Contribute to the Future: Become a Mentor
The month of January marks the 12th anniversary of National Mentoring Month, sponsored by the Harvard Mentoring Project, MENTOR, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. The purpose of National Mentoring Month is to recruit volunteer mentors for young people and to spread awareness of the importance of guiding our youth.
When I think back to adults who were important in my life, who influenced who I have become today, my thoughts center around music. Unlike so many children and adolescents, I didn’t struggle with academics.
In fact, I was the annoying kid who quietly worked on the homework assignment for the following day WHILE the teacher was presenting the material. My physics teacher would sometimes ask at the end of class how far I had gotten, as if to point out how much time others should expect was necessary to do their own assignments.
Music, however, is not something which can be done while someone else is lecturing. It is an activity which requires active participation, immediate self-evaluation, effective problem-solving skills, clear vision of a desired outcome, intense concentration, interest, careful reinforcement, patience and a lot of hard work. These are the same skills that we need to tackle other aspects of life.
I have been teaching (and mentoring) others for more than half my life. It is a part of who I am. At times, I have even joked that as a music teacher, I am part cheerleader, part diagnostician, part educator, part child psychologist, part critic, part mentor, and finally, part skilled musician.
Just recently, three of my young horn students auditioned for their respective district honor bands at the middle school level. Each of them prepared carefully and performed well under pressure at their auditions. All three were selected to participate in their district honor bands. I was very proud for them and their accomplishment.
In one email conversation after the audition, a mother sent the follow message: “Thank you for the nice words about Lucy. She really enjoys playing the horn, and I know she enjoys having you as a teacher. It makes me feel good for her to have another positive, encouraging grown-up in her life!”
Over the years, I have realized that the time spent in music lessons is much more important than learning how to play a musical instrument. We develop skills which can be applied to many different situations in life. Not many adults get to spend so much one-on-one time with children to be influential in shaping how they think, feel, and succeed. It is a privilege to be able to do so.
Mentors are vital to shaping our society’s future. I know that guiding others is something which helps me as well. To be a mentor, you don’t really need special skills (as you do to be a music teacher). Mentors just need an ability to listen and to offer friendship, guidance and encouragement.
Mentoring can take place in several community settings: schools, faith-based community, business, and on-line. To find mentoring opportunities in your geographic area, visit the National Mentoring Month website at http://www.nationalmentoringmonth.org/take_action/becomeamentor/
The organization in my local area, the Fairfax Mentoring Partnership (FMP), was established in 1999 to help fill the gap between the number of youth who need mentors and the number of those being served. FMP emphasizes that mentoring works. “Research shows that 46 percent of mentored teens are less likely to use drugs, 59 percent improve academic performance, and 73 percent become more goal-oriented. Mentored kids are more likely to do well in school, develop better relationships with adults, and have improved self-discipline.”
If you ever consider becoming a mentor, I highly recommend it. You will gain as much as you give from the relationship.