Friday, 6 November 2009

Miss Mentor

Every final year student in my high school is assigned a mentor, and had my first ever mentoring session today. I was torn between a ‘I hope I do this right and don’t inadvertently screw up this boy’s life’ first time nerves, and bleak amusement at the idea that me, of all people, was going to sit down and advise someone on what to do with their lives.

It went surprisingly well, and, for the first time since I started this job, I actually left the school feeling like I might have done something worthwhile. It was so good to sit down and talk to and get to know a student, reminding me of what I miss about teaching in China.

Even better was working out a plan together to help him solve a couple of problems he was having with his work, and resolving quite a major anxiety he had about one subject. His thanks at the end went straight to my heart, and I felt the powerful jolt of be recognised as and recognising a full human being rather than another fleeting, one-dimensional face.

I also realised that maybe I need to mentor myself. I know this is in serious danger of tipping into a swamp of ‘self-help’ clichés, but… I’m very good at deciding that what I want is quite ridiculous and impossible, before I’ve even admitted to myself that I want it, let alone tried to work out how I could go about getting it.

It doesn’t help that the last few months have meant that timeworn insecurities have resurfaced, knocking my confidence and faith in myself back down like a practiced prize fighter. I need to start assessing myself realistically, and stop chasing suitable chimeras – things that I will fail at, because I have no real desire or passion for them, that only reinforce the voice in my head that says ‘Don’t even think about, save yourself the disappointment, it’s not worth the time just to fail’.

As I was congratulating my student on his achievements, I realised that had these been my GCSE grades, I would’ve considered myself a complete failure. Leaving aside any differences in ability, why can’t I treat myself like I treat other people. Talking to a friend or student, I would never obsess on their weakest point, blowing it up until it eclipsed everything else. But yet I seem to find that a reasonable way to treat myself, and then I wonder why I end up frozen with self doubt.

I need to follow my own advice, and set some targets, and actually do them rather than just thinking about it, see what I can do.


  1. Your description of actually getting to know a student is what we need in our schools, teachers and students having a chance to actually get to know each other.
    You're so right about giving yourself the same breaks you would give someone else. You had the courage to go to China on your own, stay with your assignment, and succeed. With that ability, little lady, I have no doubt you can do anything you set your mind to.

  2. Great idea! Pretend that you are Miss Mentor counseling Miss Mentoree and continue pointing out Miss Mentoree's strengths and positive qualities. You are very creative, perceptive and analytical.

  3. Thanks all. This is actually one reason why I find my job (inhouse substitue teacher) so hard - I never get to make bonds with the students, or get to know their ability levels.

    I think I'm going to try and do a mini mentoring session with myself, and then you can look forward to even more introspection.

  4. Congratulation and Best of Luck! :)

  5. Have you ever done a Myers-Briggs personality assessment? You can do the short version of it for free at . My brother-in-law is trained in admisistering the long official version, and when he analyzed my responses, I came out as an INTJ; when I did the short on-line one, I came out ISTJ. But I'm definitely an Introvert (the I). My hub is an E (Extrovert). It's interesting to read the analysis of each personality type--strengths and weaknesses.

  6. I just took that test and came out as an ENFJ. Normally I right on the line bewtween I and E, it seems to depend on the test or my mood!