Sir Ken Robinson, in The Element, provides an outline of the four key characteristics of an effective mentor. I believe that the role of the modern teacher has shifted to become something very similar, someone who sees themselves as consistently doing the following for each of their students.
A mentor/teacher can see – or makes it their purpose to see – what is unique, interesting or special about each student. They tap into the student’s personality and capacities and help them recognize things in themselves that can help them develop and flourish.
Sir Ken says:
“Mentors lead us to believe that we can achieve something that seemed improbable or impossible to us before we met them. They don’t allow us to succumb to self-doubt for too long, or the notion that our dreams are too large for us. They stand by to remind us of the skills we already possess and what we can achieve if we continue to work hard.”
A teacher who creates a culture of encouragement and who believes in their students will always see them exceed expectations rather than meet them.
A mentor/teacher makes things happen “by offering us advice and techniques, paving the way for us, and even allowing us to falter a bit while standing by to help us recover and learn from our mistakes.” A crucial part of becoming a teacher who facilitates is to understand how you are a “connector” – a person who helps students connect with ideas, with people, with strategies, with curriculum and with resources.
A mentor/teacher will “push us past what we see as our limits”. Great teachers are constantly imagining the possibilities for their students… and helping students imagine their own possibilities. Great teachers can see multiple pathways for their students, ways that they can navigate themselves into deeper, more sophisticated, more interesting, more motivating and more exciting territory. They see their role as helping students become capable of doing that for themselves.
Very often, the key to shifts in pedagogy is the teacher seeing how their role can change, how getting out of the way and adopting a “just in time” approach to learning can unleash greater potential in their students. Seeing yourself as a mentor, and aiming to be the type of person Sir Ken describes, can help you do just that.
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