The Poetic Humanity of Teacher Education: Holistic Mentoring for Beginning Teachers

A. Lin Goodwin, Crystal Chen Lee, and Suzanne Pratt

Sept 2021

This qualitative study explores the holistic approaches that seven mentors use to attend to the well-being of new professionals as they transition into the classroom. We define holistic mentoring as practices that intertwine the professional with the personal, and bring together the aesthetic, intellectual, and moral in supporting beginning teachers. We call these practices the ‘poetics of mentoring,’ and used them as analytic lenses to theorise mentors’ unique approaches to working with mentees. Data included individual semi-structured interviews, a focus group interview, and expressive artefacts that mentors created to illustrate their practice holistically.

Our findings revealed how and why mentors reflected aesthetic, intellectual, and moral endeavours in their practice, and how they worked together as a community to share and critically assess one another’s aesthetic, intellectual, and moral practices. By examining mentoring as a relational and holistic activity, this study emphasises meaning-making in teaching and learning to teach, making visible the often unnoticed, and rendering the intangible, tangible. In guiding discussions on teacher preparation within international contexts, this study shows that teacher preparation must attend to teacher-students holistically, and that sustaining teachers begins first with caring for teachers’ well-being, so they in turn can safeguard the well-being of their students.