One Sunflower

pondering the mantle of the mentor

on June 28, 2010

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! 


2 responses to “pondering the mantle of the mentor

  1. Juliann says:

    I wonder if the openess has to do with not needing to know it all or be right? When I allow myself to really wonder, I am more open to ideas, to just listening and pondering without have to know the outcome. Unfortunately, too often I rush right to thinking about how what I am wondering about will have impact or create change and then I move too quickly to fix-it mode. Once I am there, the opportunity to be mentored or to mentor another, closes up pretty quickly. Good questions.

    • onesunflower says:

      Yes, I do think that is a part of it. When I reflect on times that I have felt successfully mentored or been a mentor, they were situations where there was a feeling of exploration in a partnership. I was fully aware of the experience levels being brought to the table, whether mine was high or low, but it was like going through a wardrobe together, discussing each garment and trying on those that might suit the person or the situation.
      I know what you mean about the “fix-it mode,” opportunities evaporate!

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