Innovations Roadmap #4

Mentor [men-tawr, -ter] 
1. A wise and trusted counselor or teacher
2. An influential senior sponsor or supporter
Verb (without object)
 3. to act as a mentor 
Verb (with object) 
4. to act as a mentor to

TOPIC: What makes a mentor helpful? How have you served as a mentor?

I can lie and say I have had no mentors. That’s not true, obviously. Everyone has a mentor, whether they know it or not. The main mentor is my dad. As aggravating and pushy as he can get, he means well. He’s helped me through preparing for college (while being pushy), with applying to scholarships (still pushy), and moving to college (not pushy). It’s the parts where he isn’t being pushy that usually makes me realize that he means well and wants to help me in any way he can. That is one of the key qualities of a mentor. They must mean well and want to help. It doesn’t have to be in any way, because I know there are limitations. The desire to help, however, is important as a mentor.

Several other key qualities I can think of are being supportive when they are unable to help, be the person you bounce ideas off of, and remaining a correspondent throughout your life. The bond forged between a mentor and the mentee is an important one, and I don’t see it being easily broken. In this way, parents can frequently be mentors. I consider both of my parents to be mentors. They support and teach me in two completely different ways, and I couldn’t be more grateful to them.

Mentors are helpful because they encourage growth. They make sure that the mentee grows mentally and emotionally. They’re there if an idea doesn’t work to make sure that the mentee can get right back on their feet and come up with a different approach. However, they should be able to leave the mentee to their own devices and not coddle them. They can perform a check-in every once in a while, but should not be hovering over a shoulder, making comments all the time. My mentor in my volunteer work does what I just described. He has been amazingly helpful when I need help teaching.
I have been a mentor plenty of times, but I usually don’t view myself as one. Nor does anyone ever call me a ‘mentor.’ I’ve helped students learning Japanese in two ways. One was more involved than the other because I was a volunteer that often graded papers. I would explain corrections when asked and help with any questions on homework. The long-term goal for these students was usually to pass a kanji test at the end of the year. The other time I helped students learn Japanese was when I was a Japanese student in high school. Being a ‘native’ speaker, I knew significantly more words, sentence patterns, and kanji than everyone else. People often turned to me for help, and I often checked in on people in my class (and those in lower classes, if I knew them well enough). In this case, the goal was to help them learn Japanese. I’d like to think I did a pretty good job with it.
I’m also a teacher for the English Skills Learning Center. A teacher can be a mentor. I’m not incredibly wise, like the above definition defines a mentor to be, but I am proficient enough in English and I am helping someone towards a goal and helping an organization solve a problem. The problem of the organization? Refuges in Salt Lake City need to learn English in order to be able to interact. The problem of my student? She needs to study for the citizenship test to become a U.S. citizen. The problem the organization tackles is the reason why I joined. Besides the fact that this volunteer work is helping me gain experience in a field I wish to join, helping refuges who are likely experiencing culture shock adapt to their surroundings is extremely important to me. With my student, I feel like I’m helping someone do something more. I check in on her twice a week, teach her, encourage her. I want to make sure she’s prepared for the test. Seeing her as an American citizen will be a huge reward. That’s a benefit to being a mentor. Knowing that when your mentee succeeds, they will be so proud of themselves, and that you’ll be proud of them to.


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