Friday, July 23, 2010

Being a Mentor

When I was in high school I had the wonderful privilege of studying Latin for 4 years under an extraordinary teacher, Ms. Carol Rothstein.  She made you work hard for your good grades, but you ended up really enjoying what you were learning.  I have such a better understanding of words and language after taking her classes.  I believe that she was part of the reason I decided to study English and become a teacher.

But she wasn't just a teacher, she was also a great mentor and friend.  She helped many students with things outside of Latin class.  You could talk to her about your problems and she would listen without a judgmental ear.  And her advice was sound, no doubt about that.  I only hoped that one day, I could have a least have part of the ability she possessed to be such a great mentor.  Sadly, she died of cancer in November 2008.

I wish she could have seen what happened with one of my students just recently.  One of my favorite students came to me to confide a personal issue that was really upsetting her.  I can remember being that same age, and how even the smallest things would be really important to me.  As she poured out her thoughts and worries, I couldn't help but imagine myself in the same position, about 12 years earlier, but with Ms. Rothstein listening instead.

After my student concluded, I took a seat next to her and told her the very same things I had been advised before.  I felt a little like someone was there, helping me help this young girl, and I was grateful.  So was my student, as I assuaged her fears.  She thanked me for listening and helping her, while throwing her arms around me and giving me a big hug.  It was good to see a familiar smile spread across her face once again.

In that moment, I felt like the mentor I had wanted to be.  Ms. Rothstein would have been proud.

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