In my last post, I shared with you my understanding of what mentorship is, and what it means to me. But now I want to share my personal experiences with mentorship, starting off with a time in which I felt like a mentee:
A previous supervisor of mine was an amazing mentor to me. She was such a great team leader; not only did she help create an amazing sense of community, but she made sure to individually check in with each member of the team and facilitate self-reflection. She never directly advised me, she only guided me by sharing her stories, and by taking a genuine interest in my values, passions, and future goals. Her support and care really encouraged me to incorporate self-reflection into my daily life, and inspired me to always create a sense of community wherever I go.
But I can’t claim ownership over what mentorship means – everybody has different experiences with, and perceptions of, mentorship. I wanted to share this diversity with you, so I asked a few students, faculty, and staff to also share a story of when they felt like a mentee. Let’s see what they had to say…
“I learned about how to be present to my students by one of my graduate students. Throughout the course, in her interaction with students, her comments on assignments, and her remarks in class, she exuded care, respect, and courtesy. It was deeply impressive. She mentored me in the art of compassionate pedagogy.” (Associate Professor)
“My university mentor was my orientation leader in my first year. Through her support and encouragement … I learned how to be comfortable being myself and how to be involved in my community. I’m confident that I wouldn’t have been able to be the leader I am today if it wasn’t for her.” (Alumni)
“My first year professor had the perfect analogy that I still remember to this day: ‘If you see a baby floating down a stream, of course you should immediately attend to the baby’s needs. As time goes on and more babies float down the stream, at what point do you ask where these babies are coming from?’. I feel this analogy describes environmental and social issues well, and it really shaped my motivation for pursuing a career in climate change mitigation – I thank this professor for that!” (Fifth year student)
“In my first year here at UofT, I felt like a mentee in chatting with a fourth-year student. We had a conversation on how to approach post-secondary education and succeed. What I gained most in that connection was the encouragement and motivation that he shared with me. Those conversations in first year really led me to connect with youth and give them the push to excel in post-secondary education.” (Fourth year student)
“When I meet with students, I often ask them about their own personal experience, particularly if they are international students. Many times when I do this, I learn about their home country and their perspective, its culture and politics, which broadens my knowledge and understanding of their homeland.” (Undergraduate Student Advisor)
“I recall one particular conversation with a student who was confiding in me about their unhappiness at U of T. As I listened and expressed compassion for their situation, I learned that not all students are in a healthy and happy mental state. This reminds me to be an open and inclusive resource for students in all of the work that I do, so they feel some sense of community and acceptance on campus.” (Student Life Officer)
While this is only a small sample, it illustrates that mentorship has many different flavours, and that it tastes different to everybody. The differences in the experiences provide an interesting story that tells us that everybody has a unique idea of what being a mentee means. For some, it meant having a conversation, and for others it meant being taught something that had a lasting impact. Some of them learned something from someone who was older, but others learned from someone who was younger. And the experiences all impacted their lives in different ways, from learning how to be a better leader to reflecting on career goals. However, while these experiences are diverse, there are a few common themes that thread them together: they learned something, and they grew from it.
What does it mean to you to be a mentee? Can you think of a time when you felt like a mentee?
Are you looking for a mentor? U of T has a database of over 70 formal programs. Check it out at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mentorship Week at U of T runs February 8 – 12, 2016. Follow #UofTMentorMoments for more information about events, contests and giveaways.