Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Teachers as Mentors

The challenges before the ideal teacher today lies not just in being a subject expert, but also in being a Mentor and a facilitator. The profession in itself is challenging and full of expectations from the parents, and the society as a whole. Today, where students spend a lot of time in schools, it becomes a given that teachers will act as guides, parent figures, and facilitators for them. There is this wonderful progressive school in Gurgaon which labels teachers as Mentors and it states that the Mentor’s role is to guide others through a process, an experience or a conversation. The Mentor according the school’s guidelines attempts to create an environment conducive to the process of sharing and learning.
This progressive school further defines the Mentor’s role as being different from that of an instructor’s or expert’s. It suggests that the Mentor should be  a person who creates a conducive atmosphere of positivity, empathy and sensitivity, conducive to a two way communication between himself and his students. The role of the Mentor becomes essential in an environment where students spend less time with parents who might both be working parents. Today as we shift from  the the joint or extended family system to the nuclear family system, the responsibility of parental guidance is being increasingly shared by the teachers who back up as parents in school. So, then, it becomes clear that ideal parenting skills and Mentoring skills share a lot in common. The characteristics of an ideal parent, and an effective Mentor are similar and may be listed as: being non-judgemental, listening effectively, being flexible, honest, firm, fair, fostering trust, being sensitive, being observant, being an effective communicator, participating, and being supportive.  All these characteristics are essential not only for being an effective parent, but also in being an effective Teacher-Mentor!
It is expected, therefore, that the effective teacher should also be a good Mentor with the ideal ability to empathise with his students and have the skills of being a good listener. He is like a parent, and has the ability to guide his students to the desired goals in life. Today, incidents of corporal punishment, and mental humiliation of students is the sad result of emotional detachment and a general sense of disillusionment resulting from a profession that often becomes subject to a sense of stagnation, routine, repetitiveness and a feeling of boredom that creeps in after some time. It is for this reason that in service programs and workshops should be organised as often as possible to sensitize teachers to be Mentors and not just instructors!
Tact, it is clear, is more effective than harshness and aggressiveness in handling difficult situations in the class room. A teacher with effective parenting and mentoring skills will have his job cut out for him, and will be able to perform his duties more effectively and with less mental stress and effort! A negative approach to the task of teaching will cause more problems for both the students and the teacher. Teaching is less of a profession, more of a calling, and very much mission. It is for this reason that I very strongly believe that a teacher should have a passion for teaching. Teaching, in other words, is not about how much you earn, but rather it is about how much you can give! The ideal teacher’s reward is when his students come to him long after passing out from school, and they tell him how successful they have become in life, and they remember the teacher’s advice, and accept that it was good! When a student who appeared to have problems in school in the past comes to you and he thanks you for having guided him in the best possible way, then it becomes a reward which no money can buy!

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