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Origin Story of Managed Mentoring

MM Origin

Taking a Decision
The spark of starting the Managed Mentoring program emerged from a decision to tackle a problem. Below is an elaboration of the backstory behind the program.

This is optional reading, but if you want to learn of the rationale and origins of this program read on.

The A-ha Moments

It Started With Body Language
When teaching others, you look for signals of connection to the training. When it is not right, you know.

Conflict and Struggle
Sit in on a new beekeeper course and watch it from the point of view of an experienced beekeeper. You can see it. Students get some of what is being taught and flounder to connect with the rest. It is quite evident throughout instruction.

The apprehension of new beekeepers standing over a beehive, attempting to parlay classroom learning is another point of struggle. New beekeepers, fresh out of a training course, often struggle beyond the basics of working a hive; we see it all the time when they come to our field meetings to work live bees.

It was very telling that we were letting these beekeepers down. While they were content with the availability of the courses and the things learned, they were also left with parts of confusion, frustration, and lack of satisfaction. These sentiments and observations led to some a-ha moments, and a decision to create a program to solve the gaps.

Evaluating the Problem

So beginner courses have some challenges and quite frankly many of them should ruthlessly evaluate the syllabus and become more precise on the content they deliver. But as a general rule, beginner course, especially well delivered ones, serve as a good primer.

The problem however is bigger than this. The real challenges mount as soon as you begin to execute the plan. It can start with building equipment and laying out your apiary. There are details beyond what you hear in a beginner course that you should know. Then the fine points never disclosed about transporting bees home, and handling them for installation. The finer points of how to do an inspection – the list goes on from there.

Most beginner courses do not have time or convey the depth of detail required to do these tasks competently. The further the beekeeper progresses, the more they learn that there are skills and insights they need to gather to get through it. This dynamic is referred to as PROGRESSIVE ELABORATION.

Progressive Elaboration

One of the things we learn in life – throughout our development, is to seek the wisdom of others who have experience. Hence the reason for seeking mentorship.

As Mentors, we have walked the path of the new beekeepers. We can place ourselves in that point of view and see the challenges ahead when learning the craft.

The program deconstructed the path, evaluated the tasks of bringing a colony to an operational state, and honed in on the guidance required to do it expertly. Along the way, we focused on avoiding the known pitfalls we are aware of as experienced beekeepers.

The path now starts from zero, and elaborates the journey from no base of knowledge to competence, elaborating what you need to learn as you go.

COVID Interference and Blessing

This program originated out of a local beekeeping club instruction lessons circa 2014. In 2018 it had evolved into quarterly workshops/seminars. When the COVID pandemic occurred, the lessons were moved to an online format but the classroom style teaching did not translate in the same way. The intake was not as effective.

The online dynamic altered the engagement.

Upon evaluation a decision was taken to completely retool the program to be ‘snackable’: Small compact lessons. This change drove better retention, and participants benefited from having a library of accessible reference videos to revisit as needed.

2023 – From Pilot to Prototype
From 2019 to 2022 the NWNJBA organization partnered with MM to run candidates through the program to test the new delivery format.

Overall the program was well received and more importantly, the beekeepers did well and were satisfied with the instruction. It wasn’t easy to operate during the COVID years, but the challenges netted the opportunity to learn and influence the program design.

2023 Launch
Continuing the journey, 2023 marks a launch to a wider audience. The truth is we probably could have waited one more year to have more fit and finish, and there will be some warts as we do things just in time with the revised format, but we see it as a way to learn and grow – while truly being agile in the delivery.

We are excited to roll this out to a larger audience; and to learn. Our hope is to one day be considered the typical way to learn the craft of beekeeping, and to do it in a fun manner – engaging – and more aligned with the natural way to how one wants to do things.

The PAYOFF: A new group of competent beekeepers that can carry on the craft of beekeeping to future generations.