Linda entered the classroom with her parents. All three looked a little frightened. Linda was holding on to her mother. The father came up to me, introduced himself, and then turned to introduce his family. Linda tightened her arms around her mother’s waist. I learned that they had just moved to Illinois from Denmark. Of course, some may say that this has nothing to do with the question: Should minority mentees be matched only with same minority mentors?
Well, to me it proves that the mentor’s ability to identify with any mentee should be the deciding factor that answers the question. Linda was from Denmark and her English skills were limited. I am black American and I became Linda’s teacher and mentor. She learned a great deal from me and I most definitely learned more than I am able to say from her.
I have taught and mentored ESL students, black American students and white American students. I did this with the attitude that through these eyes I saw children who needed me and the skills that I was willing to use, in order to help them be the best that they could.
Some believe that black children should only be mentored and even taught by minority teachers and mentors. Their theory is that black mentors can identify with where black children are coming from. In some instances, this can be true, depending on the background of the particular child. I have had parents who believed that their children should have a black teacher and mentor, and the same holds true for other races.
Diversity means a lot to me, and I believe that, when given the opportunity, we all can learn from each other. After I retired from teaching, I returned to mentoring. The student I worked with happened to be black. I enjoyed every moment with her for she was willing to listen and learn. This particular student could identify with anyone.
It is necessary for the benefits of our children for us as parents, teachers, administrators and mentors to set a different set of standards in order to see what is best for the children. If we take the time to prioritize and look at the talent of our mentors instead of strengthening unnecessary biases and ideas, it would not matter who mentored whom, as long as they met all the requirements. Let us see benefits first.