Mentoring is a Gift to the Teacher and the Student

by Judy Baker on March 26, 2012

Mentoring is a powerful act. It benefits the teacher and the student.

I attended the first Women’s Power Strategy Conference on Saturday. It was produced by my friend, Patricia V. Davis, and her generous cast of supporters. I was impressed by the energy, confidence and transformations most of the speakers revealed they had experienced in their lives. This was a group of gutsy women, men, and teenage girls. It was clear to me that giving back enriches all of our lives.

It was also a day of being reminded that where someone is now may not be the same place as where they came from. One of the panels of gutsy women, as well as our keynote speaker, Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, came from childhoods and adult experiences that were less than perfect. What they share now is that when they found they didn’t like where or who they were, they reinvented themselves to become the powerful people they are today. It is easy to forget that who we see today is different than the person and circumstances of birth. Book covers are not the contents of these books.

Why Mentoring is Powerful

By nature and nurture, many women find it easy to lend a hand, support others, encourage the best, and share what they know. Some men understand this too, yet in our western society in particular, women and girls are expected to be nurturing. That doesn’t mean all of us choose or make good mothers. But we learn a language of connectedness and supportiveness as we grow up. What most women and girls don’t learn is to value this skill set. This theme showed up through out the day. What is it that makes women less confident than men, even though we are smart, funny, educated, good in business, creative and compassionate human beings? Somewhere along the line, women stop believing in their “awesomeness” and start handing over their power to men. Not all of us, not in all cases, but it is a frequent enough scenario that the Pink Ceiling still exists. Statistically, there are only a few women who run successful, large, businesses. The board room is still more of an Old Boys Club than a club that welcomes women and men equally.

Role models make an impact. Mentoring is modeling a generous spirit, a stand up attitude, being reliable, caring and being somewhat selfless. As I reflect on the people I chose as mentors, I see that they were willing to trust me, to give to me without an expectation of reciprocity, to share their incredible knowledge and to be my friend. Mentors bask in the reflected light of the successes they inspire in the hearts and minds of their students.

Another friend, Kathy Witkowicki, Executive Director, has grown the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance into a model for mentoring throughout the world. She has been honored countless times locally, regionally and nationally. “The Stand-By-Me Mentoring Alliance serves students on eight public school campus in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.  Presently, there are Mentor Centers located at Dunbar, Flowery, El Verano, Sassarini, and Prestwood Elementary Schools, Altimira and Adele Harrison Middle Schools, and Sonoma Valley High School. In addition, we have recently incorporated students at the Hanna Boys School into our program.  If you wish to mentor a child at Hanna Boys School, please visit their website for more information, as additional steps will need to be taken.” When Kathy started at this organization, she was a part-time employee. The vision and success of this group is a testament to the power of asking for help and being willing to put yourself out in the community to make it a better place. Kathy knows how to enroll people.

Giving back is getting back something more precious than can be imagined. It is realizing your own value, your worth and expertise. It is owning your value and appreciating that what you know is new to someone else. In teaching others, we learn more fully what we know. This has been my experience when working with my clients, in running Meetups, in consulting with others, I become an advanced expert as I teach others what I know. Being able to deconstruct information means having a thorough understanding of the subject. The ability to make the complex simple, is one of my talents. By revealing small bites of information, a complex concept is digestible and a large and difficult task become a series of small steps, taken one-by-one, until the job is done.

Give yourself a gift by being a mentor to someone who needs your help.

If you have a story to share about how a mentor changed your life, please consider sharing it here.




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