The Good Protege or the Bad Teacher
by Adam Zack — July 7, 2021
It takes a special person to be a teacher. Very special. I was talking to a friend who teaches design and the stories of distractions, excuses and the inability of some students to grasp basic concepts sounds extremely challenging. But school is much different than being a teacher at work or in life. In school they pass or fail, class moves on, and the cycle starts again. Rarely does the student surpass the teacher in knowledge and skill. In work and in life, the role is really more of a mentor than a teacher. You’re not teaching masses of students. You are imparting your experience, knowledge and skill to someone who has a high interest in achieving your level of success. They appreciate your wisdom and want to make you proud. Mentoring can take place over months or years or even decades. It involves taking a personal stake and an unselfish view to really succeed. But how do you tell if you have truly succeeded in mentoring your protege? Is it OK to be just an okay mentor? In most cases, that’s the case. You impart some teachings that make the student better, sometimes drastically better, but it’s not often that they surpass you in a way that they could mentor you. It’s personal, and if the protege doesn’t surpass the mentor, then the mentor has not done a good job. That’s a little harsh, though. Maybe they’ve done a good job, but they haven’t done the best job.
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