When people think of mentors, their minds go immediately to their college years, their first internship or job, or the mentors they’ve had during their professional careers. But mentoring doesn’t start in college, it starts in one’s childhood, from the very first day spent with a teacher or tutor at kindergarten or school.
Teachers can become true mentors and even role models for the children in their classroom, even at a very early age. You know what they say, a child’s mind is like a sponge, so the early school years are formative years that can have a significant impact on someone’s emotional and academic growth.
But what is the difference between teaching and mentoring? Is there really a difference? How can you be both a teacher and a mentor for the students in your classroom, and what does that even entail?
What is the difference between a teacher and a mentor?
First of all, let’s try to define and understand the key similarities and differences between a teacher and a mentor. A teacher has and shares knowledge on a certain topic with their students. That teacher is also impartial and treats everyone equally, using structured frameworks and established teaching and testing methods. They’re not focused on a single child, but rather their goal is to provide the best education to every student in the class.
A mentor is someone who goes deeper, who goes beyond teaching and guides the student towards their individual academic goals. The mentor has a greater vision of the student, their potential, and what they can achieve, and can provide information and insight that goes beyond what’s being taught in the classroom. Mentors and mentees tend to forge strong bonds that can impact the rest of their lives and change the course of their academic or personal journey. Think of Steve Jobs, who served as mentor for Mark Zuckerberg in the early days, Warren Buffet, who mentored Bill Gates, or Maya Angelou, who was Oprah Winfrey’s mentor.
The benefits of mentoring for students
As teaching methods have evolved beyond traditional frameworks over the years, the role of the teacher has also significantly expanded. A teacher is not just a figure of authority who gives instruction, they are now going beyond lessons and trying to have a bigger impact on a student’s journey. Teachers are now focused on more than following lessons in the curriculum; they’re invested in providing tailored education to serve each student’s individual needs. Moreover, teachers and tutors nowadays try to make an impact not only on a pupil’s academic journey, but on their development as a human being in society.
This means that teachers are also playing a crucial role in a student’s personal development, becoming role models in some cases, and even mentors for the students in their classroom. For these students, having a teacher who is also a mentor can make a big difference in their academic and emotional development. A mentor can guide them on a journey towards self-discovery, helping them learn what they’re interested in, what their personality truly is like, where their strengths lie, and what their future might hold. A mentor can guide a student towards finding out what they’re passionate about, which in turn can influence their choice of a school, a college, and a career.
Having a mentor can result in a student having a better attitude towards school and academic activities, and can lead to reduced dropout rates, increased graduation rates, and higher enrolment rates. A mentor can also help a young pupil or student improve their communication skills and build trusting, long-lasting relationships and friendships, both in school and outside of it. It can also increase a student’s self-esteem and self-confidence, and give them the courage to speak up in class, be more open towards other students, and have a more positive outlook on life in general. While effective teaching has quantifiable results, like grades on a test or exams, the benefits of mentoring are not obvious to the naked eye. They’re more personal, but they have a more lasting impact.
The benefits for the mentor
Beyond the benefits that mentoring offers students, there are also crucial benefits that it can have on the mentor, as well. That’s because the mentoring process goes both ways, and both the mentor and the mentee have something to learn from each other along the way.
For a teacher, mentoring one or more students can have a significant impact on their own personal and professional development. Through mentoring, they gain and improve on crucial soft skills, such as active listening, communication, questioning skills, advice-giving, and persuasion. They also learn how to provide feedback in an effective, constructive, non-judgmental manner, which will serve them in their careers, especially if they aspire to a leadership role.
Mentoring can enrich a teacher’s leadership skills, while also increasing their empathy towards others, and this in turn will make them better teachers to all the students in their classroom. Not to mention that having a deep impact on someone’s life can be an important motivation factor, one that can show a teacher that their work is important and can make a difference.
For any questions about teaching or mentoring strategies for students with learning difficulties, or questions about our services, feel free to reach out to us at Da Vinci Collaborative.