Printer Friendly
The Free Library
22,728,043 articles and books

Teachers mentors of children: teachers and children share much of their day together, and so certainly have an important influence on each other. But are teachers mentors of children? Do teachers perceive themselves as mentors.

I recently participated in a conference, sponsored by an organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse, that focused on the mentoring of children and adolescents. The underlying assumption was that mentoring by a caring person, either adult, older youth, or peer, might help all children and particularly at-risk children, who are often vulnerable for child abuse. This assumption is supported by research on resiliency The ability to recover from a failure. The term may be applied to hardware, software or data. , which suggests that a caring adult can be a protective factor for children who are at risk. As an early childhood teacher educator, I naturally thought about the role of teachers and whether they are or can be mentors for children. Teachers and children share much of their day together, and so certainly have an important influence on each other. But are teachers mentors of children? Do teachers perceive themselves as mentors? Is the mentoring role compatible with the teacher's role? How does the teacher-student relationship overlap or differ from the mentor-mentee role? Are there benefits for children and teachers having a mentoring relationship?

Most of the professional literature on teachers as mentors focuses on teachers mentoring other adult educational professionals, particularly new teachers entering the profession (Elliot et al., 2000; Enerson, 2001; Jones, 1986; Martin & Ashelman, 1999; Thornburg, 2001; Whitebook & Bellm, 1996). Much of the literature on children mentored in schools describes the use of adults from the community participating in the school as volunteer mentors of a t-risk children (Ryan, Whittaker, & Pinckney, 2002; Townsel, 1997). The roles of these community adults vary from offering guidance, having a special relationship, or tutoring their mentee men·tee  
One who is mentored.

[ment(or) + -ee1.]
 children in academic subjects. Other articles describe projects in which teachers serve as mentors and often as academic tutors of individual children outside of the classroom (Abcug, 1991; Anderson Anderson, river, Canada
Anderson, river, c.465 mi (750 km) long, rising in several lakes in N central Northwest Territories, Canada. It meanders north and west before receiving the Carnwath River and flowing north to Liverpool Bay, an arm of the Arctic
 & Blackwood blackwood, name for several trees, especially an acacia. , 2000; Donahue, 1996; Ellis ELLIS - EuLisp LInda System. An object-oriented Linda system written for EuLisp. "Using Object-Oriented Mechanisms to Describe Linda", P. Broadbery <> et al, in Linda-Like Systems and Their Implementation, G. Wilson ed, U Edinburgh TR 91-13, 1991. , Small-McGinley, & DeFabrizio, 1999; Fehr, 1993; Hylan & Postlethwaite, 1998). Experience in school settings suggests that education professionals functioning outside of the regular classroom, such as a sports coach, activity adviser, or counselor, are often mentors for individual children. However, few articles describe the process of teaching itself as mentoring or study regular classroom teachers mentoring children within the classroom (Benard, 1997; Duff & Home, 1997; Parese, 2002; Shreffler, 1998).

This discussion of classroom teachers serving as mentors of children draws from the literature on the origin of mentoring, the definition of mentoring, and the current theory on the characteristics and qualities that define an excellent mentor-mentee relationship. Parallels between the study of adult mentoring relationships and the teacher-child relationship will be described, as will the benefits of a mentoring relationship for both the children and the teacher.

Origin and Definition of Mentoring

The origin of mentoring can be found in the ancient Greek Noun 1. Ancient Greek - the Greek language prior to the Roman Empire
Greek, Hellenic, Hellenic language - the Hellenic branch of the Indo-European family of languages
 epic poem Noun 1. epic poem - a long narrative poem telling of a hero's deeds
epic, heroic poem, epos

poem, verse form - a composition written in metrical feet forming rhythmical lines

chanson de geste - Old French epic poems
 The Odyssey Odyssey (ŏd`ĭsē): see Homer.


