An Example Of A Regional Mentoring And Peer Coaching Network

by Ami Hicks

The Start of An Idea:
The Chicago Suburban Regional Mentoring and Peer Coaching Network was established on November 15, 1990 by Ami Hicks, a Business Teacher and a Mentor Coordinator at Naperville Central High School, Naperville, IL. This research-based network was designed to provide a forum for resources, collegial support, and professional growth. This network provides an opportunity for collaborative efforts in establishing and developing mentoring and peer coaching programs by peer coaching each other to strengthen the programs within individual schools and districts.

The participants are a composite of teachers, district administrators, principals, assistant principals, and department chairpersons whose responsibilities include both building and district level positions.

How the Network Grew and Functioned: Three meetings were held during the 1990-91 school term. The first meeting on November 15, 1990 was hosted by Ami Hicks at Naperville Central High School. This organizational meeting determined that there was an interest and need to establish a regional network. Each participating school presented their individual programs, their position within the school/district, and distributed the various models or designs of their respective programs.

The second meeting on February 28, 1991 was hosted by Kathy Mills, LD Teacher and Mentor Coordinator, Gustafson School, Batavia, IL. Six of the fourteen member districts gave presentations on their In-House Training for Mentors and Peer Coaches from design to implementation.

The third meeting was held on May 8, 1991 and hosted by Cynthia O'Donnell, Coordinator, Peer Coaching Project and Special Education Chairperson, Schaumburg High School, Sue Rucks, Coordinator, Peer Coaching Project and Business Education Department Chairperson, Schaumburg High School, Schaumburg, IL. This third meeting gave the participants the opportunity to become familiar with specific observation techniques in the ASCD program "Another Set of Eyes" and how this program could be used for mentor training. The presentation was facilitated by LuAnne Todd and Nancy McGill, teacher consultants with the Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization.

The Meeting Format:

Each meeting consisted of lunch, sharing an article in the current literature, sharing current research as well as the presentation. Topics for future meetings of the Mentoring/Peer Coaching Network for the Chicago Suburban region will include:
Over the next few years this regional network continued to meet about three times a year. Each meeting was hosted by one of the member school district which provided the meeting space and a light lunch.

Program-To-Program Coaching and Mentoring:

One very unique tradition was started which included a "peer coaching" of the local program which was the meeting host. At each meeting the host for the next meeting would be identified (volunteer) and that host would solicit agenda items for the next meeting, give directions to their site, and ask 1-2 questions which described the challenges the next host program was facing.

At the next meeting the host would facilitate the agenda until the last item. At that point the host would:
1. Describe their mentoring or peer coaching program
2. Describe what they feel they have accomplished through their program
3. Describe the challenges that their program was facing and the questions they need to resolve to move ahead as a program toward better quality or increased effectiveness.

Next the other program representatives would ask questions to help the host reflect on their assumptions, their data, their purposes, etc. In this way, the other program reps served a coaching role for the host program, who received a ton of advice and great ideas, as well as an affirmation for what they have accomplished.

It is the opinion of the MLRN Executive Board that this model of a regional network provides a model for all of us for what can be done to support out learning as program leaders in mentoring. What could you do to help establish such a network in your area?