Celebrate the power of mentoring relationships

Celebrate the power of mentoring relationships

Can you think of just one teacher that positively impacted your life?

That’s a question I asked myself while my teaching career was coming to a close and I entered retirement. I ended up reflecting on my whole education journey as a child through to becoming a young adult and was amazed at what I came up with.

While I was a child recovering from Cancer, I am sure that resulted in some teachers being sympathetic and kind towards me. Of course I appreciated their support, but that’s not really what I was considering.

Which teachers shaped me, molded me, refined me, disciplined me, coached me, mentored me and nurtured me?From my entry to Pre-primary School to finishing my school days, I could think of at least 15 teachers who positively impacted my life. Quite amazing, really!

Sometimes it might have been a sport coach for six months, a class teacher for a year, another coach for a year or two, a subject teacher for a couple of years, the equivalent of a House Tutor for about three or four years, so many people to whom I am indebted for becoming the person I am today. Indeed, I was also fortunate that I was able to attend a Pre-School and then attended the same School for my Junior and Senior Schooling experience.

My key point, though, is that we all have opportunities to find a teacher who can mentor and encourage us, no matter what the situation might be.

That word RELATIONSHIPS is a key to how we develop as young people.

In a November 2002 study, Finding Out What Matters for Youth, Gambone, Klem and Connell identified two crucial elements that help young people reach healthy adult outcomes. Namely, young people benefit from:

  1. the availability of support and opportunities – supportive relationships with adults and peers; challenging and engaging activities and learning experiences; and meaningful opportunities for involvement and membership.
  2. achieving developmental outcomes – learning to be productive; to connect with adults, peers and social institutions; and to navigate through diverse settings, relationships and the lure of risky behavior. In all these areas, good outcomes for teens are strongly associated with success in early childhood.

In any setting, the authors suggested, what matters for the purpose of achieving developmental outcomes is that:

  • relationships are emotionally supportive, with adults showing interest in young people’s time and activities, and providing practical support with, for example, school work or personal problems;
  • activities are challenging, interesting and related to everyday life;
  • youth participate in decision-making in developmentally appropriate ways, relating to things they care about.

As I reflect on those who positively impacted my life, I can relate to these findings quite easily.

Yet, better still I can pay tribute to Dave L, Dave H and Anthony M for taking an ongoing mentoring role from time to time after I left School and became a teacher myself, each of them until they passed away, all from Cancer, but not until they had seen me attain my teaching goal of becoming a School Principal 🙂

The Spirit of Mentoring involves encouraging mentees to link up with teachers and others with whom they work, be it through coaching a sport, music or dance, a Club they might belong to or some other extracurricular activity. And we, too, must share our personal experiences with our mentees, thus letting them know that we have walked this road too, outlining how these significant adults impacted our lives in different ways.

Some of my Teacher-Mentors guided me on the importance of a strong work ethic; some coached me on how to develop my sporting skills; some mentored me on how to lead and positively influence others and a couple assisted my spiritual development – each a powerful experience in itself.

How about you? What would you share with your mentee?


About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organiser, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can join him on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook or contact him through his YES! website