As an educator, there are many opportunities presented where we can help our students grow. We spend a great deal of time helping students reach their academic goals by teaching the subject content in the classroom. Yet, there comes a time when additional opportunities for helping our students present themselves. These opportunities or mentorship are what so many educators do on a regular basis. Each time we teach lectures or assist our students in the laboratory, we have windows of opportunity to effectively reach our students beyond just teaching the subject content.
I work at a two-year college called Central Carolina Technical College, where I teach biology and anatomy & physiology classes. I truly love working at the college level, because I can help so many students from semester to semester. At my college we have a lot of students that are the first in their families to go to college, individuals who have decided to go back to school, dual-enrollment, and even individuals from Shaw Air Force base. With such a diverse population, I am presented with numerous opportunities to mentor students. My focus centers on supporting the growth and development of each student to build long-term professional relationships. To our students, we are viewed as knowledge experts of how to begin a successful life. This is the reason why we get questions about everything – from ways to study for the course to financial aid issues. Our students see us as an expert that has this wealth of knowledge and experience, because we are the main individuals our students interact with day in and day out. Therefore, it is imperative to make sure that we not only educate our students, but also be that positive example that can direct them in helping them reach their academic and personal goals.
This past semester, I had a student who was the first in his family to attend college. I notice this student, because he would not take notes in class, but did extremely well on his exams. One day during lab, I asked the young man what his plans were once he had completed all course work for Central Carolina Technical College. He looked at me, because he really did not have a clue. This allowed an opportunity for me to explain to him the potential that he has and how he could be anything that he desired. Then I asked him if he ever considered attending a four-year college. He looked at me and said, “I never thought about it, I’m the first in my family to ever attend college”. I saw this as an opportunity to explain to him how this could really help him in the long run. Before he left that day, I got on the laboratory computer and helped him find some options of schools that were in traveling distance from his home. A week or two later, he decided, and we call the admission office and he left my class with an option that he did not know was available to him. I was able to help this young man by taking time out to get to know him and challenge him to move forward with finishing his education. This is just one example of how we, as educators, are influential mentors – helping our students with both academics and personal goals that they do not realize they can complete.
As an educator, I can recall times when I am teaching anatomy & physiology content, and I see the faces of my students looking perplexed. I often use this confusion as a mentoring opportunity, “let’s stop for a minute and take a deep breath” and encourage them by saying “you can do this”. Sometimes I would even tell a silly joke to help to make the learning environment more relax. I love to use the time in the laboratory to build my students’ confidence through mentoring. Usually, during lab time, I get the best opportunity to know them and understand a little of their background. This allows me to offer more personalized advice and mentoring if I can. Sometimes just giving an encouraging word to our students means the world. We are always in the position as the instructor/professor to help growth and development to occur in our students.
A part of making this educational experience great, is mentoring our students so they can move forward in reaching their academic and personal goals. Understanding just a little about who our students are, where they come from, and what their goals are can help us be a part of directing them towards a better future.
Mentorship allows us as educators to reach out to our students and help guide them in a path of success. Think about all the wonderful people who were educators to us, that have helped get us to where we are today. Those impressions can last a lifetime. I still remember how some of my favorite professor’s help guided me, how they mentored me and offered words of encouragement, even when I was not living up to my true potential. It is because of these great mentors that I am standing where I am today, and that’s why it is so important that as educators that we do the same – doing our part to pave the way forward for our students to be the best they can be.