"Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind."~~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
What do good mentors do? @teachthought has given 30 reflective prompts for teachers to blog about during the month of September. This is number five, so obviously I'm not going to make the deadline. However, I’m going to muster forth to finish the journey I started.
The question raised in the title, a timely one, was recently a topic of discussion among my colleagues. "What do good mentors do?" Listening to the conversation and intense discourse by my co-workers, I came to this conclusion. I don’t think they “do” anything. I think they “are.” They mentor through listening, through example and through modeling good teaching and relationship building. Maybe they “do” guide teachers by asking questions that make new teachers evaluate their actions. People I look at who have mentored me, one in particular, Max, never had all the answers to my questions but he certainly had more questions that made me reconsider what I was doing and the direction I was headed. He'd listen to my thoughts on education, ask a few simple questions, and those questions would haunt me until I dug internally to find the answers. Or Max would ask questions that forced me to research and wrestle with the information until I came to my own conclusions. He never told me what to think, he just encouraged thinking.Good mentors don’t always agree with teachers under their tutelage, but they aren’t disagreeable. Max and I didn’t see eye to eye on everything, and that was okay. It was freeing because he didn’t impose his beliefs on me, merely questioned my stance enough to make me own it or disregard it. How much did I believe in what I was doing? Was I certain this was the direction to go or the way to handle a situation? His questions made me a better teacher because it taught me to be more reflective.
I hope every person has a Max in their lives, whether a teacher or not. People like him are good for the mind and soul. They cause us to pause, just for an instant, and consider the ramifications of our actions. And that is always a good thing. Be thankful for that person in your life and let them know. Thank you, Max, more than I can say. Thank you.