What I Learned From Mentoring

By: Melanie Mudarth

UntitledI started mentoring in one form or another when I was in college. I found I really enjoyed getting to know younger students and perhaps the teacher in me felt safe sharing my wisdom. As a teacher I am part of a mentoring program at both the school and district level, as well as online. These various avenues have given me a platform to work with new teachers and teachers who are new to science education. I also spend my mentoring time working with a high school group of girls who are focusing on STEM science fair projects.

Many of us volunteer our time to mentor because we feel like we know something worth sharing. We view mentoring as something we would do to support others. But at this time of the year, when we gather together to share what we are thankful for, I realized just how lucky I am to have gone from mentor to mentee.

I never really thought about what I would learn from mentoring. In the past few years my mentees have continued to find increasingly creative, innovative and often time saving ways of using technology, welcomed me to new technologies and been an incredible supporters as I took new steps in my professional career.

Did you know at one point I had four different calendars? And one of them was a paper one? It took about two sessions with my online mentees before someone called me out on the terrible inefficiency I was allowing to happen. In fact, one of the young women took it upon herself to make me a step-by-step tutorial, with screenshot pictures, explaining how to migrate all my calendars – work, personal, birthday, etc- into one Google calendar- that I can even access on my phone! In no time at all they were also helping me create a LinkedIn profile, update my facebook and set security measures and even explained to me how I was using the # incorrectly on my Instagram account.

These young mentees aren’t just technology geniuses, but also my biggest fans! You will never find a happier, louder more proud cheerleader than a parent. Unless of course you are mentoring high school girls. This year my mentees are the greatest cheering section I have ever had. By sharing with them my challenges in preparing for presentations and paper proposals, they have become excited for me and proud of me in a way that is hard to explain. They want me to succeed. They show their appreciate for my time and guidance by being a support that I didn’t know I needed.   Just before my last presentation, two of my mentees sent me a text, “Knock em’ dead and break a leg!!!!!” The same nuggets I share with them every time they try something new in their research or have to present on their own.

In the role of mentor feel grateful to have found young women who are learning about STEM skills and careers, but also how to support each other and build relationships. As their mentor I have had countless opportunities to flip roles and have learned a lot being a mentee to them as well.

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