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Reply To: Merlin . . . & the Lost Art of Mentorship, with Dr. John Bucher

John Bucher

Mary, these are wonderful questions and ideas to think about. Here are some brief initial thoughts about the individual items you raised.

1) I have experienced this exact thing, where among a large class of peers, I sought the teacher as a mentors. When I have been so bold, the teachers have answered that call, except for in one particular instance. The alchemical recipe must be there between mentor and mentee, but I think most often it occurs when the student requests the mentor’s wisdom as the initial step forward.

2) I think the magic between mentor and student can occur in any class, regardless of size. However, because of the often-personal nature of mentorship, my inclination is that it occurs more frequently in small groups. In a larger group, a student might take more responsibility for applying, expanding, and amplifying the mentor’s words, knowing direct access might be more challenging in that larger setting.

3) Reciprocal approaches that a mentor in a large setting might consider could be 1) Scheduling small group meetings, where the members in a group have more direct access to the mentor than they would in the larger setting. 2) Personalizing feedback to students when possible in the larger setting. 3) Offering an off-site gathering one evening for socializing with the mentor.

I have a friend whose work brought him great acclaim and so many individuals desired his mentorship that he simply couldn’t honor the requests or it would be all he did.He told me that one of the hardest lessons he had to learn was that whenever you gain something, you also lose something. He gained great popularity and acclaim for his work. However, he lost the ability to offer personal mentoring with most people that approached him. I think this is a balance that must be considered in this conversation as well.

4) The same friend I just mentioned also told me that when he was supposed to mentor someone, he just knew, whether they explicitly asked or not. I think there is much truth to this. When the right moment rises, you just know.

5) I love this question and am going to think more about it. I think you might be on to something here. I need to give it more thought.

6) I think the questions you pose here get back to this bifurcation (that often is gray and unclear) between teachers and mentors. I certainly have had negative experiences with teachers that taught me a great deal. I think we often learn from those that don’t have our best interests in mind. In my own thinking about mentors, I think a mentor, in the most ideal sense, is invested in their mentee. I think they hold that individual’s best interests in mind, so I think negative influences and examples would rarely fall into the category of “mentor” for me, thought they often fall into the realm of “teachers.”

Loving these insightful questions!