Part one discussed three different ways to teach a learner who is so young he or she lacks the self-control or skill to succeed in a situation.
- Training taught a specific behavior in an arranged, calm, patient setting using gesture, phrase, and negative reinforcement. It was mechanical and anti-social.
- Teaching taught a specific, simple skill. It took advantage of "teachable moments", was very conversational, and was social and fun.
- Correction taught norms and self-control to a child too young to be responsible for her or her behavior. Before being redirected to better behavior, the child was led through the steps of being aware of his or her action, comparing it to a standard, and then doing something to fix or apologize for the mistake.
Practicing a simple skill requires training. This is even true with a lone adult. When learning to play a musical instrument it is important to practice scales for several minutes each day: this is as arranged, patient, and anti-social as any other training; there is still reinforcement, both the disappointment when a mistake is made and the pleasure when mistakes are avoided.
Learning a compound skill requires more than training. A compound skill is best taught be mimicry and example. If I want to learn how to use a potter's wheel, or do the motions of a martial arts form, or how to better focus my mind in prayer, then I should study under someone who has already mastered the skill. This type of mentoring I'll called apprenticeship.
In many ways apprenticeship resembles training. It usually happens in an arranged environment. There is often little dialogue since sufficient supervision and guidance is a few timely reminders or hints. Patience and calm is required. It is anti-social in the sense that the situation is impersonal: the pair of mentor and learner are acting out roles with little opportunity for being social or expressing personality.
With apprenticeship, what is valued is mastering the compound skill.
Learning a simple skill for the first time requires teaching (as previously defined).
I will call the equivalent type of mentoring explorations. Like teaching it is social, fun, and involves a lot of conversation. It builds off of many "teachable moments" that arise as the learner explores a new setting to develop concepts and foundations.
Once Smiley develops the self-discipline to not want to put every plant he sees in his mouth I could take him to the back yard to explore its different plants and places. Perhaps he would learn about textures and colors. Perhaps he would try rolling down the hill, crawling through leaves, or climbing into bushes. Perhaps he would learn what I refer to with the words "rhododendron" and "hellebore". I do not know beforehand what will develop, but he will be learning.
Similarly, once Smiley develops the self-discipline to turn a book's pages one at a time we can explore how books tell stories. Perhaps he will point to each character in each picture and ask, "Who's that?" Perhaps he will care about the overall narrative. Again, I do not plan a lesson but supervise and guide his learning.
With exploration, what is valued is discovery, making connections, and refining vocabulary.
Learning behavioral norms for the first time requires correction (as previously defined).
The equivalent type of mentoring is mediation. As with correction the learner is helped to focus on his or her actions and feelings, be mindful of the standard, and fix the damage by making an apology or facing an appropriate consequence. But in mediation all the children involved are assumed to have the prerequisite self-control and skill to handle the situation so the mentor only needs to provide supervision and guidance. There is no longer a need to separate the misbehaving child or to use a question to help shift the focus from what is wanted.
The most effective routine I know for nearly all mediation situation involves this fill-in-the-blank sentence that both parties in the conflict use:
When you _____The first phrase is simply to help the child get started. It is incredibly natural to cite what was done to you before shifting focus to yourself.
I feel _____;
The second phrase recognizes that, for children, the harm in most offenses is emotional. Nate would have been willing to let Jill have a turn with that toy if she had asked nicely, but she just grabbed it. Jill would have enjoyed sharing the blocks and building things with Nate, but he barged in and took blocks from what she had built to start his own edifice.
The third phrase asks the child to take some responsibility in resolving the conflict. The child's request might not be polite ("go away") and might not be helpful ("let me play with this toy until I am bored with it"). But whatever is said the child has had once more occasion of responding verbally instead of with fight or flight.
After both children have made use of this sentence the mentor mediates an outcome. Perhaps it is unreasonable for Nate to use the toy until he is bored with it but a timer can be used to start taking five-minute turns. Perhaps both children have stated workable outcomes and the mentor's only job is to praise them for resolving the situation on their own.
If a young child who normally has the self-discipline to offer an apology is emotionally worn out by the mediation process a second kind of vicarious apology may be a helpful part of resolving the conflict. Ideally the child tells the mentor what to say to the other party. Unlike the vicarious apology of correction, this is not speaking instead an immature child who lacks the self-control or skill to apologize, but speaking "along side" a more mature child who recognizes an imbalance in desires, attitude, and energy level. Metaphorically it is not carrying an immobile runner across the finish line, only offering an elbow to lean upon during the last few steps.
With mediation, what is valued are the feelings of the children, but the feelings are explicitly not license to act inappropriately.
All three types of mentoring also work with adults.
The years I led a religious congregation I made use of all three. I would use apprenticeship to help someone practice the words to a liturgical prayer or the steps to a worship dance. I would use exploration to allow a service to be worshipful to all congregants in different ways, and to guide the discussion after each sermon. I would use mediation (sometimes with that same preschoolers' procedure) when congregants had conflicts.