The Power of a Teaching Mentor

At some point in our lives and careers we find that person we look up to, connect with and see as a role model. That person we not only invest a little bit of trust in, but who also shows interest in us, taking the time to teach and guide us.

You probably know, or call, these people in your personal or professional life a mentor.

We are always looking for role models and leaders around us. If we are lucky enough, we have the opportunities to learn from and be supportively challenged and be led by people who are great at what they do… AND they know how to guide others in doing it too.

Surprised Kid - Ben White Photo

You mean you know WHAT to do and HOW to do it?!

The positive ones have the ability to help us see the potential within us, push us to develop the skills we need and the strength we already have.

Negative mentors lead us away from our that amazingly positive impact we could have on ourselves and others. They steal time, energy and passion away from us – often replacing it with an anger that really has no connection to us.


Me, I was incredibly lucky. My early years of teaching were filled with positive mentors. My grad year I had two people within my team from the get go seek to invest in me. They were both different personalities, but both always took the time to share what they did, what they believed and, most importantly, spent time explaining why they did things the way they did.

They allowed me to come into their classrooms and see them in action. At the end of a day they would wander through to touch base, ask how my day went and listen. They somehow knew if I was just sound boarding an idea, asking for advice or needing to just debrief after a shocking lesson, day, meeting or experience.

Throwing Papers

Over the first few years I had another positive mentor who was our visual arts teacher. She loved building wonder and curiousity in kids (well, actually in anyone) and would always speak to me to share her passion and stories. She was so approachable and always made your feel as if she was actually listening. She taught me the importance of being present so you can hear what people are saying, as well as what isn’t being said…which is often the thing we are seeking help or guidance with!

It was after this trust was built with her that my questions and wonderings started. Well, actually, let’s be honest, they were already happening, I just felt like I could actually say them aloud to her! Initially it was about her start as a teacher – did you know what you were doing, or did you feel like you were making it up as you went at first?! (For all you grads out there, any time you do something new and slightly unexpected, you can’t help but make it up a bit as you go!).

As she showed she was open to sharing her failures and her successes, we built up more and more of a rapport as she became a true mentor and confidant. Another person you knew was there behind you on that long, eye-opening journey that is those initial years of teaching.

From the beginning of my time as a teacher I had someone in my corner who wanted to be there to help me keep working to become a better teacher, learner, builder of fun and all round big kid (because, if we aren’t able to show some sort of enjoyment in what we are doing, why would anyone else?).

But, I can’t help but wonder, is my experience unique or the norm? Was having supportive, ongoing mentors what happened to you?

Mentors help shape our future. They not only affect us, but also all of those other people we will meet, work with and support now and throughout our lives.

Why can’t we all have at least one positive one when we need it most – as we start our careers as educators? What is it that made your positive mentor so great?

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