Happy New Year! January is the time for new beginnings. Why not start the year by pledging to mentor a young person who could use some advice, a little guidance, or maybe just an understanding ear and a warm smile?
This is National Mentoring Month, and January 4 is “I Am a Mentor Day,” when volunteers celebrate their role. The 17th of this month is International Mentoring Day, a great time to share photos and videos across the continents expressing the value of mentoring. January 21, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, is a day for sharing the words of Dr. King and elevating the spirit of service through volunteerism. The month ends with #ThankYourMentor Day on the 31st, when we can all share what the mentors in our lives have meant to us.
National Mentoring Month began several years ago to call attention to the need young people have for mentors. The campaign is all about raising the awareness of mentoring and recruiting individuals to serve as mentors.
According to the campaign, a third of young people will grow up without a mentor. That’s something we can change.
Students who meet regularly with a mentor are 52 percent less likely than their peers without a mentor to skip school, according to a report called The Mentoring Effect. They are also 55 percent more likely than students without mentors to be enrolled in college.
Michelle Obama writes about being mentored and serving as a mentor in her fabulous memoir, Becoming. She mentions the many mentors in her life—from Czerny Brasuell, a staff member at Princeton University that Michelle met while a student, to Valerie Jarrett, her colleague in Chicago City Hall who became a key adviser to President Obama.
She talks about meeting with students throughout her tenure as First Lady, whether in the White House garden, or during visits to schools, or on overseas trips, and how she used those opportunities to motivate and encourage them.
Michelle wrote, “I’d been lucky enough to have parents, teachers, and mentors who’d fed me with a consistent, simple message: You matter. As an adult, I wanted to pass those words to a new generation…Kids will invest more when they feel they’re being invested in. I understood that there was power in showing children my regard.”
We educators totally get that concept. One of the things we work hard to do is to connect with each student and find out what they are passionate about. That’s how we steer them in the right direction and give them an extra push when it’s needed.
Mentors are critical in the growth and development of professionals, too.
I have been lucky to have mentors throughout my life. I will never forget the colleagues who had seen and heard it all and patiently shared their insights with me: Mr. Poulson, Miss Dobson, Mr. Rasmussen…the list goes on and on.
When I was at the end of my rope, they were the ones I turned to. I learned with them, laughed with them, and did my best to pass on their kindness, encouragement, and support to the newcomers who came after me.
That’s especially important in education, which can sometimes seem like such a solitary profession. We know that many new educators leave the profession within the first few years. But those with mentors are likely to stay, grow stronger, and ultimately pass on their wisdom to others.
NEA provides a host of resources to assist new educators, and you can see those on our School Me pages.
During National Mentoring Month, reflect on what mentors in your life have shared with you. Pledge to be that person for someone else.