Perspectives Gained on Mentoring Part 1
Written by Jason Rosa for The View from Valehaven
Take it from the more venerable among us; the older you become, the more you find evidence of how skills learned in the Realms are applicable in everyday life. This happens in a myriad of subtle ways and there is little doubt that you have encountered some of them. Many of us have gained a measure of our self-confidence from what we have achieved in the Realms. Many of us have learned how dedication to a goal can produce tangible results through working hard at fight practices. There are also more grandiose examples of how Realms experience translates to real life experience. The organizational skills gained in event holding can often be repurposed towards administrative tasks in a business environment. Likewise, the management that goes into leadership in a group gives great insight into leadership positions in a professional situation.
It is also the case that many skills gained in the real world are transferable to Realms. If you've worked in an industrial kitchen before, there is a good chance that you will be able to be successful throwing Realms feasts. If you are an accomplished artist then the props that you make for events will certainly be all the more stunning. If you have trained athletically and are in fantastic shape, you will have an inherent advantage in martial combat. And while there are a myriad of other examples of how different skills are transferable into the game, I would like to spend some time talking about how things that I have discovered as part of my profession have helped me to become better mentor to some of the younger people in our community.
For those of you who are not aware, I am an educator. I teach 7th and 8th grade science in a suburban middle school in central Connecticut. Teaching is a career that is all about people. It requires a profound understanding of how people learn and develop their talents, and it requires the people in that profession to be deeply invested in the success of those who depend on them. In this series of articles I have brought together some thoughts; things that I have learned about mentoring others in the real world that are immediately applicable to how we as a community mentor people in the Realms. If you are in a position where younger members of our game depend on you for guidance, be that in a formal or in informal ways, then hopefully you can find some insight in what I have collected. Each installment will focus on a different aspect of what I have learned as a teacher.
You must set high expectations for your students.
Every single student has potential. In some young people, that potential is painstakingly obvious. These are the students who come to class each day well prepared, who are eager to participate in the activities of the day, who study hard because they have internalized the fact that success in school is important to them. In some students, that potential is couched behind many obstacles. Their life at home could contain many distractions or they might personally believe that there is no merit to education. They might simply want to be anywhere else besides in school. But the expectation presented to teachers is that, regardless of the obviousness of that potential, all of our students be given the opportunity to be successful.
Helping all students to rise to their potential is about motivation and inspiration. Students can be motivated by grades or other rewards, but of course not all are. Students can be motivated by consequences or fear of punishment, of course not all are. As their teachers, all that we can really give students are external motivators for their behavior and their academics. True motivation, however, what actually allows people to excel, must be born internally. And while we as educators cannot simply bestow upon others that internal motivation, we can inspire it by keeping our expectations for them high. Setting high expectations for a student's success shows them that you believe in their abilities. If you have a relationship with that student, they respond to that belief by wanting to live up to it.
The strength of expectations is immediately transferable to mentees in the Realms. Imagine the difference between these two similar tasks that you could give to a younger player: "I would like you to participate in more tournaments this year." and "This year you will place within the top ten for Order of the List points.". The first is a lukewarm, poorly defined goal. Giving it to someone shows that you don't personally understand what they are capable of and that you're really not expecting them to impress you with the way they pursue that objective. The latter sends a clear signal that you believe in that person's ability to achieve the stated goal. I conveys a deep level of faith in their skills and the dedication that they can bring to bear to meet that expectation. The only response one can have to that faith is to work hard to justify it. The motivation your mentees have to achieve their tasks is born of the trust you place in them to do so.
Not every person will always succeed at every goal you give them. In fact, if you are setting goals for people correctly, then some of them, sometimes, will be just out of reach. But by setting the expectations high, you are also raising the bar on 'almost' meeting those expectations as well. In the above example, it might be the case that your mentee falls short of the top ten. Maybe they only made it to 14th place. Maybe they were only able to get a handful of points overall. But meeting the goal was not the most important aspect of giving it. The effort in approaching a goal is also what allows people to grow. If in attempting to meet your expectation, your mentee tripled their attendance at fight practices and moved on past the first round of the majority of tournaments they fought in, then they have made significant progress. But that progress would not have happened if their only goal was to "fight in more tournaments". The progress occurred because their goal required of them the effort to improve.
The world of education is one of assessments and grades. It is a system we have all endured and that we are all familiar with. Grades within the "A" range are considered "excellent". Grades within the "C" range are considered "average". Some brief analysis of that concept begs the question - shouldn’t it be perfectly acceptable for our students to always get C's? But the expectation that we put on students is that they should always be working towards getting 100%. We don’t ask them to study only 75% of the material, after all. When you set the expectations for the people who are learning from you, therefore, do not shoot low. Don't tell them that a "C" is good enough for you; that it should be good enough for them. Don't tell them that they are simply an "average" person in your mind. Set goals for them that they can achieve only with the full measure of their effort. Then you will see that effort come to the fore. Expecting anything less from them would be selling them short.