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Friday, November 12, 2010

Go beyond Parenting and Friendships to Mentoring

          Third grade, the second time around, wasn't starting off very well.  It wasn't any better than my first year in that grade.  The school had held me back, although I passed everything, because my reading level wasn't high enough.  There apparently had been no thought as to whether summer school could have helped me raise my reading to grade level and let me not be held back.  Instead, the school had the grand idea to have me removed from class for an hour every day so I could be sent to the special education class. Retard is not a name you want to be called at 9 years old... it hurts even when you know it isn't true. The exception to the horrible beginning of that year was my new teacher, Miss Drackian, she was a lot nicer than my previous teacher. 

     As I tried to settle in and hope for the best, our class was suddenly divided in half and deposited into new classes.  I thought my year had been destroyed instead, I was about to fall in love. You see, I was placed with Mr. Scrivano.  As soon as he spoke his first greeting to me, I was hooked, he had my attention.  My maiden taste of puppy love and a teacher who gave me the attention I desperately needed was well on the way to changing my life.  
Yes, I said “changing my life” and I’m not exaggerating.

          In 1975, at the age of 9, I understood the pain of rejection, the cruelty of peers, the struggles of being different, the agony of losing friendships and the sting of teachers who were there just to get paid, who really didn't care.  I understood them because that was my life, every day.  My only friend had graduated to 4th grade and decided 4th graders didn’t associate with 3rd graders even though we'd been friends for years.  I lived under the constant threat of getting beat up by someone at my bus stop.  I sat in the back of the class with the other kids that went to the special education classes and at lunch I ate with the social outcasts...if they would let me.  During PE, I was ridiculed by my peers when I wasn't able to “perform” and was of course, nearly always picked last for any team game.  In fact, some of those that actually really needed the special education class were picked before me.  Now that's embarrassing!  And, I had the educational and emotional scars from sitting under an absolutely horrible teacher.  I felt ugly, unwanted, an outcast, stupid, and worthless.  No one cared about me so I was closing myself off and refusing to care about anyone or anything much less care about learning... I wanted to "do my time" and get home where it was safe.  We all know I wasn't alone in what I was going thru and how I felt but that doesn’t matter to you when you're 9 years old.

          Music and Art classes had been the only things enjoyable and there I truly felt free but Mr. Scrivano was about to change all that. From the very beginning of the year, he made me feel good about myself.  He accepted me just the way I was and encouraged me when I needed to do better.  He saw potential in me, opened my eyes to my own potential and helped me reach for and realize it. His attention fostered in me the desire to do the best I could, I wanted him to be proud of me.  He even went so far as to request that I no longer be sent to the special education class arguing that it was doing more damage than good.  This one man, with thirty kids to teach other than myself, made a lifelong impact on me.  No one else quite measured up to him.  I know he wasn't a perfect man but he "poured" his time and attention into me at a point in my life when I felt that no one cared that I even existed. Sometimes I've thought about tracking him down to ask him what it was that made him so different but it's alright.  He took what he did seriously and used every means to reach me, to be there for me, to point me in the right direction ... for me his time and attention rekindled not only my love of learning but also my faith in others.

He was one of my first mentors.
Mentor: An experienced and prudent advisor / copyright Voice From the End of Town
Mentor: An experienced and prudent advisor
Copyright Voice From the End of Town

Mentoring - The Webster Dictionary definition of a mentor is an experienced and prudent advisor.

          A mentor is someone who has been where you're at, or where you're going or where you want to go.  It's just that simple.  They have experience that you want to learn from.  Their successes and failures have given them knowledge that can be of great benefit to others.  A mentor uses their experiences and knowledge to help advise in good decision making.  Mentoring, in other words, is about influencing others and it takes time, attention and caring about the other person.  It's an important role that we should all play in the lives of others but it includes risk.  A mentor does more than just show what choices are good or bad, beneficial or detrimental.  A mentor has to open up to others, to explain the good and bad choices that they've made and the consequences they've experienced.  There's always the risk that the advice will not be well received or that the one you're mentoring will not heed your warnings.  They may judge you for your choices and make excuses for their own.  There can be pain involved when you see bad decisions in spite of good advice.  Mentors have to remember they are responsible for the advice they give but not responsible for the choices the one they mentor makes.

