Perspectives Gained on Mentoring Part 3
Written by Jason Rosa for The View from Valehaven
In this continuing series of articles, it is my goal to communicate things that I have learned about mentoring others throughout my years as both a member of the community, and in my professional role as an educator. In each article I will discuss a different maxim of teaching; things that educators must apply to their craft if they are to be successful, and explain how I have interpreted each of them to help me be a better mentor within the Realms.
Teaching involves more than just imparting knowledge.
Every teacher from kindergarten through college has a curriculum that they have to follow throughout the fullness of the year. That curriculum is generally composed of a set of standards or goals that they are expected to help their student's reach in the time that they share a learning environment together, and it is difficult to debate that meeting those goals is a teacher's primary responsibility -- it is certainly the one we are measured most rigorously on.
Our curriculum, however, is not the only thing we are responsible for teaching. Students go to school to learn how to calculate answers to problems and how to analyze great literature, but they also go to school to be part of an environment that will help guide them toward becoming adults. To that end, teachers are expected to be the models of that adult behavior for their students. To speak eloquently and with purpose, to treat others with politeness and respect, to follow through on responsibilities and live up to promises. In an ideal educational environment, a student can learn academics while also learning what it means to have maturity as a learner and as a person.
There are striking similarities to those goals and the goals that we have for our mentees in the Realms. Ostensibly, we mentor someone in order to pass our knowledge onto them. We can teach them how to become better combatants, how to plan and execute an event, how to best make use of the magic system, how to construct armor or props... the list goes on and on. And while teaching knowledge to our mentees is certainly a large, maybe the largest, part of our time with them, it is not the only goal, and maybe it is not even the most important one.
If we make the decision to mentor someone in the Realms it is not only because we want to pass along our knowledge or our skills. At the very foundation, the reason we mentor others is because we believe in the intrinsic value that we can have as mentors and the potential that value has to help other people grow. Yes, that growth is somewhat inspired by gaining new knowledge, but the greater amount of it is learned the same way students learn those things from teachers; by spending time in the same environment together, putting trust in one another, and working together towards common goals.
It is not enough to assume that our mentees will grow through giving them tasks and responsibilities. I have seen mentoring relationships that have wholly consisted of giving a mentee some small amount of instruction and then sending them off to succeed or fail based on their dedication to their goal. Certainly there is some merit to tasks given in that way and a well balanced mentorship certainly can have some assignments that are structured as such, but alone they do not encompass everything that a mentorship can accomplish.
A much more effective way to structure a task, instead of as an independent assignment, is to set a goal for you and your mentee to achieve together. Something as simple as building a prop to as complex as running an event can be approached as a team project, dependant on both of you working in tandem to be successful.
Creating tasks based on this model comes with a myriad of advantages. You gain the opportunity to impart your knowledge, not in one lump sum, but throughout the entire project, reinforcing and emphasizing the most important and most relevant aspects of it as you work through the task together. You generate the opportunity to further your own knowledge and abilities as you perfect your craft, and you allow your mentee to be a part of that journey, adding to your knowledge as well as their own. Most importantly of all, you establish a series of continuous moments where your mentee has the opportunity to spend time with you, learn more about you and your unique perspective through your conversations, become more familiar with your outlook on the community and the game, and become successively inspired to put forth the level of dedication and passion that they can see in you.
Teachers cannot sit idle and expect their students to learn. A teacher, by and far, works a lot harder than the students that they instruct. The length of the school day is only the very beginning of the hours that an educator must put in to ensure that their students have the best chance of being successful. By that same token, as a mentor, you cannot expect to be idle and have your mentee benefit from your experience or your knowledge. If you are sitting back and handing out assignments, then what investment do you really have in the relationship or in the person who you are instructing? How can you be sure they are growing through their time with you? How much are you really a part of the growth they can achieve or the path that will get them there?
Rather, you should expect to work harder than your mentee during the course of your mentorship together. You should expect to lead by example when you show them how much dedication you direct towards reaching your goals. You should give them the opportunity to discover that your experience and your wisdom and your skills came to you through hard work and countless hours, and that they should be prepared to pay the same toll if they wish to grow in the same way. You should demonstrate to them, as often as possible, that success and notariety in this community go hand in hand with the effort that is levied towards it. The most potent method of instructing your mentee is teaching them by your example, and it is your responsability, during that mentorship, to make that example shine.
There are many rewards that come along with being a teacher, but among the greatest of them happens when a student finds you months or years after your time with them has ended, and expresses to you, directly or indirectly, that the time they spent with you was meaningful to them. Almost universally, their experience and their gratitude is not predicated on the specifics of the knowledge they learned in your classroom. Much more likely it is because they found your classroom to be a joyful place, that they found inspiration through your passion for what you taught them, that they, in part, we're able to chart the course of their lives because of the influence you had on them.
That depth of influence is the ultimate goal of our mentorships in the Realms. When your mentee has completed their time with you, it is certainly important that they have gained specific skills and accomplished learning objectives. Greater by far, however is that they have broadened their perspective on the community, that they have affirmed their dedication to growing as individuals and pushing the Realms forward in the process. That they have become inspired to pass that perspective and dedication and knowledge and passion on to the generation after them. And that in the process, that they have forged with you a friendship that will endure long, long after the mentorship has ended.
And all of that begins with the time you spend together. nding the learning styles of so many new students every year can be daunting. And certainly not every teacher succeeds in doing so every single year. In our community, however, it is more common to have a handful of mentees rather than a hundred. It means that learning how to teach them best is a much less overwhelming prospect, and one we must dedicate ourselves to if we are going to make a commitment to help them to succeed.