I recently finished my first semester of teaching at the college level. I feel that it wound up being a good semester and that I had a good repore with my class. Unfortunately, of the students who did their evaluations, all were negative.* This is obviously one of those “knife in the heart moments” and it made me realize just how bad I’ve gotten at dealing with negative criticism. At a certain point in my life, I didn’t really have this problem. I took the stance that, if you don’t like what I do, that’s your problem. This isn’t the best attitude to take for teaching though. Teaching, in my view, is not about me. It’s about the students and if I fail them in some regard, then I am failing as a teacher (to an extent). I do know the areas where I didn’t meet the standard and I know exactly why; because I personally didn’t have the knowledge.
I’ve come to teaching in a backwards way. I didn’t study education in my bachelor’s and I had a focus on Literature and Critical Theory in my master’s. To say I’m at an immediate deficit is clear. So what do I need to overcome these things? Honestly, I think I need a mentor.
I’ve always been resistant to the idea of mentorship. The relationship between mentor/mentee is one that I haven’t purposefully sought. As a good American, I had pretty much bought individualism hook, line and sinker. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to critique that notion and what I think I’ve discovered is that it is antithetical to mentorship. It assumes that you can’t do it on your own. That you need help. That there is someone wiser than you, who can teach you. In the face of harsh individualism, at least the form I grew up believing in, it was always, “I’m smart enough, good enough, and can do it on my own.”
The past few months, I served in a mentor like capacity for a friend of mine and it was really good. Even though this has ended, it’s helped to solidify the idea of mentorship into my mind. I need someone to mentor me, to teach me how to be a better teacher myself. More so than that, I think I need someone to talk to who can give me solid advice for life. I don’t know where to find this person, but I do recognize the need. Until then, I’ll just push forward with as much humility, drive, and passion as I can muster and get as much help along the way as I can find.
Do you think a mentor is a good thing? Why or Why not?
*To be totally honest though, it was only a small fraction who did the online evaluations. I imagine if the few who had shook my hand at the end of class and told me they enjoyed it had done theirs, it would have been a more complete picture. As it stands, from a purely course evaluation picture, it looks like I was an absent minded, contradictory, never-there professor.