The primary quality I look for in a mentor is trust. After all, trust is the foundation upon which any strong relationship is built. Having a mentor who I know has my best interest at heart, and who truly wants me to succeed, is at the top of my priority list. Once a baseline of trust is established, other qualities I seek in a mentor are: experience in my field of interest, alignment with my personal ethics and values, and deep wisdom. It is also important that I aspire to be like my mentor, that they serve as a model and a guidepost for me. That doesn’t mean a mentor has to be a perfect individual—far from it. On the contrary, I would prefer a mentor who has personal experience with both success and failure, someone who is able to acknowledge their personal strengths and weaknesses, so they could help me learn from my mistakes. Ultimately, a mentor should be a complex and dynamic individual that can help me expand and understand my dreams more fully.
The work of searching for a mentor in my first teaching job is twofold: I will use both specific strategies, and my own discernment. Discernment is gut instinct. It is the tiny voice inside you that gravitates towards people you respect or people you know you can learn from. I believe my instincts will enable me to assess the prospective mentors at my teaching job with clarity and a sense of my own self-worth. In terms of specific strategies, I could use the simple tactic of honesty. Because I will be a brand-new teacher, and teachers learn so much from experience and years on the job, I could just make it clear that I was searching for someone to mentor me. That way, I will know that the people who step forth are actively seeking mentees. They will be people who want to willingly share their experiences, trials, and triumphs. Besides discernment and honesty, another strategy I could employ is modeling good behavior. If I rise to the top of my incoming teaching class, stand out, and impress the longer-tenured teachers at the school, I believe that individuals will come forward who want to mentor me and subsequently provide letters of recommendation. I believe good people always want to share what they’ve learned, to continue the legacy of the hard work they’ve done. A combination of these factors will help me find the perfect mentor and transition into my first year of teaching with confidence.
Palmer, R. R. The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800, Volume 1: The Challenge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964.