Meet Your S.T.E.P. Mentees and Mentors
The 3 C's of My S.T.E.P. Mentee Experience
Undergrad, CUNY, Queens College
Like many others, the journey which led me to speech-language pathology was not direct and came about a little later in life. My career began as a professional dancer and dance teacher. However, through personal experiences and a desire to help create pathways for communication, I have now found myself on the front step of an awesome and very special responsibility to do good work in this field. Being a part of the S.T.E.P. program put me in contact with a mentor who also feels this deep level of commitment to speech-language pathology. It is a pledge to oneself, the work, fellow students and colleagues, and the people with whom I will one day have the honor of serving. My mentor has made just such a commitment to me, and for that I will be forever grateful and humbled. She has committed herself to consistently being available, answering endless questions, empathizing with my fears, putting me in contact with other leaders in the field, and inspiring me through her words, actions, and example.
I am thankful for the mutual curiosity created between my mentor and me. The curiosity we have created and maintained together has helped to build openness in our dialogue and vulnerability in our sharing. My mentor has gotten to know what is important to me, what my goals, aspirations and needs are, and has even generated questions that have pushed me further into my own discoveries. This practice of curiosity not only has been invaluable in terms of my mentee experience but will be an essential tool I carry into my future as a speech-language pathologist.
I found the collaborative spirit between my mentor and me most unexpected and exciting. To have my mentor engage me in an action oriented, collaborative manner has taken my learning and experience in the S.T.E.P. program in a direction I had not imagined. Above all, the three C's of my mentee experience could not have come about without the willingness of my mentor to extend herself out to me. I hope that I too will one day be able to carry this forward, and do the same for another.
Why I Majored in Speech-Language Pathology
Second Year Masters, University of Maryland, College Park
After I received my bachelors in psychology I moved to Washington, D.C., where I worked for a non-profit doing educational research. One of my projects involved grant monitoring for a national reading initiative, and I traveled to different schools and districts across the country observing classrooms and speaking with teachers and administrators. I realized that I really enjoyed being in the schools and learning about early reading interventions, but had never seen myself as a classroom teacher in front of a roomful of children every day. I realized that each school had an SLP, who was often named by the teachers as someone who provided a lot of additional support on reading instruction. I have two cousins with hearing loss whom I knew had seen an SLP when they were younger, so I called them up right away to hear about their experiences with speech therapy, which were glowing. I decided that this career path included skills from many of the professions I was considering, such as teaching, counseling, and social work/community outreach. I am still very interested in audiology/aural rehab and am very excited to graduate in May!
Tips on What Makes a Good Mentee
Undergrad, Northern Illinois University
Good mentees have a will to learn, ask questions and are patient.
- Having a will to learn automatically positions you to be receptive to the information you are receiving from your mentor. Even if the information may not be relevant or applicable to a current situation, it may resurface as you continue your journey to becoming a professional.
- Do not be apprehensive about asking questions. This can help tailor your learning experience. Whether you have questions about the terms of communication, work/life balance, professional organizations, or getting into/through graduate school, mentors are delighted to share.
- Lastly, be patient. Building a relationship takes time. And if you are communicating with your mentor through e-mail, remember that mentors have both professional and personal business to maintain on top of mentoring, which may cause a lapse between responses to your questions. However, when mentors do respond, their replies are generally thoughtful and provide a wealth of knowledge.
Five Tips to Good Mentoring
Tejwatie Sohan, M.A. CCC-SLP TSSLD
School-based SLP, Westchester, NY
Having participated in ASHA's S.T.E.P. mentoring program (as a menteee and mentor) on five occasions has really given me insight into the necessary components of a successful mentor/mentee relationship. When entering any mentoring relationship, I try to keep these five things in mind:
- Be flexible. The life of a clinician and student is a hectic one. Scheduling a time of the week for communication can be difficult, remain open-minded. Additionally, communication does not have to be limited to e-mails. Mix things up, have a phone or video conversation once in a while.
- Be reliable. Simply put, don't commit to communicating if you are unable to keep up with the responsibility.
- Be forthcoming about experiences and concerns. A large part of the mentoring experience is dependent upon both parties willingness to share.
- Be professional as well as personal. Although the S.T.E.P. mentoring program is meant to address short and long-term professional goals, feel free to share personal experiences as well. We are all more than our careers.
- Don't be a stranger. Just because the formal mentoring relationship has concluded doesn't mean you both shouldn't follow up periodically with each other.
What Mentoring Means to Me
Carey M. Payne III, MCD, CCC-SLP
Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare, Elmhurst, Illinois
I chose speech-language pathology as a career because it allowed me (and still does allow me) to explore my interests and exercise my talents in both sciences and the arts. When I started college, my major was chemistry, but I changed it to English and history within a year. I advanced into the curriculum sequence that might have directed me to a career of teaching secondary school English. After my first assignment in general speech class, which led to my being referred to the university speech clinic, I had to finally face the fact that my childhood stuttering might slow the march down any career path I might take. The summer between junior year and senior year was one of the hardest of my life, participating in treatment that looked at not only the disfluent words but also how they made me feel. Very few people had actually asked that question of me before!
Not only did my therapists guide me to address those feelings, but they gave me a venue for managing them. I had to audition for a part in a university theater production! I got it, and putting my psyche into another character each night for a week gave me wonderful insights and practice time to find my own fluency. The end result of the theater run was that I found my career path! Years later—almost 30 years now—I am discovering every day that it is vital for me to share with others in the profession some of what I have learned. If today I am mentoring well, it may be because
- I take the time to establish a dialogue with a mentee that is mutually comfortable and that allows the free flow of ideas between us;
- I want to obtain from the mentee her or his goals for the experience as early as possible and map them against the opportunities available;
- I attempt to involve the on-site mentee in incidental interactions with persons being served almost immediately, whether it is a social conversation while I attend to a short errand or asking the person served to give a brief history of his or her condition and its treatment;
- I strive to have resources that the on-site mentee may use in a clinical encounter with me that gives exposure to current practice patterns with a significant base of evidence;
- I check in with the mentee periodically during the experience, asking, "Is this experience meeting your needs?" and "Are you getting the degree of mentoring you want?"
So, what does mentoring mean to me? I get the opportunity to help buoy up another professional seeking guidance or answers. If I have provided some insights or experiences that the person was truly seeking, the help is its own reward, and the profession moves forward. During the years I have been mentoring—whether university undergraduate and graduate students, clinical fellows, or attendees at Convention programs—I have worked on staffs with former mentees and have collaborated with other former mentees on clinical cases across settings. Their growth and successes are a success for me. To those of our peers in communication sciences and disorders who shrug off invitations to mentor professionals in need, by saying there is insufficient time or resources for their participation, I point out that we are a "people profession." There is no other way to grow the next generation of CSD professionals.
S.T.E.P. mentees and mentors—share your mentoring experience!
Stories could include:
- Why you chose the profession of audiology or speech-language pathology,
- Five tips on what makes a good mentee or mentor,
- What mentoring means to you, or
- Your S.T.E.P. mentee/mentor success story.
Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org and include a color photo. We look forward to meeting you!