Tuesday, January 18, 2011

National Mentoring Month :: Teachers are Mentors

While it is believed by some that a teacher’s sole purpose is to instill content knowledge in the minds of the students that he/she teaches, the job involves much more than that. While instilling knowledge is, indeed, critical, perhaps the most rewarding part of the job description of a teacher is that of mentor.

The algebra teacher is expected to teach equations. The history teacher is expected to recount the events of various parts of humanity’s past. The English teacher must help students understand the written word. But few students leave their classes with only an understanding of the subjects being taught, because most teachers teach much more than their content. They teach their students how to be successful in society, how to contribute to this world, and how to interact with others.

Most anyone you ask can tell you the name of a teacher who has served as a mentor to them. Some teachers consciously choose the title “mentor.” Upon walking into their first classroom, they dream of the lives they will mold and change. Others stumble upon the role. Their initial goal is to instill an understanding of their content. Until, one day, they become aware of the title that has chosen them: mentor. And, whether the task of mentor is chosen or accidental, it is a great and rewarding responsibility.

So if you are a student, embrace the role of mentee. Take advantage of it. Learn from it. Enjoy it. In the future, you will likely have the opportunity to share what you’ve learned from this role.

If you are a teacher, recognize that you are a mentor. Be thankful for the opportunity to mold lives outside of your own, and make the most of the gift that you have been given. Embrace the two titles that inevitably go hand-in-hand: Teacher. Mentor.

Written by Kate Kerrigan, Program Coordinator for the Drug-Free Coalition of Tippecanoe County and former middle school teacher.

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