The whole idea of mentorship includes the notion that one is learning from a more knowledgeable other, so there is definitely teaching involved in being a mentor. But I think mentorship goes much deeper than just imparting knowledge. A mentor forges a relationship with the one they are teaching – a relationship that includes learning, a sharing of ideas, and the subtle challenges that will help the student continue to grow. I’ve had many mentors in my life, beginning with my parents from whom I learned, mostly by example, how to live my life. But perhaps the most diverse group of mentors have been those from my professional life. These have included teachers, friends, authors, and other professionals whose work I have read and admired and whose understandings have helped me form my own beliefs about reading, writing, and learning. Some of these mentors I have never met, yet I feel a connection with them. I have felt them working with me as I continue to grow professionally.
In order for teachers to also be mentors, they must know their students well and be able to model skills or impart knowledge at just the right time. What this means is that as teachers, we need to work right alongside our students, engaging in many of the same struggles as they do, sharing our thinking, our frustrations, our successes. We need to connect with them in very tangible ways so that the relationship will grow.
Being a mentor carries a huge responsibility. Being a teacher does, too. By bringing the two together we can maximize the learning that takes place in the classroom and take all of our students to a new level of success.