Realistic expectations. Generosity with feedback. Active listening. Mentors are not just ordinary people—truly, they can build unique relationships, lift up others around them, and cultivate ways to connect. That is, they have more than just qualities. There is an art and science into offering valuable insights and taking the time to share reflections and revel in real-world experiences.
How do I know this as a learner? I hired the 100-Mile World Record Holder to be my running coach. So, let’s apply this paradigm to our educational classrooms.
As far as the educational model goes, I’ve had career experiences in mentoring with graduate students, professors, homeless elementary students, international students, student teachers, P-12 high achievers, and administrators. My takeaway: Mentoring is a careful art and science—as it takes valuable time to create trust and rigor.
Effective mentors model and talk with students about not only how to navigate our complex and busy world—but also how to transform our world together. “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success,” said Henry Ford, pioneer of mass production and founder of Ford Motor Company. In this digital age, being an effective mentor to others has become extremely achievable. In fact, young adults with a mentor are 130% more likely to hold leadership positions (MENTOR National, 2023). Professors can create these relationships inside and outside of the classroom by taking interest in the goals of their students. Moreover, our students gravitate towards professors who are good mentors, because they lead with compassion and authenticity and encourage students to find hope within themselves.
Today, learning can be achieved through multiple means rather than relying on only face-to-face exchanges. Engaged listening is a key component to student development. Put aptly, Emily Ryan states, “It’s curious to note that unlike talking, reading and writing, we are not taught how to listen. CIPD notes that although we spend a lot of time ‘hearing,’ experts estimate that only 25-50% of this time is spent actually ‘listening’” (Ryan, 2023, para. 3). Good mentoring requires listening and guiding others through daily progress to reach goals. These positive, life-changing, and profound interactions can occur across space.
Let’s dive in and find out how we can lean into effective mentoring to support learners.
Seven actions for effective mentoring
- Ask questions and be receptive. A good mentor needs to understand where the mentee is at in the journey—current mindsets and experiences matter. By asking questions and learning checkpoints, a professor can most appropriately guide their students to move onward and upward.
- Make time to develop unique and authentic relationships. Every student is different. Honor their differences and encourage them to operate with integrity. Truth be told, relationships of care and love are what inspire people to become their best selves.
- Learn what motivates a person. Motivation can be internal or external. Creating a sense of internal motivation is what keeps someone striving for growth. A love of shared learning and spreading positivity are actions that transcend beyond time.
- Tailor your strategies and aims. Students often need to prioritize different competing interests. As a mentor, recognize how to develop your students’ productivity and big picture understanding, and improve mastery through sharing personal experiences and insights.
- Make time for fun moments. When working with people, professors can create environments filled with fun and success by being accessible and enthusiastic. Deep -content knowledge is critical; however, positive energy provides passion and purpose that learners feel.
- Recognize and celebrate growth along the way. In the article “Does Mentoring Still Matter for Fortune 500 Companies?” that was recently published, Forbes council member Gracey Cantalupo (2022) points out that 70% of Fortune 500 companies have formal mentoring programs in place. Most notably, she shares that 100% of the top Fortune 50 companies incorporate mentoring into their professional work. Establishing mentoring relationships offers a way to encourage growth, preparation, confidence, vision, skills, friendships, and accomplishments of our students.
- Continue modeling success. What we celebrate is what we become. Mentors show how successful people think and act. It is key to show good habits and tough times, along with gritty, strong work ethic that will lead to celebrations.
As I was told by a world running champion, “Every second counts.” Time is valuable to allow the space (and effort!) for growth, both personal and collective. Mentors have deep content knowledge and winning strategies to facilitate progressive developments. Modeling good habits for others to witness—and become inspired—happens naturally while exchanging information with a respected mentor. After all, the saying goes that some things are taught and some things are caught.
To conclude, mentors understand the ability to conceptualize new things and wrap up old things in order to get the best from people around them.
Goals are met through shared accountability, and strong relationships are what make outstanding programs. Whether students are beginning their academic journey as an undergraduate, or taking graduate studies, professors can offer inspiration through their mentoring approaches. Put succinctly, students and teams will become proficient faster by mentoring.
One final takeaway: Remember our mentees become mentors.
Indeed, there is no real success without our successors—the people we look up to are all around us, and their ideas and passions transcend beyond classrooms and school walls. Mentors change the world and inspire their learners one heart at a time.
Dr. Melissa Brevetti earned her PhD in educational leadership and policy studies, and her teaching background consists of working with all types of learners, including preservice teachers, graduate students, homeless students, international students, and at-risk students. Dr. Brevetti is the recipient of various honors, including the International Roundtable Scholar Award, Leadership Team Award – Online Excellence, Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award, and the Young Educator Award.
Ryan, E. (2023). Active listening: The most important skill for effective mentors. https://mentorloop.com/blog/active-listening/
Cantalupo, G. (2022). Does mentoring still matter for Fortune 500 companies? https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2022/05/19/does-mentoring-still-matter-for-fortune-500-companies/?sh=50a11b125d8c
MENTOR National. (2023). Mentoring impact. https://www.mentoring.org/mentoring-impact/