During my academic experience as an EAL (English as an Additional Language) Teacher at Strathallan College in Scotland, I fully grasped the meaning of what a mentor and mentorship are. I still remember the very day when I met one of my Mentors and best friends, Mr. Alasdair McMorrine, the Head of the Arts Department at Strathallan. He is exactly a modern embodiment of what the Italian scholars of the Renaissance had called a «uomo totale». He is a gifted Professor, a true Diplomat, a connaisseur, a well travelled man and a bookish person with a refined sense of humour.
Well, a good teacher in the role of a mentor is a «uomo totale».
What is the definition of this Italian collocation ? Well, due to the fact I am keen on the Italian culture and civilization, I will try to give a subtle definition. In arts, Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing “Vitruvian Man” epitomizes the definition of a perfect, accomplished man. This exquisite image exemplifies the blend of art and science during the Renaissance and provides the perfect example of Leonardo’s keen interest in proportion. Leonardo envisaged the great picture chart of the human body he had produced through his anatomical drawings and Vitruvian Man as a cosmografia del minor mondo The mentor is for his mentees a good example first of all, he has lots of knowledge from many fields, he is endowed with personal qualities such as charisma, vision, clarity and he is a “Great Seducer”. It is only with the precious help and inspiration of a mentor, that a disciple can find his way in life, accomplish his Destiny. A teacher mentor praises interaction which is the sine qua non condition for the personal development. Both mentors and mentees see interaction and proper communication as core values that need to be continuously improved and cherished.
At Strahallan College I had the opportunity to give a lecture on the “Romanian Diplomacy after the First World War”, to a group of British students. They listened carefully and with vivid interest to my speech and to the debated issues around this theme. When the lecture ended, the enthusiasm of the students smiling broadly, clapping their hands, made me think that devoted disciples recognize, and are on the lookout for a mentor, someone to be in front of them, with them, for them only.
Mentors help their disciples to excel in a subject, sport they are good at. He will nurture and support them to become the best. Sometimes the mentees surprise us, teachers mentors, and the interesting fact is that sometimes they surprise themselves. This is amazing.
In this written discourse, I will prioritise the most important qualities and skills of a mentor. You will fully understand the reason why I compared the teacher mentor to a «uomo totale», a complete human being. This simile is the main idea of my article.
It is always a great challenge to sum up the virtues of a mentor in a few words as teachers are complex entities. However, when I am asked to do so, I like to describe the mentor as a father figure who seeks to realise each child’s full personal potential – academic and otherwise in a positive learning environment based on moral values.
I was deeply impressed with the Education of the students at Strathallan. The mentors prepared them to be mature, pragmatic, energetic and enthusiastic. The teacher mentor aims also to ensure that his disciples, the students, achieve a true breadth of vision and depth of understanding which prepares them effectively for life beyond the College – within the wider community, in higher education and in the world of work.
A mentor gives examples, respects his mentees’ ideas, relates theory to practice, has the inner power to convince or persuade and has the highly praised gift to convey knowledge in a clear, organised way.
The ultimate purpose of a mentor is excellence for his students no matter what their particular strengths and starting points. The teacher mentor has awareness, he is able to evaluate and to give permanent feedback. He also highlights the ability to give real life examples and to be the very example for his disciples, in his turn. The mentor has his mysterious aura and has the unique capacity to inspire students in their choices and enthuse them.
I always remember the beautiful words and the pieces of advice of my Scottish Mentor and great friend, Mr. Alasdair McMorrine. How shall I forget the collocation “intelligent work“ and the witty phrases during our discussions in the Arts Department and on the way to our fantastic trips to Rosslyn Chapel, Stirling Castle and Loch Laggan in Highlands.
In conclusion, it is clear that a mentor is “juggling” with many skills and competences.
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This article is a revised version of the text published in ASACHIANA – Revistă de biblioteconomie şi de cercetări interdisciplinare. VOL. 2-3, 2014-2015 – online: https://www.bjiasi.ro/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/ASACHIANA-2.pdf (p.26)