What is a Mentor Anyway?
"We all know what a teacher is and what a tutor is... but why do you call yourself a mentor?"
I never was good at fitting in a tidy little box and still find myself struggling against being trapped in someone else's idea of who I am supposed to be.
Yes - I am a teacher. I teach. I teach all sorts of things not in the curriculum! I start with the curriculum and the learning outcomes; those things matter, but they are only a small part of success. True success is not a grade.
Yes - I am a tutor. I tutor. I get to know students and work with them where they are to help them achieve academic goals.... but as long as they remain their parents' academic goals they are not really succeeding.
But I am so much more. I am a "mentor": an experienced and trusted adviser. My role is so much more than teaching skills. My role, as the University of Washington defines it is to:
- "value the mentee as a person;
- develop mutual trust and respect;
- maintain confidentiality;
- listen to both to what is being said and how it is being said;
- help the mentee solve his or her own problem, rather than give direction;
- focus on the mentee's development and resist the urge to produce a clone."
While true, this sounds so official and formulated when really it comes down to simple, everyday, understandable principles.
I model learning.
My students and I work together toward a common goal. The fastest, easiest way to learn is by working with someone who knows how. The first time (or two or three) we do the work together. I guide their thought process so that when it is their turn they know what questions to ask.
I am available.
Parents quickly learn that I answer emails - I provide extra support to them and to the student to help them with the day-to-day work.
Success is not about getting a perfect grade.
Students soon learn that once they learn a skill, we move on to the next (even in a class individual students have new expectations if they've mastered the classwork!). Learning never stops!
Life Skills are Class Skills.
I teach organization, planning, and responsibility. We question, debate, and disagree. We learn to listen, to respect, and to question.
Open-mindedness and respect are imperative.
Every good argument requires knowing the proofs for the opposing side and respecting that those who think differently have good reasons for their ideas. A good grade does not mean I agree; it means you have a good argument!
Learning is the Goal - Not Teaching.
Just because I taught it does not mean the student has learned. Until I find a way for my student to understand and internalize the material I haven't finished.
Is mentoring just for Language Arts?
What is a Learning / Education Mentor?
Absolutely not! Learning Mentors are a valuable part of every student's journey. We often don't think about them, but we all hope our children will have someone to talk to, to encourage them, to give them the push in the right direction they need!
Learning Mentors are a valuable part of your team and if you haven't found one for your student or they haven't discovered one on their own it would be advantageous to find one!
A Learning Mentor will take time to get to know your student and their dreams, ambitions, and goals and guide them on a path that will help them achieve those dreams.
A mentor may recommend:
-certain courses to enhance their education
-life-skill learning (like keeping a calendar)
-books to read to expand their learning and thinking
-volunteer positions to try out careers
-sports or physical activity to help keep them fit and in both mental and physical good health
- paths forward for how to deal with conflict in their personal life, school life, or in jobs
Where do I find a mentor??
Great question! Mentors seem hard to find these days!
Take a look around your family and friends. Are there people there you respect and whose opinion you trust? Would they be willing to take your student under their wing? This is especially helpful if they are in a field that your child aspires to.
Often in our disconnected world, we come up empty. Some other places to look will be friends or people you meet at homeschool conferences.
You can put an ad out that you are looking for a mentor even! Be sure you know what scope you have in mind.
If your student is on a path towards an education in the arts, or humanities or you are looking for a very well rounded highschool mentorship I would be happy to discuss with you your needs and explore if I would be a good fit for your student.