What Makes a Mentor different from a Parent or Teacher

I currently work as a Personal Progress Tutor at a High school in the United Kingdom. I work specifically with Sixth Form (post 16), and the role leans heavily towards the mentoring role which I find incredibly rewarding.
Teachers teach…simple enough. Parents parent…again, not too hard to grasp this concept. But, we must not forget that it is the individual`s point of view we must consider when arriving at appropriate definitions since this will vary immensely from person to person, depending on the child`s experiences.

A classic example is when a student confides something in you, but has not yet discussed the matter with parents or their teachers. It is an incredibly sensitive situation and any mentor has a duty to that student to provide adequate care. Training is vital in this respect, since you cannot just give advice lightly; it must be a part of a bigger process whereby information is collated. Usually this should take place over a period of time; this enables you to build trust between yourself and your tutee. Listening is the most powerful tool we possess. A teacher’s job does not always allow this to take place, and the demands of parenthood mean the same thing, which is often misinterpreted by the student. The result? They feel low, their self-esteem and confidence falls and it may impact upon their lives in a variety of ways: socially, emotionally and academically.

A mentor should not be a friend; this is difficult since the pastoral slant of the job lends itself to building close relationships with the individuals we mentor. But, professional distance is essential if we are to actually help individuals. Mentors need sound subject knowledge, enthusiasm, patience and a variety of other skills. One could argue that parents are teachers and mentors in addition to their parenting role. The only problem with this is that their mentoring is biased and as such cannot possibly be effective.

A separate individual, a tutor or mentor, is there as a link between teachers, parents and students in the setting. OK, so one may have to become mediator, counselor, administrator in this role, but mentoring is so much more than it implies. After all, it is the students we aim to benefit via the mentoring process; the aim is to help them achieve their full potential and this I would argue is only plausible when it involves a range of individuals – teachers, parents and mentors – each providing a unique yet vital role in supporting the student and help them to realize their dreams.