Dictionary.com defines a mentor as 1.) a wise and trusted counselor or teacher and 2.) an influential senior supporter and sponsor. In education, beginning teachers are assigned mentors to help them grow into the profession.
So what is mentoring?
In her TedX talk Modern Mentoring: the good, the bad and the better, Karen Russell starts off by defining the act of mentoring as “a relationship that helps people find their highest and best use.” She goes on to reflect about her legal colleagues who have benefitted from mentors even when they did not recognize it.
As a beginning teacher, I was assigned a mentor. But that relationship did not make the educator and learner I am today. I sought to build relationships and gain trust from colleagues and administrators from which I valued their opinion or could see their vision. The mentors I relied upon throughout my career have fulfilled a need to push me further in my career and challenged me as a learner.
My mentors encouraged me to pursue my National Board Certification. They dogged me until I earned my degree in Educational Leadership. Both of these accomplishments will forever drive my instructional practices, my career trajectory, and passion for education. I will forever be indebted to my mentors that would not let me say no, who periodically checked in on me, and made me set career goals.
Mentors can be administrators and leaders. Mentors can be your teaching partners. They can be colleagues from other schools, districts, and states. The key to good mentors is they not only understand your vision but they must have a vision for themselves and for you. A mentor is the water, sun, and soil that help a flower grow. The mentee is the flower. The mentor/mentee relationship is the root. But in kind, mentors receive nourishment that helps them grow. Teachers should constantly seek out mentors not merely relying on the beginning teacher program.
Entrepreneur magazine posted a web article about the power of mentorship. Five successful business leaders tell about a mentor in their career. They range from family members to bosses. Mentors are available. Teachers need only find a potential mentor, build a relationship with, gain trust of, learn from, and grow with her or him.