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A day in the life of a virtual mentor in the VPLD....

In this post you will see a snapshot of a virtual mentor’s day, which has been developed from the collated experiences of mentors involved in the VPLD programme. Not all mentors will work the same way, or make the same choices, but it gives you a good idea of what happens, when, how, why and with whom.

Jacky’s day

A lot of people ask me what it like is to be a virtual mentor, so I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog about an ‘average day’ (if there is such a thing!) working with mentees in the Virtual Professional Learning and Development (VPLD) programme.

A little bit about my set up first though. I am based in Waipukurau in Central Hawke’s Bay, where I live with my wife, Keiko, and our two girls Ayaka (who is 12 years old) and Maki (who is 6 years old). Being at home means that I can drop the kids off at and pick them up from school. It’s a real bonus to be here during the holidays, and I feel that I am part of their lives way more than if I had to work away from home.

I have a room in our villa set up as an office, where I have a computer set up with a webcam and a microphone. The bandwidth is OK here...usually. Everyone I work with as a virtual mentor has ‘met’ the family over the video. Mind you, I have to lay down so ground rules at home so that I can concentrate, and also make sure that my mentees have privacy to talk openly, especially if they are talking about something sensitive - or just having a bad day.

So, my day would be something as follows:

Mornings

After helping everyone get up and get ready for work and school, I drop Ayaka and Maki at school. A quick drive home, and then I grab a mug of coffee and get ready for work, which involves checking my to do list and firing up my computer. From 8am to 9am I pop into my online calendar to see who I am meeting during the day. This gives me the chance to read the notes I took during last month’s meeting, and also see if I need to do anymore ‘homework’ before the meeting.

Next are the dreaded emails, which I scan quickly and a quick dip into the VPLD online community. This gives me the opportunity to take a look and check if there is anything immediate that needs my attention - I try to get back to any mentees who have emailed me overnight, something I feel helps ‘model’ the speedy response I feel is essential in a virtual environment. I also swing through Twitter to check out the conversation, and to see if there are any resources or emerging trends I need to highlight in the VPLD community or share with my mentees. If I see anything interesting I’ll bookmark it, especially if I think it will spark one of mentee’s interest.

Next stop is a re-fill of the coffee cup. Sometimes, I will have a mentor meeting scheduled for 9am, which I will have prepped for the evening before. When this is the case I make sure I am half way presentable before jumping into Skype, Google Hangout, or whatever platform we have decided to meet in, in advance. After our meeting, I sometimes feel a bit washed out especially if I have had to work with a mentee on a difficult issue they are facing. So, I’ll sometimes take a quick walk around the garden, or just stand on the deck and look at the view.

From about 10am I start responding to any other urgent emails or messages that have come through since the day before, that I didn’t get to first thing. I answer questions, (re)schedule meetings, and comment on any new additions to the VPLD online community space. I try to make sure that no contribution goes unacknowledged, partly because I feel it’s an important part of building an online community, but also because many of the VPLD participants like to make use of the other members as ‘sounding boards’ for ideas they are mulling over. I will also often reflect in a blog post about any emerging trends or key resources that I spotted in my Twitter feed earlier. Depending on the day this could take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour.

Other morning tasks could include editing the monthly newsletter, responding to ‘calls for help’ from mentees in Skype (which I have open all the time), or sending out reminders for upcoming VPLD webinars. In addition, at the beginning of the year that is a fair bit of administration and some new mentees need extra guidance.

Lunch

I usually have something quick to warm up in the microwave or a sandwich made the night before, because I have so much to do throughout the day.  I try to take a proper break, and maybe take a walk or go for a short run after I’ve eaten - it’s tempting to sit 8 hours straight in front of the computer on a busy day! Lunch in front of the computer sometimes happens, especially if I have back-to-back meetings with mentees during what is, for some, the best time to meet.

Afternoons

Most days the early afternoon I don’t have meetings scheduled with mentees, although I will often meet with the team during this time. I’ll also work on project-based tasks such as curating specific content for a member based on a request or conversation, or monitoring conversations happening within the community. Often there are bigger team projects that I need to contribute to as well, such as preparing for the annual face-to-face hui.

Sometimes I will instant message mentees who are perhaps trialling something new, for example. This means I can offer see if they need any help, as well as celebrate successes, give a bit of advice if asked for, or ask those ‘hard questions’ while things are hot off the press!

From about 3.30 onwards I will usually have meetings scheduled with mentees. This is one of the best parts of the day. Sometimes, the VPLD team will have scheduled webinars, and these are great as this is the time I get to interact with other mentees as well - not just my own. I try to hop into the document where I record the notes I take during meetings, and quickly bring that up to date while it is still fresh in my memory.

Evenings

Sometimes mentees can only meet in the evenings, of will hop on to Skype - sometimes just to say hello, but usually with a quick question. I try not to work too much in the evenings or on the weekend, but sometimes prefer to if it means my mentee is rushed, stressed, or having hassles with the connection at school.

This scenario is adapted, in part, from A Day in the Life of an Online Teacher and A Day In the Life of This Community Manager.

Image: I am Emkay. cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Seun Ismail: http://flickr.com/photos/seun78/7649474666/

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