What Is Mentoring

What is Mentoring?

When I think of mentoring, I think of Walter.
Walter was a team leader in the first school I taught in.   He was not my team leader and had no obligation to engage with me beyond small talk in the staffroom.  
And yet he did engage with me.   There was nothing formal about our mentor/protégé relationship and it was never explicitly defined in those teams.   We didn’t have regular meetings, he was just always there when I needed him.  
While I have no doubt that every teachers’ first year is a steep learning curve, this school was a particularly tough assignment.   Our students came from low socio-economic backgrounds and many had less than pleasant home lives.   School for them was often the only safe place they knew.   I had assumed my biggest challenge would be planning and teaching the curriculum and while I had studied the theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy at teachers’ college, it had never occurred to me that I would be required to meet students’ needs at the most basic of levels.  
It was overwhelming.  
Walter was perpetually positive.   He was full of energy, always smiling and calm and collected whatever the situation.   It was hard not to be affected by that.   He believed I could do it when I was sure I couldn’t.   It was puzzling as to why he would have so much faith in me, but I knew it was genuine, so I had to try.   I definitely didn’t want to prove him wrong – at least not without a fight.   Even when I stumbled, he never judged and would cheerily point out the silver lining (usually a ‘wonderful learning experience’ for myself).
He taught me all the things you need to know that you don’t learn in college.   He was able to draw out of the students the roots of their problems.   Others had written off these students but he knew they were not bad kids, just kids dealing with bad situations.   I would never have thought to ask the questions he asked or even to talk with them they way he did.   He helped me to create a relationship with...