Mentorship in Adult Education

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Mentorship in Adult Education

Published on October 18 2012

Mina Wong recalls meeting Liz Wright for the first time on a cold January day in 1999 at Seneca College.

Mina was a new student in Brock University’s Bachelor of Education in Adult Education program and was enrolled in classes being offered at Seneca College.

Liz, who was facilitating the courses at Seneca, “warmly” welcomed Mina as she stepped inside the classroom on that winter day.

That class, says Mina, galvanized the important values that create an enriching mentorship relationship for teacher and adult learner — kindness, trust, generosity, and mutual respect.

“Liz created many learning opportunities for all her learners, including me,” says Mina. “We genuinely felt that she cared about our education and success. As we reciprocated her trust and respect in us, she celebrated our achievements with collegiality and optimism.”

For Liz, being a mentor to Mina and other adult learners is an equally rewarding experience.

“A facilitator is shaped by each student,” says Liz. “Mina came to Brock as a young woman accomplished both in the world of education and in the world of work. She brought a sophistication and enthusiasm to the community that was a model for all of us.

“It is in the very nature of the Adult Education program that we make every effort to create a community of learners. The concept of community implies that we do our best to support one another as learners. Implicit in this is that we each, in an informal way, act as a mentor to one another.”

The best mentorship relationships never really end they just change as in the case of Liz and Mina. After graduating with a BEd in Adult Education from Brock, Mina completed her graduate degree and went on to teach college students and to facilitate in Brock’s Adult Education program. That’s led to a meaningful relationship for Liz and Mina as professional colleagues.

Here are some other thoughts Mina and Liz share about the importance of mentorship in contributing to the dynamic community of adult learners.

How important is the relationship of mentor/mentee in shaping professional experiences and contributing to success as Adult Education facilitators?

Liz: Facilitator and learner make an investment of trust in one another. The joy for me is that from each learner and each learning community I grow in experience and I learn things I did not know before.

Mina: From working with Liz, I realized that compassion, generosity, and respect for others came from a teacher’s self-knowledge, self-reliance, and self-confidence. From her, I also learned a lot more about the importance of optimism that characterized courageous teachers in the face of multiple challenges.
Most notably, Liz showed me that courage in leadership was not about knowing all the answers. Rather, it was about being there to identify barriers with her community of learners, to break down those obstacles, and to build new knowledge together.

What do you regard as important mentorship qualities for Adult Education teachers?

Liz: A facilitator/teacher who is excited about learning almost inevitably becomes a mentor/energizer for some people. An open mind helps. Given the diversity of backgrounds, work experience and interests, some people are more drawn than others to what I see as models of adult learning. We each have a “sympatico” with certain people. I am drawn to people who see learning as a great adventure, who get excited when they come upon a concept that is new to them and who are willing to take the risk of changing.

Mina: Mentorship involves sharing meaningful professional experiences. It is about leadership through listening, helping, sharing, guiding, supporting, and critiquing. It means caring about each other’s success and setbacks with respect, kindness, and presence. Successful mentorship is the type of leadership that says, “I trust you to make good choices. Here are helpful tools if you need them. Please let me know how else I can be of help. You have my blessings.”

Brock University is located in St. Catharines, Ont. The Centre for Adult Education and Community Outreach offers a Bachelor of Education in Adult Education degree program and a Certificate in Adult Education program in online delivery and site-based delivery at venues across Ontario including the GTA.

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