Homer’s long, narrative poem centered on Odysseus. [Gk. Lit.: Odyssey]

See : Epic

 by Homer Homer, principal figure of ancient Greek literature; the first European poet. Works, Life, and Legends

Two epic poems are attributed to Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey.
 (Zachary, 2000). In the poem, before Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War Trojan War, in Greek mythology, war between the Greeks and the people of Troy. The strife began after the Trojan prince Paris abducted Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta. When Menelaus demanded her return, the Trojans refused.  he gives the responsibility of nurturing his son Telemachus to his loyal friend, Mentor Mentor, in Greek mythology
Mentor (mĕn`tər, –tôr'), in Greek mythology, friend of Odysseus and tutor of Telemachus.
. Mentor is charged with educating his friend's son not only in the martial arts This is a list of martial arts, broken down by region and style. African martial arts
  • Testa
  • Dambe (Hausa Boxing)
South Africa
  • Nguni stick fighting
  • Rough and Tumble
 but also in every facet facet /fac·et/ (fas´it) a small plane surface on a hard body, as on a bone.

1. A small smooth area on a bone or other firm structure.

 of life. The relationship between Mentor and Telemachus is not without its difficulties; Mentor needs to make Telemachus aware of his mistakes without having Telemachus become rebellious re·bel·lious  
1. Prone to or participating in a rebellion: rebellious students.

2. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a rebel or rebellion: rebellious behavior.
. In fact, one of Mentor's goals is to guide Telemachus so that he will learn from his mistakes (Zachary, 2000).

In this traditional definition of mentoring, the mentor is the source of wisdom, guidance, and expertise, who shares his knowledge with the mentee. The mentor is often an older, more experienced person who is committed to helping the younger, less experienced person become better prepared in all aspects and arenas of life--intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual development; work life; and personal life. Mentoring may be defined as the deliberate pairing of a more skilled or experienced person with a less skilled person, with the agreed-upon goal of having the less skilled person grow and develop (Hylan & Postlethwaite, 1998; Townsel, 1997; Zachary, 2000). The mentor is considered to have excellent character and models a high standard of behavior. The mentor sets high expectations of performance and character for the mentee and is able to motivate the mentee in "new ways to be" (Zachary, 2000). The relationship is based on mutual respect, trust, and caring. This traditional view of mentoring reminds me of the play and motion picture Camelot, in which Arthur seeks the advice of his wise, old mentor Merlin Merlin, in Arthurian legend, magician, seer, and teacher at the court of King Vortigern and later at the court of King Arthur. He was a bard and culture hero in early Celtic folklore. In Arthurian legend he is famous as a magician and as the counselor of King Arthur.  on the ways of becoming a king and ruler, as well as on the ways to "handle a woman."

Traditional Roles of Teacher and Student

The traditional view of mentoring seems consistent with the traditional roles of teacher and student. The role of teacher is the wise expert who imparts knowledge to the less skilled or knowledgeable students. The students' role is to listen to the teacher and learn. The teacher's responsibility is to offer insight into the subject matter, make the students aware of their mistakes, and guide them so that they learn from their mistakes. Teachers maintain high expectations for their students and motivate them to learn. Unlike the traditional mentor, however, they typically are not responsible for all areas of life, but rather only for academic and intellectual development.

Mentoring As a Learning Relationship

Current theory about the mentoring process with adult mentors and adult mentees interprets the roles of mentor and mentee differently. Lois Zachary, in The Mentor's Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships (2000), describes mentoring as a learning relationship in which both the mentor and the mentee gain knowledge. The relationship is based on mutual respect, trust, shared goals, and a commitment to growth and change in both parties. As part of the growth experience, both partners must reveal themselves, risk making mistakes, and accept each other's strengths and weaknesses. Through a collaborative relationship, both the mentor and the mentee achieve their goals and personally grow and develop (Zachary, 2000).

