January is National Mentoring Month and in celebration of that, we will feature several guest blogs from professionals regarding the importance of mentoring.
What is the value of mentoring?
Mentoring is a valuable experience not only for the mentee, but for the mentor. Mentoring provides the opportunity for two individuals to cross paths to learn and grow from one another. The mentoring experience allows for someone to make a difference in the life of a mentee. The true test will be if the mentor made a lasting impression on their mentee later in life.
An asset-driven approach, where mentors seek the assets of the mentees and provide verbal affirmation of the gifts and talents that they bring to their own learning experience, promotes a growth mindset in believing in the full human potential of the children they serve. Making a difference for all students is the hallmark of the success of all educators! Truly, sustaining a legacy that fosters a sense of belief in the human potential is the goal of a lasting imprint that we bestow upon the children we serve.
Why is mentoring particularly critical to underserved populations?
Mentoring is particularly critical to underserved populations because it gives them access to someone that will be a positive influence in their life.
According to Brianna Jones, in The Impact of Mentoring School-Aged Youth Facing Challenges in School, “Children need mentors who will serve as role models and encourage them to be better and to do better. They need adults to tell them they are proud of them and their accomplishments”. Mentees need not only a role model, but an advocate who will value their cultural and socio-economic background. There are many underserved populations that are not familiar with the school system or overall structure in a school, district, or state. A mentee needs an influential person who can guide them in providing support, guidance, and direction. Many parents of students do not know how to best support their child/children.
We do what we do for our students so that they can choose their own future and not have it chosen for them. – Ignacio Ruiz
What’s the most important thing mentors need to know when working with underserved populations?
In my opinion, there are four qualities a mentor needs to know when working with underserved populations. The first quality is the ability to build rapport or a relationship with the mentee. There are times, especially if the mentee lacks a positive influence in their life, the mentor will be the only adult in their life. The mentor may be the only healthy relationship in the mentee’s life. The second quality is to understand where the mentee is emotionally in their life. There may be life circumstances occurring in the mentee’s life that the mentor may not be aware of. There could be moments where the mentee has a rough day and the mentor needs to be available emotionally. The third quality is to be an active and engaged listener. We just can’t be passive when mentoring someone from an underserved population. We have to be all in! They have to feel that someone values who they are as a person. Lastly, a mentor has to be genuine and sincere.
Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. – Theodore Roosevelt
What’s the best way for someone to find a mentor who best meets their needs and aligns with their background and experiences?
In order for someone to have a positive experience with a mentor, they need to reflect on what qualities a mentor should have. One should select a mentor who empathizes and genuinely cares for the mentee. The mentee needs to have that sense that someone truly has their best interests at heart and will guide them personally and emotionally during their educational career. Students should look to their school counselor or trusted adult as their mentor. The school counselor or trusted adult can support students with developing skills that support academic achievement, high school graduation, and lifelong learning. A school counselor or trusted adult can maximize the mentee’s personal and social development.
We need to better understand what constitutes “high quality” mentorship, counseling, and advising. By having the best knowledge of “high quality” mentorship, we can successfully guide our students through their postsecondary path. Students need to demonstrate initiative securing an ideal mentor that meets their needs.
Did you have a mentor? If yes, what value did you find from it? What did it mean to you?
I have had many mentors throughout my life. As a child, my mentors were my teachers and principals. I still remember my social studies teacher who always took the time to sit with me and talk to me about the importance not only of an education, but how that education would not only impact my life, but also the life of other Latinos after me. Professionally, my mentors built a close relationship to really listen and wanted to know what my aspirations were and how they could help me. Taking the time to point out learning opportunities and to place me in situations where I would also grow to build upon my knowledge and have the tools to reach my goals, is what I remember most. My mentors valued me as a person and were always honest and genuine with me. They helped me believe in myself.
“If not now, then when? If not me, then who?”- Malcolm X
Ignacio Ruiz is the assistant superintendent of the English Language Learner (ELL) division for the Clark County School District, the fifth largest school district in the nation. With the call to ensure every student has access to an equitable learning experience, Mr. Ruiz previously held the position of director of the language acquisition department in Tucson Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona, overseeing several programs such as English Language Development, Dual Language, World Languages, curriculum and assessment for English Language Learners and the interpreter/translator division. He brings broad experience in educational leadership where he has held several leadership positions including, assistant principal, principal, director, and his current role.
During his first year with the Clark County School District and under his leadership he successfully collaborated with key stakeholders to analyze the district need as it pertains to ELL and created a comprehensive master plan for ELL success.
Mr. Ruiz is the president and founder of the Nevada Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. Mr. Ruiz recently completed the McCourt School of Public Policy in Educational Leadership and Management from Georgetown University. Mr. Ruiz was recognized in 2014 by Luz Social Services as Administrator of the Year.