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Corps Member Monday: What is a Mentor?

March 24, 2014

by Erin Olds, corps member proudly serving on the New Schools for Baton Rouge Entergy Louisiana Team at Broadmoor Middle School

During trips home on weekends or over holidays, I’m sure that most corps members return, already anticipating the question, “Exactly what do you do?”  While from some people, this can be a somewhat threatening question, I felt that it comes from a good place from most of the people who ask me.  They want to know what the average day looked like in the life of a City Year corps member.

I am prepared with props.  I brought my phonics cards with pictures and told them about synonym bingo.  I got several compliments on my bomber and I was asked the question, “How long did it take you to get used to those boots, Erin?”  But when it came to the mentoring part of my position, I wasn’t exactly sure what to say.

“I mentor students,” I answered.  “But it doesn’t feel like mentoring.  It just feels like they’re my friends.”

This response leads me to question, what is a mentor, exactly?  Is a mentor just an excuse to have older/younger friends?  My students ask me for advice and I provide it based on the experience I have, so is it the advice that makes the relationship a “mentorship?” I have a wise friend who is a month younger than myself and I ask her for guidance all the time.  Would our friendship be defined as a “mentorship?”

My students and I write letters back and forth in a notebook. I made two of them hats for Christmas.  We play Flippin’ Frogs during lunch.  They teach me origami and I teach them how to crochet.  I don’t see myself as above my students because of my age, but rather, that we are in different places in our lives.  I’d venture to call this an alliance, a loyalty. It is also called a mentorship.

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