Article

Mentoring: an inside look at Federation work

Karen Chow

The ETFO protective services mentorship program has provided me with an incredible insight into the broader scope of the work of the Federation beyond the activities in individual locals.

The program began as a pilot three years ago and has been offered each year since. It gives individual members, including those in under- represented groups, an opportunity to work with provincial staff to improve their understanding of the federation and the  work that it does, to acquire skills, and to experience first hand what it’s  like  to  be  a  staff  officer.  ETFO  protective services executive staff  volunteer their time to mentor the participants.

I am an occasional teacher local chief negotia- tor, one of six participants in the program this year. Some participants were released officers in their local, while others were classroom teachers. All have been involved to  some extent in their ETFO local.

At the beginning mentors met with us (we were often referred to as mentees) to brainstorm some of  the possible  outcomes we’d like to achieve. Each participant chose three personal learning goals. For one participant, it  meant experienc- ing a day in the life of a professional relations services staff officer as they counselled members. Another participant, a local released officer, was able  to  increase her  knowledge of  health  and safety. I wanted exposure to equity issues in theFederation, and an increased knowledge of how different workshops and conferences are organized and facilitated.

Participants work with provincial staff in at least seven situations related to their goals. As a participant, some of my experiences included:

  • Working with a provincial staff officer who coordinated a workshop for a northern local that involved co-operation between the local, provincial staff and the local school board. I shadowed her as she facili- tated the workshop, and spoke with her about the preparation for the event.
  • Participating in a meeting of the human rights provincial standing committee. This experience encouraged me to apply for a position on other provincial standing com- mittees next year.
  • Shadowing a protective services staff officer at a collective bargaining regional confer- ence. This experience showed me how flex- ible staff officers must be, as one presenter was unable to attend and the staff officer had to step in.

In retrospect, this program increased my lead- ership skills and knowledge on a provincial level regarding the  work  of the Federation. This will prove invaluable in my future activities in the ETFO. As one of my colleagues in the program noted, this is a perfect opportunity to fill in the gaps in your own learning and experiences so that you can better serve your members in which ever role you choose to play, whether at the localor provincial level.