I have been blessed with some great mentors. They were smart, experienced, and always had my best interests at heart–but they weren’t gentle. Probably each person gets the style they need from their best mentors, and mine were tough because I needed it.
Here are a few things that my mentors have taught me about mentoring:
1. Listen Well
The best mentors ask lots of questions. They get information before making recommendations. I remember conversations with one of my great mentors during which he peppered me with questions for a long time. At the end of the interrogation, I asked him, “Well, what do you think I should do?” His answer was very telling: “You just figured out what you should do; you just haven’t committed to doing it.”
He was right: The questioning had clarified my thoughts, and he had led me through the choices to a course of action that was completely my own. Instead of an answer, he had given me a path.
2. Guide, Don’t Do
My mentors might have recommended I contact someone, read a book, visit an exhibit or change a course of action–but they did not make the call for me, buy the book for me, take me to an exhibit or dictate a change of course. All of that was on me.
From time to time I am asked by people to “be my mentor.” The first thing that I do is to give them an assignment. It is something simple: Write a page about what you want, how success will be measured and why you chose me rather than someone else. If they start to answer, I cut them off and simply say, “Write it down and email it to me a week from today before 5 p.m.”
The interesting thing: Very, very few ever complete the assignment. Why? They thought that “getting a mentor” was an easy way to have a senior person start working for them.
3. Focus on Action
That leads me to the most important thing my mentors taught me: Take action. Every time we talked about an issue or considered a plan, my mentors wanted to know the action that I was going to take–and how soon. Who has time to coach and develop people who will not do something that is in their own best interest?
I know that what success I have had has occurred, in large part, because of the support of my mentors; I am also privileged to be mentoring a number of other people now. It can be very rewarding, but it helps to have a clear understanding of the roles of both people in the mentor relationship.
A Teacher and a Mentor - Varsity Tutors Scholarship Essay
There have been many teachers that have assisted me throughout my time in school, but the one that impacted me the most was my ninth grade Spanish teacher, Mrs. Tamez. It was my first year of high school, I was in a new school, and had just recently moved to a new state. I was young, scared, and immature. I have always been a decent student, and most classes were very easy for me, which made it easy to put in very little effort. Her class was the exception, and I had to work hard to keep up my grade. It was especially challenging because she taught the entire class in Spanish. She did this not because she did not know English, or because she wanted to make her class harder, but because she loved her job and her students, and she knew that it would help them learn. She was a brilliant woman, and an excellent teacher, but as an immature student I did not appreciate her challenging my abilities. I worked hard in her class, but never appreciated her love for her students until well after half way through the year.
It was just before the beginning of the third quarter, and it was the first time that I had not been able to keep an A average in her class. She pulled me aside one day and offered to help me in the few weeks that were left in the quarter. I begrudgingly agreed simply because I wanted the grade. I went to the first extra session with a bad attitude, and an unwilling heart, but she sat me down and spoke to me in English. She said, “You have great dreams, and a good heart, but without hard work and a good attitude you will get nowhere.” At first I was angry, and then a little hurt, but by the time I had to go I had decided to take it as a compliment. She was an amazing woman, who cared enough about me as a student to help get the extra edge I needed in her class. She was a great example of a leader and a teacher.
She worked with me for a few weeks, and by the end of the quarter I not only had an A in her class, but I also had a good relationship with her as a person. We continued to meet, even after I no longer needed her help simply because she was a good mentor, and we both enjoyed talking. She helped me grow up that year, and become more mature. She helped me through all of the high school drama, as well as the academic problems. Little did I know that our conversations were responsible for a lot of the Spanish I learned that year.
That summer I went on a mission trip to Mexico, and thanks to her and her willingness to work with an unwilling student, I was able to speak fluently with the people. She impacted my life more than any other teacher has, and I am thankful for it. The next year she quit teaching so she could spend time with her family, but I still see her from time to time, and we have one of our short but inspirational talks. She was not only a teacher, but for that year she was a mentor to a young and lonely student.