The Importance Of Mentors

The Importance Of Mentors

All the successful people I have ever known have had a mentor at
some point in their life, someone who taught them and encouraged
them to take risks with new experiences. I owe a great deal to
the mentors in my life – Richard Ford, Krissy Jackson, Julie Hunt
and more!
I’ve also worked closely with kids as a mentor. Here’s a bit of
history: I spent my highschool and university years working as a
mentor in an Emerging Technologies Program. When I work with
kids, I use just one basic principle: I never do anything for
them that they could do for themselves. I act as a resource and
work to wake kids up to their passions. I cannot give them
passion, and I do not give them any answers. They must find
passion and answers themselves.
When working with kids, we focus on answering these questions:
What do you want?
What do you have?
What do you need?
Where are you going to get it?
What will you do with it?
What do you want?
What someone wants is a good indicator of who they are as an
individual. We work to get what we want. Where we work, what we
study in order to do that work, who we work with, and what we
think about, all create and change our personality.
This is where creating passion comes in. It is the passion to get
what you want, and to learn and create that motivates people. By
finding out what kids want to do, and then supporting them in
every way possible, I facilitate their own learning process. I
ask questions to help them find out what they want to do. I
encourage them to explore for themselves ways to get what they
want. I help them figure out what they want to learn. As I see
it, a mentor should transfer responsibility for what has to be
learned to the student, because when the student take on the
responsibility, they will go beyond what anyone expects.
What do you have?
Determining your strengths, talents and skills, whether you’re
working alone or in a group, is the launch pad for all discovery.
Determine what you have within the group itself and work together
to share those skills. Knowing what you have is key to knowing
what you need.
What do you need?
An important step in any project is determining the gap between
the resources and information you already have and those that you
need to complete the project.
A good mentor can accommodate different learning styles and
abilities. The self-directed learners take off at their own pace,
once they’ve been given a start. The ones that need a little or a
lot of coaching get what they need because the mentor has time to
give it. When I work with large groups, I just move from group to
group as the students work, judging the emotional tone of the
unit and giving encouragement or guidance as required.
Where are you going to get it?
Once you know what you have and know what you need, the next task
is to figure out how to access the resources that you need. If
you’re mentoring a group, often, the information is there in the
group. By asking and learning from each other, kids develop trust
and confidence. With this confidence, they find it easier to
admit that they don’t know all the answers, and easier to
approach other sources outside the group for help. This gives
them great self-assurance and leads them to try an even bigger
project next time. Every time they take on a new challenge, they
learn something about the world and about themselves.
What will you do with it?
Now that you have all the skills and have worked to learn new
ones, what will you do with your new found talents? I mentored
around emerging technologies, helping kids become passionate
about the internet and giving them the resources to learn how to
design web pages. The kids I worked with, went on to do web
design for real clients. They continued their learning on the
job. They developed language and presentation skills, they
learned how to interact with clients and meet deadlines, but most
important they learned how to share expertise and how to find
what they needed. They learned to be mentors and find mentors.
Every time the students met a client or made a presentation of a
completed project, they were performing. Performance changes you.
It is one of the milestones of life that I think everyone should
experience. Practice is fine, but actually getting up and
demonstrating what you have learned, be it a piano concerto or
your own first Web site, is a life-changing experience. The more
performance opportunities we create for kids, the more we help
them find what they want, the more they will change, grow and
take responsibility for their own lives.