Mentor (MEN-tawr): a person who instructs, guides, and motivates students under one’s care, protection, and cultivation.
We educators always confuse the words “slave driver” with “mentor”. Although both terms are synonymous with teaching, these two terms are different in some ways. For one, a slave driver refers to someone who goads others into aiming for the top brass even while clawing and gnawing their way to the top. In contrast, a mentor is one who inculcates in his/her students the values of fairness, compassion, and culpability as they progress, not regress. Second, a slave driver is someone who makes others think that hell freezes over perpetually while a mentor makes others think that they can roll with the punches and come out stronger than steel instead of battle-scarred.
There are so-called pedagogues who turn out to be as tyrannical as Nero or Julius Caesar trying to exalt themselves at the expense of their students; everywhere in the world do we see such people not caring to let their feet descend upon the earth. In contrast, teachers who really are mentors from head to toe are seemingly dwindling (I hope I am wrong about this!) just like our exotic, pristine flora and fauna. Third, a slave driver does not care about the feelings of others while a mentor shows empathy and compassion even if his/her students and others fail or fall off the wagon.
Being a mentor may be easier said than done, but now that the pandemic is still pervasive everywhere (We may be harking back to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1920, but we hope that the current pandemic does not escalate into one of epic proportion!), we educators have to roll with the punches and rise to the occasion because we are in an era of wireless connectivity and remote productivity in education. Whether tyro or seasoned, all of us have to face the fact that we have to increase our patience, resilience, and resolve to educate our students despite the limiting circumstances brought about by the pandemic.
Why should we be mentors instead of slave drivers?
First of all, being mentors entails believing in our students. For our students to become competent and excellent in what they do, we have to model these and we have to reassure them that they can always be excellent in what they do and how they learn. I have several friends- both older and younger- who are well-respected teachers and I look up to them because they never throw in the towel when teaching and guiding their students.
Second, we should be mentors because guiding our students does not stop at the classroom level. We must help them with their difficulties in our subjects or courses even outside because such goes to show that they trust us and we are committed to helping them. However, we must teach them how to be independent and interdependent because our goals as mentors are to help them soar high and to motivate them to prop their less fortunate and less able peers up and put them on equal footing through support and motivation.
Third, as mentors, we must be happy when our students exceed our expectations and prosper more than we have done instead of to flounder. We must sweep our envy and ego under the rug and instead be our students’ cheerleaders. In times of defeat, we must help them to nurse their bruised pride while in times of victory, we must be very exultant for them and also remind them that they must be humble enough to show sportsmanship and empathy towards those who are still in the lower rungs.
Fourth, being a mentor is satisfying and gratifying, not to mention age-defying. We educators are timeless because the world needs us regardless of how much technology has dominated all industries. The world needs mentors like us who are wholly and highly committed to training and moulding learners who are ready to step up to change the current landscape that is being besieged by pride, strife, inequality, and injustice. Our roles as transmitters of values and messengers of learning cannot be gainsaid at any given time, which is, unfortunately, being disregarded by some because they do not realize how difficult and lachrymal gland-inducing teaching and mentoring can be to us. Despite the tears and stress that being educators entails, being a mentor seems to have a great consolation for all of us: we become wiser and more enthused as years pass swiftly like buses scrambling to snag passengers along highways and avenues.
Lastly, being a mentor is a badge of honor for us. It makes us become more attentive to our students’ needs, desires, wishes, and sentiments. We become more understanding towards our students and bolster their self-esteem by being after their welfare and their successes in life. Even if there are some who seem to ignore us or develop antipathy towards us (God forgive them, and I do from the bottom of my heart!), our students who succeed and become happy in life are living testaments to our indefatigable exercise of our duties and responsibilities, and above all our commitment to educating our learners, shaping their lives positively, and prepping them for success in work, life, and love.
We mentors may not fully comprehend how our learners of today, but we must relentlessly sow in them the seeds of knowledge, optimism, and values so that we, and they, can reap the bountiful harvests of success, pride, and wisdom for years to come.#