          As a parent, there is no one more important to me (besides God and my husband) than my children.  I want them to grow up to be strong Christian adults not swayed by others, firm in their faith and in their ability to make right decisions.  I want them to be strong capable men who can lead their families well and virtuous women who can succeed as wives and mothers.  I want them to each have a sense of integrity and honesty... To have high moral principles, be compassionate, diligent and dependable.  But this doesn't happen in a vacuum.  It doesn't just happen because I want it to.  I have to do something on my part to influence that outcome.  Beginning to get a picture?

          I'm writing this in hopes of changing the way we think of parenting, friendships and mentoring.  I've never heard of anyone talk of mentoring in conjunction with our own children. I've never heard of mentoring in conjunction with friendships. Mentoring is always thought of as something you do with someone else’s child, not with your child or with friends in your life.  When it comes to our children, especially as they grow up in our homes, we must find a way to be not only be a parent but also a mentor.... a major influence in their lives and a trusted advisor.  As they get older, they need to be choosing what is good and right not because of fear of their parents punishment.  That fear of punishment will only go so far beyond your home when they leave.  At some point they need to have learned to make the right kinds of choices and the best place to learn is in the home.... while we still have them under our roof.

     In today’s society there are so many people and things that are screaming for our children’s attention.  While we don't need to be one of those screaming, we do need to be the ones that our children pay attention to.  We need to be “speaking” into their lives in a major way and this cannot only be done when we get around to it, when our favorite show is over, or when they do something wrong.  We need to be speaking to them on a regular basis, as the moment arises... we need to be sensitive to the right timing.  They need to hear praise when it's due and correction at its proper time and explanations as their age permits to help their understanding. Our children need to know correction but they also need to know respect.  They walk away from us as parents and seek out the advice of others when they see us live a life that says “do as I say because I say so!” or “do as I say not as I do!” That kind of attitude shows no respect for the child but only arrogance on our part as parents. It also is a total disregard for their intelligence.

Many of us grew up in a time where there were no explanations for anything.  There was no time taken to say these are bad things to do and this is why it's bad.  No, we were raised in a time when children were to be seen and not heard, where you did what you were told because you were told to... the reason didn't matter... but children want answers, they always have. Society is screaming answers to all their questions about life, love, friendships, sexuality and so much more........ even questions about the existence of God. Kids want to know the answers to these questions and most of all, they want to know “why.” 

If we don't tell them why or why not, someone else will.

     As to friends, some of them are in your life because you're meant to mentor them or they're meant to mentor you.  You have a purpose in each others lives and it's to help each other in an area where you're strong and they're weak.  Isn't this what true friendship is?  You're there for each other in the good times and the bad.  You help each other.  If nothing else, you're there to just listen when they need to talk.  

     Most people have no real idea what true friendship is.  When they're doing well and everything is great they have friends coming out of the woodwork, drinking buddies or a "shopping crew" but when things aren't going so well their friends start coming up missing, they've gone AWOL.  No wonder the idea of mentoring someone or letting someone mentor you is not common. 

"Why risk getting into a relationship where mentoring is going on? I mean, I've learned that if I need to be honest about my weaknesses, gee, that's too much information to give one person..."  

... and yet this type of friendship where mentoring is happening is so very rewarding.  You have someone that you can literally talk about anything to, receive encouragement from and create an enduring friendship with.  With the right mentor, you can trust the advice they give to be in  your best interest.

          Being mentored and mentoring others will greatly enrich your life as the advice and encouragement you receive flows thru you to others.... as your life is impacted you'll realize you're making a positive lifelong impact on the lives of others.  

1 awesome comments:

  1. All I can do is stand and applaud. I MUST pass this on!


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