Benjamin Franklin once said: “Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn.”
Roughly two centuries later, educational theorist and social psychologist David A. Kolb was developing the Experiential Learning Model based on the idea that concrete experience is the best way for us to learn about a subject – the ‘getting involved’ that Franklin was talking about. This is in direct contrast to standard academic learning, where the main focus is on passive and reproductive learning.
Of course, people learn in different ways and benefit from different styles and approaches, but often it’s much easier with some sort of teacher or mentor who can help guide us. The beauty of a mentoring approach is that it is flexible and can be personalised for each individual. Whether it’s learning a language, keeping fit, or making decisions about our future, having time with someone who has already acquired the skills or the life experience to inform the learning process is incredibly useful. In other words, a good mentor can make a world of difference.
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The mentor-mentee relationship is a personal one. In this respect, mentors can be a tremendous force for positive change and can assume many identities: role models, consultants, problem solvers or an element of a support network. One excellent but wonderfully simple definition of a mentor is “a professional friend.”
In an article for the Times Higher Education website on the power of mentors, Tom Pailama, professor of classics at the University of Austin in Texas, writes that personal interactions between students and mentors have “helped many of us figure out how we would face our lives ahead… Mentors inspire us and get inside our minds. They let us see who they are and why and how they are who they are, even when they don’t know they are doing so.”
You might well be wondering what all this has to do with a charity that helps and supports the homeless and marginalised? Well, as part of our Freedom Project, Mustard Tree runs a mentoring scheme that we believe provides an extra level of support for those on the programme. Our mentors aim to give our Freedom Project participants the guidance and encouragement that will help them achieve their goals at Mustard Tree and beyond. They work on a one-to-one basis with mentees and, for around an hour a week, help them to achieve targets, such as learning a specific skill, maintaining freedom from an addiction or becoming more work-ready.
If you would like to become a volunteer or skills mentor, take a look at our volunteering page for more details and information on how to apply.
By supporting the Freedom Project in this way it is very likely that you’ll make a positive difference in someone’s life and, like Tom Palaima wrote, that person will remember you as someone who helped them face their life ahead.
Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask.