Sometimes we don’t realise how much a mentor figure has affected our choice of path in life until years later. October 27th marks National Mentoring Day, a time to celebrate all that mentors do to further the personal and professional development of the individuals they mentor. While you might not perhaps immediately associate teachers or educators as being mentors in the same way that businesses use them, they can still impact students in such a way that they still recall their experiences years later. Let’s step away entirely from the business model of mentoring, and consider for a while what a mentor actually does, and how we see these qualities in teachers.
Being positive role models
Adolescent students would probably have you believe they outgrew the idea of role models years ago, but in truth they continue to be influenced by people around them. Other than their parents, the adults they are most in contact with are teachers. Think about it this way: when someone inspires you, don’t you feel compelled to share that with others to potentially inspire someone else?
Teachers aren’t marking work for the fun of it, so I’m told. Every essay that is handed back to a student has already served an important purpose; indicating to a teacher what skills are present. This is especially important for children that face challenges when it comes to understanding what is going on in the classroom, whatever the nature of their additional learning support.
Promoting academic achievement
Seeing the results of hard work is gratifying for people of all ages, and teachers often open the gate to this life-long feeling. Even in business mentoring services, there will be an emphasis on developing skills that will contribute to achievement-driven results, which pretty much describes exams to a tee.
Providing fresh perspectives
Mentors encourage the people they work with to use the tools that they already have, but offer that all-important fresh perspective that can mean the difference between something being insignificant and it being important. As a simple example of this in action, imagine a child who has seen pictures of the planets in a storybook. Perhaps they are fascinated by the idea of outer space, but are struggling to engage with it – there are a few planet names to remember, after all! What’s one of the first mnemonics you can remember from school? I would hazard a guess that ‘My Very Easy Method Just Saves Us Naming Planets’ was among them! Note – I suppose this particular mnemonic would have changed now in light of Pluto’s downgrade from a planet. Poor Pluto.
Whenever I hear the word mentor, I automatically think about educators, and I think that’s probably the same for many people. For me, the most memorable mentor I’ve had was my A-Level English teacher, Miss Walsh. Ironically, it wasn’t anything to do with English directly; instead, she helped me weather a particularly nasty storm in my life at that time, and I wanted nothing more than to drop out of college and forge a different path. It was from her I first heard the expression about teabags showing their true strength in hot water and the message has stuck. I completed college, and even now I see times of difficulty as a chance to build strength; I’m certain her mentoring is at the root of it. Despite what I now understand to be an incredibly stressful schedule to manage, she still found the time to regularly sit and talk with me outside of lessons.
With a mentor that has impacted my life so much I remember it 15 years later, I got to asking the SPC team if they had a memorable mentor, and wouldn’t you know it, they had.
I was shy and self-conscious at school. I got myself a Saturday job at Halfords and worked with one of the coolest, most popular kids at school (and self-professed party animal). He gave me the confidence not to be silent when silence can be taken as acceptance – it certainly helped to stamp out passive bullying of and within my friendship group. He also told me, usually with a cigarette in hand, never to try a cigarette or drugs. He said, “When they tell you that you don’t know what you’re missing, just point out that you can’t miss it then, can you?” – Nick
My sixth form Art Teacher, Val gave me really valuable guidance that I still carry with me. She was very unique in her style and mannerisms and taught us all that it’s ok to be different! – Dayna
Jonny Uttley, my form tutor. I learned to respect and appreciate why he would pull me out of class and lecture me for the silly things I would do. I wouldn’t say he made me fearful of him, but actually respect him and realise that when he would get angry and shout at me for my bad behaviour, it was actually in my best interest and not because he didn’t like me or what I was doing. – Michael
A lot of mentors probably don’t even realise the impact they have on the lives of their students during their careers as teachers. Today, on National Mentoring Day, we at SPC want to thank all of the inspiring teachers that have mentored us along the way, and celebrate those out there doing the exact same thing right now.
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