I’ve been fortunate to have had a go-to person throughout my life, offering to review a resume or provide tips for an interview. Always grateful for the advice, I jumped on any suggestion for improvement. While it’s obviously important to set yourself apart from the ton of other candidates with similar qualifications, what really made a difference in my career advancement were the mentors who gifted me opportunities. Opportunities that then turned into experience.
I’ve learned a great deal over the years about what mentoring is what it ISN’T. The part of mentorship that I find most humbling is that there has to be a trust among the mentor and mentee. Without that trust, the mentor might not feel comfortable putting the mentee out there with a public responsibility to lead. Reputations could be vulnerable on both ends. And let’s face it. You can’t accept criticism from just anyone either. Trust plays a role there as well, but more importantly, accepting constructive criticism is most effective when there is respect; respect for the mentor’s experience, respect for their character, credibility and much more.
I have come to believe over time that it is more than okay to model yourself after a mentor and aspire to be just like them one day. However, at one point years ago, I found myself becoming a mini version of my mentor(s) losing sight of some attributes that I brought to the table. Had I only realized that I didn’t have to “be them” in order to succeed, I would have explored my own talents and skill sets further. I guess it makes sense. They were in a role that I desired, and we shared many of the same interests and goals. But if you find yourself in a situation like the one described, maintain your confidence, yet don’t beat yourself up. There is or was a reason why you were drawn to your mentor in the first place, so it is both natural and appropriate to emulate and hold on to that connection. Just be YOU! Your originality is key. Your mentors don’t have to be permanently standing on a pedestal. If you think for a second that they can’t learn from you and YOUR example, you’re wrong!
On a similar note, it always bothered me that there was really not much I could give my mentors in return for helping me. No matter how close a relationship we had, it still felt like a bill that hadn’t been paid. Until now. A few months ago, I applied to volunteer my time to mentor PACE University students who are pursuing a career in Education. Having received two Masters Degrees from the institution, one in Curriculum and Instruction and the other in Educational Leadership, I felt a duty to give back to the community, and in doing so, I believed it was an indirect way to give back to those who had mentored me and who still mentor me today. I am thoroughly enjoying the conversations with these students, who are taking my advice so seriously. And finally, I am able to provide them with opportunities that will in turn become experience for their future endeavors. That is what is most gratifying.
Through NYSEC, we have the unique opportunity to recognize our peers for the work that they do by honoring them with various awards. We publish the work of teachers and students worthy of acknowledgement.
Collaboratively, we provide professional development that is meaningful and current. We are all mentors to each other. Let’s continue to help each other grow.
Michelle Kaprinski, 8th Grade House Administrator, Van Wyck Junior High School, NYSEC Past President, NYSEC News Editor