what we see playing out in many of these viral videos illustrating interactions with police.

As a mentor and educator, working daily to facilitate educational progress, access and success among youth, I posit that Young Lives Matter, not just in the past, not just presently, but always. And they matter in ineffable ways that many of us can’t see, either because we don’t have children or we don’t work with them, or we choose to ignore them. Young Lives Matter and require a critical education and positive upbringing with parents who love and provide for them, mentors who support and care about them, teachers dedicated to empowering and teaching them, schools and communities who foster opportunities for them, politicians who create policies that assist them, and so on. Until we declare that youth truly matter and begin in action, not just in rhetoric, to address their needs, our movements will bear very little fruit.

What Mentors Say When Another Unarmed Black Man is Killed by the Police

I had just finished a phone discussion with a trainer who was looking to provide a training for mentors serving African American males…

How apropos for a society so recently filled with Black male success rhetoric; charter schools, boys of color initiatives, my brothers keeper…and then I turn on the news….

Another unarmed Black man shot in cold blood, video captures the dramatic scene, assailant is shot in the back 8 times as he turns to run from the officer, outrage expressed as Black community points and says “it happens all the time, why can’t America see what we see?”.

And then, back to the phone conversation….”We are looking for folks who already mentor Black males, as this training assumes that they have had basic mentoring training. We want to help them increase their efficacy with the Black male population”….

See, we aren’t sending our youth the correct message… We want you to be successful, rise up out of the situation that you are in by gaining access to higher education where, by the way, we will teach you that dominant forms of oppression and suppression are the norm, that those other Black people are at fault for their status since they haven’t done what you have, that if you just have a mentor, which studies show tend to be harder to find if you are a Black in college, you can make it…

But, let’s get other Black people in suits and bow ties to put on programming for you, help you feel safe and secure in this white world. Let’s have them tell you that capitalist, dominant ideology is definitely the way to go, since alternatives are impossible and pulling your pants up and speaking properly at least gets you a bit further up the chain. Oh and by the way, those daily killings of unarmed Black men are aberrant, they are not the norm, and besides, those Blacks weren’t wearing suits with bow ties, they didn’t have their pants pulled up, they wore black hoodies, they spoke out of turn, they resisted arrest, they were poor and indigent, they asked really menacing questions like “why are you pulling me over”, they looked scary, they were scary, they did not take the proper steps necessary to appear harmless. While we are about the task of showing you how to set yourself apart from those other Negroes, lets be sure you are completely fixed on the so-called American Dream, bought into the idea that having money, is in fact the answer, so that you work your entire life trying to adapt to a dominant idea that really isn’t suited for ANY of us.

But now I have really strayed, lets get back to the title of this piece. What do mentors say when another unarmed Black man is killed by the police? What happens when our newly funded programs, with sexy rhetoric, appealing to education reformers and philanthropic do-gooders finally meets and we have to look into the eyes of a group of young Black men who just watched the news…who just saw the same video clip that you saw, who may have witnessed something like that in person, who may even be dealing with PTSD because this is his daily reality?

What do mentors say then? What does it mean then to “encourage” and “support”, to “talk with” and “listen to”? Why aren’t mentors “questioners of”, “challengers of” or “critical about”…When will mentor trainings include “how to have conversations with your mentees about surviving interactions with the police”. When will trainings include “how to help your mentees navigate PWI’s (predominately white institutions) who say they want diversity, but can’t move beyond a white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal and cis-hetero idea of what education is and will, more than likely, accuse him or her of being racist should they ever gather enough nerve to challenge it. When will these trainings include topics like “mentoring for liberation” or “challenging the meta-narrative in mentoring”. What about a training on “participatory action mentoring” or “critical mentoring”?

And yes, I do realize that I still haven’t made suggestions for what mentors should say, but I have noted the things they should not say and though I am completely confident that I could give you a list of carefully worded cliches to use, the point of this post is to suggest that we must move beyond the rhetoric and into active resistance and that we can no longer just encourage youth, but we must join them in this struggle and finally, we have to stop asking them to adapt and begin partnering with them to transform.

Mentoring supports the college and career ready movement: Guest commentary

Take a look at my Op-Ed published in the Daily Bulletin.