The mentor is a facilitative partner in an evolving relationship, focused on the mentee's learning goals and objectives. The mentor's role is changed from "'sage on the stage' to 'guide on the side'" (Zachary, 2000, p. 3). The traditional roles of authoritarian teacher and passive learners no longer exist. In this mentoring paradigm, the mentor and mentee share the responsibility for learning, setting priorities and learning objectives, and acquiring needed resources.

According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 Zachary (2000), the mentor facilitates the learning process by: 1) establishing a positive climate for learning; 2) involving the learner in planning how and what they will learn; 3) setting realistic expectations for the learner; 4) providing a vision of the whole learning situation; 5) asking questions, offering alternatives, and challenging the mentee's thought processes This is a list of thinking styles, methods of thinking (thinking skills), and types of thought. See also the List of thinking-related topic lists, the List of philosophies and the . ; 6) creating a tension or challenge that motivates the resolution of problems; 7) listening carefully to what the mentee is saying and not saying; and 8) giving the mentee a helping hand when needed.

Just as important, the mentor and mentee engage in reflective Refers to light hitting an opaque surface such as a printed page or mirror and bouncing back. See reflective media and reflective LCD.  thinking throughout the process (Zachary, 2000). The mentor, reflecting critically on his or her own prior learning experiences, models for the mentee critical reflection on the current learning experience. The reflection leads the mentor to practical, specific feedback about the learning. Together, the mentor and mentee reflect on their progress toward their goals, determine how to continue the learning process, and acknowledge and celebrate their achievements. The critical reflection process and a disposition of openness to learning from each other can result in new insights and valuable new skills for both the mentor and the mentee (Zachary, 2000).

Teaching As a Mutual Learning Relationship

The view of mentoring as a learning relationship between the mentor and mentee is consistent with the current approaches to education based on the constructivist con·struc·tiv·ism  
A movement in modern art originating in Moscow in 1920 and characterized by the use of industrial materials such as glass, sheet metal, and plastic to create nonrepresentational, often geometric objects.
 philosophy. One program that employs such collaboration is the widely respected Reggio Emilia approach The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. It was started by the parents of the villages around Reggio Emilia in Italy after World War II..... ....  to early childhood education (Edwards, Gandini, & Forman, 1998). In this approach, children, with their unique strengths and potential, are viewed as powerful, capable learners who construct their own knowledge through work on long-term projects. The projects, based on the children's interests, are in-depth explorations of a topic over an extended period of time (Katz & Chard, 1989; Trepanier-Street, 1993). In project work, children, in collaboration with each other and the teacher, decide what they already know, what they want to know, how they will explore, what materials they need, and what they will accomplish (Trepanier-Street, 2000; Trepanier-Street, Gregory, & Bauer, 1999). Children grow and develop through collaborative interactions and relationships among peers, the teachers, families, the community, and the environment.

In the Reggio Emilia approach, the role of the teacher is that of facilitator, resourceful re·source·ful  
Able to act effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations.

re·sourceful·ly adv.
 partner, and provocateur pro·vo·ca·teur  
An agent provocateur.

Noun 1. provocateur - a secret agent who incites suspected persons to commit illegal acts
agent provocateur
 of learning. To support the project work, the teacher keenly observes the children's actions and interactions, listens closely to their spoken and unspoken language, and documents their actions, interactions, and language. Together, the children and teacher review the documentation, reflect on their learning, acknowledge their accomplishments, and determine further project explorations. Joint reflection on learning helps both the children and the teacher to analyze successful problem-solving strategies and consolidate and refine their thinking. Through observing, listening, and documenting, the teacher sends the message to the children that they and their ideas are respected and valued. By reflecting on the documentation, the teacher gains new insights into the children's learning process, the effectiveness of teaching methods and strategies that promote and extend children's development, and the teacher's own professional development.

