How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
When IESBVI TVI and O&M staff are hired, there are some 200 aspects to their new position which they need to learn in their first year of employment, and review in their second. This mammoth training requirement is broken into about 20 monthly topics, referred to as the mentoring calendar.
Mentoring in Iowa’s schools is regulated by the Iowa Department of Education. IESBVI’s model is called the Iowa Mentoring Program- structured from the same concept first created by Texas School for the Blind.
Topics are covered primarily through an experienced mentor who is matched to a new employee. Together, the mentor/mentee teams meet twice monthly to cover topics such as writing a vision-only IEP, and scheduling, selecting and administering functional vision and learning media assessments.
“Receiving the mentoring and orientation from content experts provides support from people who know assessments and have experience working with these learners,” said Gwen Woodward, IESBVI Regional Director for Western Iowa.
New staff orientation kicks off in August with three days of mentoring. At this time, assessment information is introduced in training, titled Vision Impairment (VI) 101. VI 101 continues with assessment training monthly during the employee’s first year.
Now, repeat that back to me. The second year during the twice-monthly meet-ups, mentees present the calendar information back to mentors, which helps the mentor determine if the information has been understood and is being applied as intended. Additionally, new staff demonstrate assessments under mentor observation. “We tell them, ‘This is what knowledge should look like at the end of your second year,’” said Woodward. “You will know what you do not know.”
With this mentoring system, new staff are exposed to new information thrice: first, during August orientation, secondly, through VI 101 monthly training and lastly, during the mentor/mentee experience.
The regional directors then review with the mentor the areas which the mentee has mastered, and where continued support is needed. “We emphasize this is a process; we are all still learning.”