Mentoring: Lost in Translation

This post is part of a series examining research and theory on mentoring and coaching from the perspective of mentoring school videoconference coordinators.

Article Reference

Orland-Barak, L. (2005). Lost in translation: Mentors learning to participate in competing discourses of practice. Journal of Teacher Education, 56(4), 355-366.


This article focuses on the “competing discourses of practice” between mentoring and teaching. Instead of focusing on what is similar between the two, the author focuses on what is different, suggesting that mentoring for teachers is like speaking/learning a new language.

The study is based in the Israeli education system where there are formal programs with “school mentors” for new teachers within a school, and “outside mentors” who are assigned to a school and often teach part-time elsewhere. The mentors observe, evaluate, organize and conduct workshops, lead staff development, and assist with curriculum.

Challenges in this role include:

  • Finding it diffcult to implement a new curriculum in their own class while trying to mentor novice teachers in the same thing
  • A dual sense of accountability to teachers and principals/inspectors
  • Trying to make sense of being a mentor and being a teacher and differing behaviors for each
  • They believed in mentoring as “collaborative and democratic,” but their actions were more “prescriptive and controlling”
  • They might be an expert in teaching, but a novice in mentoring, which causes dissonance

Skills mentors need:

  • Confidence in themselves and their profession
  • Ability to develop relationships with teachers
  • Evidence of master in their content area
  • Ability to understand the “power relationships with new accountabilities”
  • A clear vision of what it means to be a good professional in changing contexts

In this study, the education system is centralized and focused on product, whereas the universities are focused on process. This scenario pulls the mentors in different directions.

Application to VC

Similar challenges?

  • Do educational service level agency VC support personnel or our VC coordinators run into any of these challenges?
  • Are there any competing expectations that make life difficult for our VC coordinators in the schools?

I haven’t heard anything that sounds quite like the level in this study. However, there may be similar challenges:

  • Competition for Time: VC Coordinators who support VC on top of their regular job (teacher coordinators and media specialists who teach full time)
  • Competition for Tech Integration: VC Coordinators who are responsible for promoting and supporting the integration of technology in their school. Is there enough time for VC plus all the other technologies?
  • Competition for Curriculum: A tightening of the curriculum with little room left for creative teaching.

Your Turn

What do you think? What are other challenges that school level VC coordinators face in trying to mentor teachers to use VC in the curriculum?

Leave a Reply