Convincing the Skeptics

Some critics are skeptical about teachers and children engaging in a mentor-mentee learning relationship. Some might point out that teachers just do not have the time to develop positive mentoring relationships with children, even if they thought it was important and desirable. Given the large number of children in each classroom and the current pressure and emphasis on academic achievement and assessment, they doubt teachers have the time to develop strong, collaborative, personal learning relationships with children.

Some also may say it is not the teacher's role to have intense relationships with children. Children come from too many different home environments, and their social and emotional needs stemming from home and community problems are just too great. The teacher, unable to meet these needs or solve these problems, must focus only on the academic needs of the children within the classroom. Furthermore, some believe that in this litigious litigious adj. referring to a person who constantly brings or prolongs legal actions, particularly when the legal maneuvers are unnecessary or unfounded. Such persons often enjoy legal battles, controversy, the courtroom, the spotlight, use the courts to punish  society, relationships with children are just too risky for the teacher. Also, intense relationships can lead to teacher "burnout Burnout

Depletion of a tax shelter's benefits. In the context of mortgage backed securities it refers to the percentage of the pool that has prepaid their mortgage.
" (Shreffler, 1998).

Other critics may argue that some communities or families believe that a teacher should have an authoritarian teaching approach, and that the mentoring relationship gives too much power to children. Others may believe that mentoring as a learning relationship puts too much of a burden on children; that is, they believe that setting goals is the responsibility of the adult, or that children are not capable of handling so much responsibility for their own learning. In addition, some critics may see the teacher's role as evaluator of children's learning as incompatible incompatible adj. 1) inconsistent. 2) unmatching. 3) unable to live together as husband and wife due to irreconcilable differences. In no-fault divorce states, if one of the spouses desires to end the marriage, that fact proves incompatibility, and a divorce  with the mentor role. The mentoring relationship may unduly influence the evaluation, or evaluation may in some way destroy the relationship. While some of the above criticisms may have some validity, the dilemmas they present can be resolved. Resolution could result in many important and valuable benefits for both the teacher and children involved in a mentoring relationship.


The potential numerous and life-changing benefits of a mentoring relationship between a teacher and child can far outweigh out·weigh  
tr.v. out·weighed, out·weigh·ing, out·weighs
1. To weigh more than.

2. To be more significant than; exceed in value or importance: The benefits outweigh the risks.
 the cost in time and effort for all involved. Through the mentoring experience, the children come to see themselves as capable, competent, and empowered people with unique strengths, worthy of valuing by self and others. Children realize that they can set goals, have high standards and learning expectations, and successfully achieve these standards and goals. They view themselves as problem solvers, decision makers, and constructors of their own knowledge and learning. The mentoring relationship gives children the opportunity to work collaboratively with others, developing many personal interaction skills helpful in future relationships.

Benard (1997) describes the power of a "turnaround Turnaround

A situation where a company that has had poor performance for an extended period of time experiences a positive reversal.

A speculator may profit from a turnaround if he or she accurately anticipates the improvement of a poorly performing company.
" teacher, a mentor teacher who helps children, particularly at-risk children, to tip the scale from risk to resilience resilience (r·zilˑ·yens),
. Such teachers are willing to share power with children, develop caring relationships, and have positive and high expectations. Turnaround mentor teachers are child-centered, recognize children's strengths rather than their deficits, and use the strengths, interests, goals, and dreams of children as the starting point Noun 1. starting point - earliest limiting point
terminus a quo

commencement, get-go, offset, outset, showtime, starting time, beginning, start, kickoff, first - the time at which something is supposed to begin; "they got an early start"; "she knew from the
 for learning (Benard, 1997). As a consequence of having a relationship with a turnaround mentor teacher, at-risk children develop resilience; that is, they gain the capacity to transform or to change, no matter what the risk. Children learn resilience skills, such as the ability to form relationships and gain social competence; problem solve, plan, and develop metacognitive skills; practice independence and autonomy; and develop a sense of identity (Benard, 1997). Townsel (1997) shares a similar view about mentoring at-risk children, suggesting that mentoring be built on the "Challenge Model," in which children move from fear to the power and pride of being competent.

