Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Importance of a Mentor

By Sean Scarpiello

While schools are always trying to be up to date with the latest technology or newest textbooks, there are some factors that go into a high quality education that are not material. It has been highly proven that students with parents who are actively engaged in their children’s education are more likely to succeed, but I also feel that all students need a mentor in addition to involved parents. A mentor can supplement a student’s education because it forces them to take their own initiative in their education. Parents’ roles in education are to really push their children to do their work and succeed whereas effective mentors enable students to become self-motivated to accomplish their dreams.

A good mentor can be anyone. For example, they could be a famous politician, businessperson, or celebrity, a neighbor, family member, a family friend, and even a teacher. A mentor can even be someone successful in a field completely outside of a student’s specific interests. Really, a mentor is someone a student can look up to with qualities that they can try to emulate, such as passion for their field, strong interpersonal skills, or personal drive. When students recognize these important qualities in a mentor, it puts them in the driver seat and helps them to improve themselves independently of their parents.

Further, students should have multiple mentors which play a number of different roles in their life. In my experience, I found a fantastic mentor when I was young who is a neurologist at my local hospital. Aside from his strong work ethic which was evident the instant we met, I noticed that he was truly passionate about his job and his patients. Plus he showed deep compassion with patients and could offer them help in a friendly and serene manner. As I tried to emulate these qualities in my own life, I began to see changes in my personal, professional, and academic life. Another mentor I was fortunate enough to have in college operated in a completely different manner. For my senior capstone experience in college, all students were paired up with a professor to guide them through writing a thesis on a topic the students could choose. The professor I was paired up with had a reputation for always advising the best and hardest working students on their thesis. Early on, she made it clear that she expected our best work and would settle for nothing less. My own motivations for working hard were initially based off of meeting her high expectations, but as she continued to challenge all of her advisees to meet deadlines before our peers with other thesis advisors, all of us found we were ahead of everyone else. This same mindset was contagious and spread through other aspects of our lives where I saw personally that I became bored if I was not challenging myself to achieve more each day.

I have been extremely fortunate to have some fantastic mentors which gave me self-motivation. If more students had these sorts of figures in their lives, I’m sure there would more students who would try to improve themselves independently. A good mentor could get a student to put down their video games and read on their own to improve their vocabulary or go for a run to improve their physical fitness for gym class. Parents do play a vital role in a student’s success, but often times it is the mentors in a student’s life that are overlooked. Teachers and professors are in the best position to be mentors for students because they interact with students every day. However, this does not mean others cannot play meaningful roles in the lives of students. We all have a famous person we look up to and everyone can appreciate the story of someone who came from nothing and has become an outrageous success. The thing about mentors is that most of the time the mentor does not understand just how big of an impact they are having on the lives of those who look to them for guidance. In all, if educators can introduce their class to mentors, we can expect the students to drive themselves to success in and out of the classroom.

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