Mentoring: Is it for Me?
Students of every level of education will need or seek out mentoring at one time or another. To become such a leader or when looking for one, there should be a complete understanding of what a mentor is. It is thought that a mentor is someone that takes the lead in someone else’s life to show them the ropes in a job, academic discipline, or sport, but that can also be called a coach.
Many mentors eventually become trusted friends of the person that they are mentoring, so take into consideration if you want to be the type of mentor that does one-on-one mentoring, or group mentoring, which is not as personal. It can be a challenge if the person you are mentoring becomes needy and too dependent on your input.
This is not to say that all of those looking to be mentored will take on that type of need, but it is something to be considered when you are reaching out to help someone excel. That is the main idea of mentoring, to be able to help the person along so that they eventually are contributing to their own disciplines independent of you.
Before you begin your search for a mentor, or become one, let’s look at the types of hats that a mentor can wear.
The Advisor- This mentor hat comes from the person that has skills that the protégé may need. The advisor can show the protégé how they accomplished something in their discipline that the protégé is having trouble with, or show them something that they didn’t know they had access too. For instance, a theater student may be taken to a play by her mentor, who has used her skills as a theater critic to write reviews and gets press tickets to see plays and review them. The student may not have known the benefit of using their English writing skills, that are required along with their Theatre discipline, to write for profit and to get free tickets at that. This is something that will stay with the student for a lifetime.
The Supporter- This mentor hat is needed when a student needs encouragement and emotional support. There will be times when school is just too much to bear for some students. The mentor that wears this hat is a person that is compassionate and can understanding of the needs of the student that finds themselves emotionally lacking. This mentor fills this need much as the student’s priest or parent would. This mentor must be careful to keep the relationship trusting, and sometimes may need to bring in others to help support the student, like additional faculty.
The Tutor- It is no wonder that many students that go to the learning-lab to get a tutor, will stick to that particular one that helps them to understand subjects like math, or any of the social sciences that may be causing their grades to miss the mark. Tutors are revered by their protégés. They will make sure that everyone knows how good you are at getting them to learn a subject that the professor could not get them to understand. Many tutors become lifelong friends of the protégé, and many of them are usually peers that have mastered the skill that the protégé needs help with.
It Takes a Village
Although advising is listed as a hat that mentors wear, it can be as different from mentoring as night and day. An advisor will pinpoint the qualifications that are needed along the path of academia, leading to graduate school and beyond, keeping the student on the right track with classes obtained and those that are still needed.
A mentor will focus mainly on personal ambitions and what part they play in the student’s career path. This is the relationship that may have to be changed as the student changes and that is okay.
Mentors must remember that they are only there for a time in the student’s life to move them along to the next phase. This way they make room for other students that may need their help. Do not put yourself up on a pedestal as a mentor, and remind your students not to do that either. Watch your ego, you are not there to be their God.
Be a Proactive Protégé
To be mentored effectively, you must remember that you are no longer in a small setting like a Community College or High School, and the probability of having a professor seek you out first due to what they potential they see in you may not happen in a larger University. Seek out your professors after class or make an appointment with them during their office hours, speak to them as the well-defined individual you have become and let them know you are seeking their help with the discipline they are teaching.
If they do not have time, don’t give up. There are many mentors on the faculty that would be more than glad to help you, but it is time for you to go to them for their help. Be visible on campus and volunteer to mentor now that you are being mentored. Being a part of the loop keeps you known throughout the departments. This is networking that is priceless.
After leaving college and the safety of your mentors eyes, and even if you yourself are a mentor, we still need encouragement every day. There are apps for that purpose, here are a couple that we found most useful.
This website has a page called the Mentoring Minute, and each week answers a question that may be helpful to its readers. Its founder believes in building leadership qualities and the innate ability for anyone to be the best that they can be.
We found this one on Facebook. Like the page, and share the many mentoring stories that are listed, you won’t be disappointed.
Website for mentors who work with children from k-12. It helps with lesson planning during mentorship etc. We found more on this site than we had planned. Sometimes you have to just keep clicking buttons. The thinking strategies were really on point and worth downloading. The ideas on this site say they are up to 12th grade but can be used with anyone.
When you decide to mentor, or become mentored, you are doing yourself and your community a big help. The mentor is helping develop young minds to become upstanding, productive individuals, and the protégé is reaching out for help instead of going it alone, and in turn mentors someday himself. Each one, teach one!