Most critically, as a result of the mentoring experience, all children, even those at risk, can experience hope (Benard, 1997; Duff & Horne, 1997; Townsel, 1997). They can gain a sense of purpose and feel ready and able to survive difficult circumstances CIRCUMSTANCES, evidence. The particulars which accompany a fact.
     2. The facts proved are either possible or impossible, ordinary and probable, or extraordinary and improbable, recent or ancient; they may have happened near us, or afar off; they are public or
. Lisa Horne, a young African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race.  woman reflecting on her teaching in a large urban high school and on the mentors in her life, writes that the origin of "the word educate means to draw out. If we take the time as teachers and mentors to draw out the best qualities of our students, we can renew hope. They will be able to exceed their own expectations as well as anyone else's. This is what mentors did for me" (Duff & Horne, 1997, p. 73).

The benefits for the teacher in a mentoring relationship with children are similar to the benefits described by Zachary (2000) for an adult mentoring relationship. As a result of a mentoring learning relationship, the teacher is renewed in purpose, has expanded energy for professional and personal growth, and is more satisfied in her professional and personal life. Through reflection on the mentoring learning process, the teacher learns new ways of interacting with children, determines and practices effective teaching strategies and methods, develops the curriculum, and assesses student progress. As a mentor, the teacher experiences revitalization re·vi·tal·ize  
tr.v. re·vi·tal·ized, re·vi·tal·iz·ing, re·vi·tal·iz·es
To impart new life or vigor to: plans to revitalize inner-city neighborhoods; tried to revitalize a flagging economy.
, further empowerment em·pow·er  
tr.v. em·pow·ered, em·pow·er·ing, em·pow·ers
1. To invest with power, especially legal power or official authority. See Synonyms at authorize.

, and a deep and profound satisfaction from developing a strong relationship and connection with children. Mentoring as a learning relationship can challenge the teacher to become the best teacher possible.


Engaging in a learning mentoring relationship requires much time, effort, energy, risk-taking, and commitment on the part of children and teachers. However, the benefits of such a relationship are numerous, profound, and rewarding for all those involved. I challenge teachers to initiate learning mentoring relationships with the children in their classroom.


Abcug, L. (1991). Teachers achieving success with kids (TASK): A teacher-student mentorship program for at-risk students The term at-risk students is used to describe students who are "at risk" of failing academically, for one or more of any several reasons. The term can be used to describe a wide variety of students, including,
  1. ethnic minorities
  2. academically disadvantaged
. Florida. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 330974).

Anderson, V., & Blackwood, J. (2000). M&M: A sweet deal for students and faculty. Principal Leadership, 1(2), 46-48.

Benard, B. (1997). Turning it around for all youth: From risk to resilience. (Report No. EDO-UD-97-7). New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 412309)

Donahue, C. (1996). Mentors fight failure. NEA NEA
1. National Education Association

2. National Endowment for the Arts

NEA (US) n abbr (= National Education Association) → Verband für das Erziehungswesen
 Today, 15(3), 21.

Duff, O. B., & Home, L. (1997). Rainbow teachers, rainbow students: Reflections: "Why can't I?" English Journal, 86(2), 73-75.

Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. (1998). The hundred languages of children. Greenwich, CT: Ablex.

Elliot, K., Farris, M., Alvarado, C., Peters, C., Surr, W., Genser, A., & Chin, E. (2000). The power of mentoring. Taking the lead: Investing in early childhood leadership for the 21st century. Boston: The Center for Career Development in Early Care and Education at Wheelock College History
In 1888, Lucy Wheelock began a kindergarten teacher training class at the Chauncy-Hall School. In 1914, the school moved to its current location on the Riverway in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1939, Wheelock School incorporated into a non-profit college.

