How to Improve Teaching: 10 Ways Including Mentors in the Classroom Boosts Engagement

Including Mentors in the Classroom Boosts Engagement

This post is part of a 4-part series highlighting how teachers can put the IB Learner Profile into practice and expand their students’ consciousness.

As an IB teacher, you already know the unique challenges of teaching the pillars of the International Baccalaureate Learner Profile in your students. Educating a new generation of citizens of the world means rethinking the process of value, attitude, and behavioral acquisition (Wells, 2011), and this is no small feat. With this in mind, how can you “develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world?” In other words, how can you, as a teacher, cultivate more conscious students?

In this post, we will offer some insight from other educators who are seeing the positive effects that mentorship is having on student consciousness in their classrooms.

Previously, we discussed how your students becoming inquirers and becoming open-minded are essential parts of teaching to fulfill the goals of the IB Learner Profile. One of the determining factors in teaching students to cultivate these complementary lifelong values is connecting them to the people that make them want to ask more questions, and those that expand their consciousness to a diversity of answers. These are the influencers in their lives whose impact is durable and consistent. These are their mentors.

What is a mentor?

Mentors provide guidance and serve as role models for important decisions in one’s life. They have been there, done that. The adage stands true: students cannot be what they cannot see. For a student searching for a personal identity in the world, and expanding their consciousness, mentorship provides an answer to the most pressing academic and professional career decisions they are undertaking every day. Traditional mentorship is a long-term process, but the world’s brightest minds are capable of offering byte-sized chunks of expertise that make mentorship digestible and accessible to students in any age group. As a teacher, you can connect students to their mentors.

Preparing IB students to be exceptional

The IB mission aims to prepare IB students to make “exceptional contributions” on campus and beyond – but how does this happen in practice? Part of becoming exceptional is being able to see other exceptional people as your future self. As a teacher, you are your students’ primary role model – indeed, you are one of their mentors – every single day. And, you have the power to open up their circle of influence even further.

What educators who use mentors in their classrooms show us: 10 Takeaways

Educators who are connecting students with mentors aligned to their curriculum and lesson plans see the positive benefits across a range of outcomes. Testimonials of educators like you speaking to the impact of mentorship in their classrooms show us that:

1. Mentors empower students.

Above all, student empowerment is the goal of a forward-thinking classroom. Rose T., an educator who highlights the importance of inquiry-based learning in her classroom emphasized that her students’ mentor, empowered them to “find the answer within [themselves], as well as in their network.” Giving students the tools for self-exploration is one of the ways they become empowered in their own learning journeys.

2. Mentors get students asking questions – and answer them well.

Lucy B., an educator who brought multiple mentors to her classroom, explained that one of the mentors she worked with,  “encouraged the students to ask questions and was frank and thought provoking in his responses.” Posing well thought, higher-order questions is motivating when a student has the expectation that someone with a bright mind – a thought leader – will be willing to answer with depth of insight.

3. Mentors, as experts in their fields, are able to help students digest difficult concepts more clearly and easily.

Lucy B. also saw how a mentor’s expertise can make imparting information to students a breeze. As leaders in their fields, mentors can break down thoughts that are otherwise complex. A mentor speaking to the complexities of the US college application process “managed to present the information in a way that was accessible to our students. She used personal relevant examples and made sure that the knowledge she imparted was understood.”

4. Mentors highlight the importance of sharing ideas through discussion

Dave D. highlighted how peer-to-peer learning disrupts classic K-12 education, in which textbooks provide the answers for pre-defined questions. The mentor Dave brought to his classroom not only answered student questions, but also “got the students thinking about the topic by asking questions back at them as well.” The socratic method may have been the pioneering force behind asking students questions, but mentors do this in practice today.

5. Mentors give students concrete advice about their goals.

Rose T., a teacher connecting her students with a university officer at the University of Sussex noted that her students were able to more clearly identify which universities offered the right scholarships for their college applications.

6. Mentors offer real-life understanding and relevance.

Caitlin Q., an English teacher, brought a literature expert into her classroom who turned understanding Shakespeare into a discussion. Confusion about Iambic pentameter and historical concepts were replaced by talking about how a play is staged and the roles of actors. This alternative viewpoint gave the teacher a chance to get her students thinking about the way a once-abstract text can come to life.

7. Mentors allow students to see into the future of different careers.

Alison W. brought a mentor from Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list to her classroom. She was thrilled to see that he “answered the students questions with relevant examples from his own experience. He gave excellent advice to the students regarding future proofing and preparing themselves for future university and career choices.” In fact, professionals who had mentors who guided them in their careers report higher salaries and job satisfaction.

8. Mentors show understanding toward the challenges students face.

Being heard in a real way is something students hope for. Mentors validate the experiences they are having by being able to reflect their own experiences as young people, and offer clarity that the future can be bright. When teachers and parents can’t get through, mentors can come from an outside perspective, speaking “to them as peers, not talking down to them” as IB teacher Laura H. found out.

9. Mentors give students the confidence to dream about solving problems.

Martin J. spoke with clear admiration toward the impact of the mentor he brought to his classroom on students, in explaining that she “communicated [enthusiastic] passion to the students. She has likely inspired the next generation of environmental scientists who can try to fix the global problems we are currently facing.” This outcome speaks for itself. When you, as a teacher, show students how to change the world, you have accomplished the reason for education itself.

10. Mentors provide inspiration, and that’s priceless.

“Inspiration” is one of the most used words by teachers to describe the outcome of bringing mentors to the classroom. But how often do we just check off a list of tasks, without thinking of how to bring inspiration to life in a quotidien way? Mentors make inspiration a given.

Bringing the world into your classroom through mentorship not only makes your job as a teacher, but enhances the learning experience for your students. Other teachers’ experience highlight the positive social, psychological, academic, and career outcomes of bringing a thought influencer into students’ lives.

Are you inspired yet? Find your students a mentor. 

PS: Check back to our blog soon. Coming next: A feature on student’s testimonials of their experience with mentorship in the classroom.

Today more than 22,000 students in 120 international & private/state schools across 17 countries use 100mentors to engage their students into designing their own learning journeys in and out of the classroom through our live, interactive platform and mobile application.

Our world is: A physics class in South Korea with a NASA engineer; an environmental assignment group in Brazil with a Harvard/MIT, Marie Curie fellow in marine biology, about the Amazon’s natural “gifts;” literature experts like Barry Cotton and Michael Dobson leading classes on “The Great Gatsby” and the “Twelfth Night,” to 11th graders in Vietnam and Moscow, respectively. Your students, asking the questions that inspire them, and getting answers from mentors across the world.

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