A new focus on college and career readiness for youth presents tremendous possibilities for the mentoring world to partner with the education world. We’ve known for decades that mentoring relationships are positively connected to academic success; young people in mentoring relationships have lower high school drop-out rates, better grades and are typically more involved in extra-curricular activities. Despite the positive research, mentoring organizations and schools have struggled to create partnerships that are both permanent and systemic. The college and career ready movement creates an opportunity for establishing a network of effective and quality mentoring programs that serve schools all over the Inland Empire. Without support from the mentoring world, services required to support the Common Core’s goals of college and career readiness may never be fully and effectively implemented.

I have been operating a mentoring program for high school youth since 2007. In that time, my mentoring team and I have helped more than 300 youth become college and career ready through solid mentoring relationships, and direct connections to colleges and career paths. Since mentoring is about showing rather than telling, our youth have gone, with their mentors, on university tours that are specifically organized around their career interests. For students who want to become engineers, we take them to meet with engineers and aspiring engineers to discuss a pathway. For students who want to be musicians, we pair them with a music mentor who can expose them to the technical requirements for gaining entrance into music programs, so that they learn everything from music theory and composition to music marketing, producing and audio engineering, both the theoretical and the practical.

We’ve been doing this work in our mentoring organization because it met an unmet need in schools. But also because when we talk about the key components of a college and career ready movement — i.e., a college-going culture, exposure to careers, and concrete connections to both — we are really talking about mentoring. We are talking about providing individualized support and concrete connections to resources that are so often beyond the scope of what schools can provide. We are talking about institutional guides that can provide young people with the attention needed to support them in navigating colleges and careers.

The limited examples of mentoring often shown us in the media, images of an adult simply “spending time” with a youth, do not accurately reflect the services trained mentors actually provide in the way of academic support and in helping youth to navigate college and career spaces. It is difficult for schools to fully provide these services, not because they are unwilling, but because they are often unable. Teachers are already saddled with responsibilities outside of the instruction and grading included in their job descriptions, the guidance counselor to student ratio is startling, to say the least, and there are too few administrators to carry out an effective one-to-one mentoring program. In addition to time, educators aren’t necessarily trained as mentors, which can impact the overall outcome of a mentoring program’s goals and objectives and a research based and critical training is key to effective and quality mentoring.

The college and career ready movement is about aligning what most of our young people consider to be the theoretical to the practical. Mentors can help schools make this connection. While schools are doing an admirable job of educating our youth, they are not fully equipped to provide the mentoring required to help young people take the next steps toward making the theoretical practical. Nor should they be, education is, both traditionally and realistically, a community experiment and the connection between schools and communities have been historically weak. Having a singular focus on college and career readiness for every young person involves key players on every level and becomes a communal effort.

We need educators and mentors to work collaboratively to improve educational and life outcomes for every child. The individualized attention schools can’t provide should be provided by mentors, and college and career programming should be a collaboration between them both, creating another dimension of performance in education and mentoring practice and providing young people with ample opportunity for college and career success.

Torie Weiston, Ph.D. is an educator and the co-founder of an Inland Empire mentoring organization called the Youth Mentoring Action Network, based in Claremont; http://www.mentoringactionnetwork.org

Youth Mentoring Action Network

In 2012 San Bernardino County showed educational improvement in every area except college readiness. According the to Community Foundation’s report “only 24% of San Bernardino County seniors completed the necessary coursework to be eligible for a UC or CSU campus”, this is lower than the statewide average of 36%. Additionally, only 21% of Latinos and 19% of African Americans met the eligibility requirements for a UC or CSU. We all know that college readiness, college entrance and college completion make a difference for our local economy and most importantly our society.

Mentoring can positively impact these numbers. Mentoring is a trust-based learning partnership between two people with the express purpose of providing support, guidance and opportunity for the mentee. The Youth Mentoring Action Network has been mentoring youth and designing and implementing youth based mentoring programs since 2007 and we know mentoring works. We know it works because the data says so, but we also know it works because we have mentored youth into colleges and universities like the University of California Berkeley, American University, Howard University, California State University San Bernardino and more.

Facing a shifting demographic and a need to build strong communities, the Inland Empire must tend to its young people. Mentoring is a valuable resource that can be leveraged to increase college access, college readiness, college completion and positive societal inclusion.

The Youth Mentoring Action Network is dedicated to ensuring that every young person in the Inland Empire has access to a mentor. We want to “leverage the power of mentoring to increase access to higher education”.


Are We Giving Access or Preparing for Access?

There has been a significant amount of conversation about increasing access to higher education, but what does that mean? The Obama administration recently met with members of higher education institutions, the conversations centered on how to get more youth of color into and through higher education. One of the suggested solutions was to beef up high school guidance counseling, so that counselors have smaller caseloads and more college admissions training. High school institutions are grappling with a similar issue; how to get young people of color through high school and into higher education. One of the suggested solutions has been to create multiple pathways, often including a move toward increasing opportunities for remediation outside of the traditional classroom.  But what happens when the floodgates open? When youth of color, given college entrance counseling and equipped with remedial diplomas make it to institutions of higher education? What will guarantee their survival and success?  The conversations being had are missing a very critical element: the difference between “giving” these youth access and “preparing” them for access.  Of course increasing the numbers of youth of color who graduate from high school and make it into college is a worthy goal and an increase in numbers make both high schools and higher education institutions look as if they are successfully working to increase diversity in education. But, the simplistic ways in which this issue is being addressed has led to some simplistic solutions.

To begin with, a deeply rooted and systemic practice of keeping youth of color out of education is still being largely ignored in these conversations, i.e. the school-to-prison pipeline, too few teachers of color, and a lack of diversity in the curriculum, to name a few of the issues. Why is this lack of access still an issue, especially post affirmative action era and with a recent Supreme Court ruling that affirmative action is no longer needed? What happens to youth once they get into higher education? Why aren’t they graduating at the same rates as their white and Asian counterparts? What narrative is being told about these youth and about the roles they play in our society? How does that narrative shape their experiences and encourage or discourage education? These are only a few of the critical questions that must be asked and answered in order to get to the heart of the matter.

Furthermore, the recent emphasis on increasing diversity, especially when looking at the simplicity with which it is being addressed, seems suspicious. What good are we really doing if we dumb down high school to inflate G.P.A.’s and graduation rates? What good will we do if we lower college entrance standards to allow more youth of color access? We now have young people with fewer skills getting into college and while the more resilient ones may make it through and ultimately make the grand scheme appear successful, many more will drop out, except now they will be saddled with student loan debt. It would require a whole other opinion piece to discuss the “degree mills” being made out of many universities in their attempt to profit off of this “increase in access”.

What is really needed is a closer examination of the multi-faceted problem before we can come to a multi-faceted solution. “Giving” access only works short term. We must “prepare” our youth of color for this access. Youth of color should be paired with mentors who help them to navigate high school, college and a career. Mentoring is one of the most critical components, as mentoring relationships have the potential to aid in increased academic success as well as in the expansion of critical networks. High school courses should be rigorous and college focused, preparing youth for the critical reading, thinking and responding they will be required to do in college. Youth of color need to connect with college students and professors who look like them in order to round out the existing narrative about who attends college. And, most importantly, youth of color need to engage in honest conversations about the challenges that come with being a person of color in predominately white and Asian institutions, should they choose to attend one. We must also find a way of addressing those youth who may not want to attend college; the ongoing devaluation of trades and especially of the arts, is also pressing. However, if we are sincere in our efforts to increase the diversity of our higher education institutions, we must not do it by setting up our youth of color for failure, for while the numbers may appear positive, we will end up perpetuating the problems we say we mean to address.

Learning Teaching from Experience: Multiple Perspectives, International Contexts

Very proud to have been part of this project. My contribution, along with fellow academic laborer, Sheri Dorn-Giarmoleo, is titled “Vertical Integration as a Mode of Production: Teachers’ resistance to the business of teaching”.

Viv Ellis

Learning Teaching from Experience is published by Bloomsbury today! The book came out of a Society for Educational Studies seminar I organised with Janet Orchard in Oxford. It includes chapters by many leading researchers in the field, including Ken Zeichner, Madeleine Grumet, Daniel Muijs and Anne Edwards, as well as newer scholars such as Lauren Gatti (winner of the AERA Division K best dissertation award 2012) and California school teachers Torie Weiston-Serdan and Sheri-Dorn Giamoleo.


The book will be launched at a seminar in Bergen on Thursday 23rd January and then again (!) in London on Friday 21st February, both followed by drinks receptions. And then probably in Bristol. And perhaps again at AERA….. Further details to follow.

Pre-publication reviews were stunning and exceptionally generous. Thank you to all the reviewers from us both:

“At last, a book which combines a breadth of cross-disciplinary education scholarship, a breadth of focus…

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