Ellis, J., Small-McGinley, J., & DeFabrizio, L. (1999). "It's so great to have an adult friend": A teacher-student mentorship program for at-risk youth. Reaching Today's Youth: The Community Circle of Caring Journal, 3(4), 46-50.

Enerson, D. M. (2001). Mentoring as metaphor: An opportunity for innovation and renewal. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 85, 7-13.

Fehr, D. E. (1993). When faculty and staff mentor students in inner-city schools. Middle School Journal, 25(1), 65-67.

Hylan, I., & Postlethwaite, K. (1998). The success of teacher-pupil mentoring in raising standards of achievement. Education & Training, 40(2/3), 68-78.

Jones, E. (1986). Teaching adults: An active approach. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is the largest nonprofit association in the United States representing early childhood education teachers, experts, and advocates in center-based and family day care. .

Katz, L., & Chard, S. (1989). Engaging children's minds: The project approach. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Martin, A., & Ashelman, P. (1999). Mentoring in early childhood settings. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Parese, S. B. (2002). "It ain't like she's my mother": Tyanna's red flag intervention A procedure used in a lawsuit by which the court allows a third person who was not originally a party to the suit to become a party, by joining with either the plaintiff or the defendant. . Reclaiming
For the neopagan organization of this name, see Reclaiming (neopaganism). For the reclaiming of land, see land reclamation.
To reclaim is to bring a word back to a more acceptable course.
 Children and Youth, 10(4), 246-250.

Ryan, S., Whittaker, C. R., & Pinckney, J. (2002). A school-based elementary mentoring program. Preventing School Failure, 46(3), 133-138.

Shreffler, M. R. (1998). Raising a village: Whitemale teachers as role models for African American male students. The Journal of Negro Education The Journal of Negro Education (JNE) is a refereed scholarly periodical founded at Howard University in 1932 to fill the need for a scholarly journal that would identify and define the problems that characterized the education of Black people in the United States and elsewhere, , 67(2), 91-95.

Thornburg, K. (2001). The gift of mentoring. Young Children, 56(3), 4-5.

Townsel, K. T. (1997). Mentoring African American youth. Preventing School Failure, 41(3), 125-127.

Trepanier-Street, M. (1993). What's so new about the project approach? Childhood Education, 70, 25-28.

Trepanier-Street, M. (2000). Multiple forms of representation in long-term projects: The garden project. Childhood Education, 77, 18-25.

Trepanier-Street, M., Gregory, L., & Bauer, J. (1999). Child directed learning: The project approach. Offspring off·spring
1. The progeny or descendants of a person, animal, or plant considered as a group.

2. A child of particular parentage.
, 41(2), 12-15.

Whitebook, M., & Bellm, D. (1996). Mentoring for early childhood teachers and providers: Building upon and extending tradition. Young Children, 52(1), 59-64.

Zachary, L. (2000). The mentor's guide: Facilitating effective learning relationships. San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden : Jossey-Bass.

Mary Trepanier-Street is Professor, Early Childhood, University of Michigan-dearborn The University of Michigan-Dearborn, located in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, is part of the University of Michigan system. It was established in 1959 after a gift of 196 acres (793,000 m²) from the Ford Motor Company. .
COPYRIGHT 2004 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Trepanier-Street, Mary
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2004
Previous Article:Through the eyes of my reader: a strategy for improving audience perspective in children's descriptive writing.
Next Article:Weighing in on the issue of childhood obesity: an overweight child often becomes the target of discrimination and ridicule on the playground....

Related Articles
Combining web-based training and mentorship to improve technology integration in the K-12 classroom.
Mentoring new teachers: promise and problems in times of teacher shortage.
Mentoring for Quality Improvement: a Case Study of a Teacher Leader in the Reform Process.
Teacher Structure and Child Care Quality in Preschool Classrooms.
Increasing self-efficacy through mentoring.
What predicts student teacher self-efficacy?
Impact of mentoring on teacher efficacy.
Measuring the self-efficacy of mentor teachers.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters