I’ve had the role of mentoring on my mind lately, as I’m in the process of building a relationship with our new teacher. So – as occasionally happens – my thoughts dovetailed nicely with the topic of our pastor’s sermon on Sunday. He asked, “Who have been your mentors?” Unlike many people, I didn’t participate in a team sport or have private lessons in anything so I don’t have coaches or special teachers to name as powerful mentors. However, there are many people in my life and many life experiences that I can point to that have had tremendous influence on who I am and my life’s path.
First of all, I feel it is because I was open to mentorship that the benefits of a relationship or experience were fruitful. So a better question for me is “How is it that you were open to mentorship?” In reflecting on that “how-ness,” it is most evident to me that relationships throughout my life have nurtured a self worthiness capable of questing without losing footing. My parents, Girl Scout leaders, teachers and friends have all been resources for me and I can name specifics about the learning I’ve had in their care.
But there is always the question of nature vs. nurture. Both my parents had jobs and/or hobbies that involved special tools, a need for referencing resources and applying attention to detail and quality. They were definite role models as I developed my own interests and career goals. We also lived in a household where dinner table conversations often demanded a fetching of the dictionary or encyclopedia and my parents were quick to acknowledge our quests for more information.
What I would like to know more about is how I developed a desire to acquire expertise and a strong work ethic. I’m not sure how much of these personal values come from nature or nurture. Maybe I’ll learn more as I continue reading my book about approaches to learning.
When it comes to mentoring, I feel like I’ve gone through life like a crow, picking dazzling bits from everything, lining my life’s nest with shiny trinkets. I occasionally pitch the ones that don’t suit me anymore, and go hunting for replacements. Our pastor’s sermon also described the way all of our individual mentoring becomes a resource to each other in community. I like the image of dazzling nests sitting side by side in an enormous tree.
It is that kind of nest-building, side by side work that I seek to create for my children, my students, my colleagues. I try to be open and patient, questioning more than giving advice – although that is an edge I dance on precariously!