A mentor teaches you not only what they know but where they screwed up along the way. They’ll teach you all about the Force, but a couple of drinks in and they’ll segway in the way the Sith penetrated their order and banged them over the head. They’ll try to frame their defeats and stumbles as moments of humility, but once you gain their trust most members will tell you:
“The real value of mentors isn’t so much what they teach us but the fact that they are there. Mentors are lighting rods that keep us grounded in our dreams. Or, like a coach of mine once said: ‘even dreams need an AA meeting every week.’ What he meant by this was that even our fantasies need to strengthen and held together when they are feeling flaky. We need mentors to cheer us on, to slap us back into our goal, to hold our hands when we feel frustrated and desperate. They approve out efforts just by standing next to us. Imagine if we have a dream, and are partly sponsored by the person that inspired that dream, that person saw something in us, isn’t that reason enough to keep fighting for that unicorn?”
Accessibility: They have to be available. No half-hearted efforts. They’ll meet up regularly (or virtually) and help you develop you objectives. Authentic: They most be genuinely interested in helping you. They are carbon copies of other mentors. They must have something unique that differentiates them from the pack. Objectivity: If you’re out of touch and your idea sucks, they’ll call you out on it. You want a mentor that shouldn’t be your friend. You want someone who will be proactive, praise you when you deserve it and bang you over the head with the truth when that’s what you need.
Mentoring is a very important part of what we “engage” in as educators. Whether we serve as a mentor to a colleague or a student, or perhaps we seek out a mentor to help us with challenges or simply to have a system of support in our personal and professional lives, it has a tremendous impact. Whether or not we even realize it at times, we are all serving as a mentor to someone.
Mentorships typically involve a mentor and mentee, with clearly defined roles. A mentor defined as a “wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” However, I think the definition has evolved and within mentorships today, an individual can be both a mentor and a mentee. New teachers paired with more veteran teachers both bring unique skills, experiences and knowledge to their mentorship. They each have something to teach and a lot to learn, which is why finding time to be part of a mentorship is critical for professional growth.