What if everyone had a mentor?
- Every student?
- Every teacher?
- Every administrator?
- Every parent?
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have had number of amazing mentors (and have also had the opportunity to mentor others). Some of these mentorships have lasted over the years, while others were for shorter periods of time. Some of these mentorships have been arranged formally, while others have occurred naturally and evolved either because of or into friendships.
In contrast, there have also been times throughout my career when I have found myself without a mentor or working on/toward something my mentors couldn’t help me with. During these times, I recognized that I needed to find someone else who understood what I was going through and wanted to accomplish well enough to offer advice or make suggestions. I’ve found it difficult, at times, to find an appropriate mentor on my own. I equate the experience to the notion of “not knowing what we don’t know,” because we also “don’t know who we don’t know.”
Many of the most successful people say that one of the keys to success is having a mentor. This is great advice, but sometimes difficult to accomplish in real life.
Understanding how important mentorship is to success and reflecting on my own experiences, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can make it less difficult, especially for our students, ways that we, in each and every school community, can work to make sure that no one is ever without a mentor.
What if the mentorship programs for educators went beyond programs for provisional teachers or state requirements?
It might all begin with as simple a shift as just having school leaders and teacher coaches ask educators (teachers and administrators alike) who their current mentor (or mentors) is. If the educator doesn’t have one, then leaders, coaches, and other members of the school community could work together to help match the educator up with a mentor, or even offer to mentor the teacher themselves (if they believed they would be a good fit).
Having open discussions about learning goals and the role of mentors would help schools to become true communities of learners. Everyone would be learning from someone. When educators are transparent about our own personal learning goals and the need to have a mentor, we are modeling the process of life-long learning for our students.
What if all students had mentors?
We know from our own experiences that not every student connects with every teacher they have. I wish I could say that every teacher who ever taught me was my mentor, but it simply isn’t true. Some were, some weren’t. Neither is it true that every student in my classes viewed me as their mentor. Some did, some didn’t.
So why couldn’t we, in addition to assigning students to rosters belonging to classroom teachers and counselors, we also allowed students to choose a mentor (or mentors) within the school community based upon their own unique learning needs or current aspirations?
Of course, if students don’t know who to choose on their own (perhaps because they “don’t know who they don’t know”), then school leaders would support students in finding an appropriate mentor. The mentor could be anyone from within the school system who is willing to listen to the student, advise them, get to know them throughout the years. The mentor could be a member of the faculty, administration, school secretaries, security, custodians, instructional assistants, supervisors, counselors, coaches, and so on.
The mentor could even be a graduate of the school system, a parent, or another member of the community — from area businesses or colleges — who wants to volunteer, and (with some training), will commit to mentoring a student, investing in his or her future.
What if students were the mentors?
What if we helped students grow their own PLNs and helped them seek out mentorships throughout their school career? Then, when a student was willing, or another member of the community recognized that they were ready, helped them become a mentor to someone else?
Perhaps the best mentor for a student at a given time might be another student. What if we helped facilitate these types of mentorships in schools, empowering our students to view themselves as someone who is in the position to help others? What if students even mentored teachers?
What if parents also had mentors?
We talk so much about the importance of the home-school connection, yet many of us are frustrated with effectively making those connections or finding ways to sustain them. What if school organizations set up the opportunity, in addition to parents becoming mentors, for parents to request their own mentor as well?
Rather than focusing all of our home-school communication on the hope that parents will come to large school events (like back to school nights) or sending one-way communication (like emails), we actually differentiated and personalized our home-school communication? We could blend those important school events, and necessary emails sent home with opportunities for parents to work closely with a personal mentor, on their own time, and focus on what is most important to them and for their families.
What if we all spent more time building these relationships, establishing mentorships, talking about and reflecting on our mentorships, and carved out time in the school calendar for all of us to work with our mentors/mentees? Imagine how much more personalized learning would really become.
~What did YOU do in school today?