Nadezda Golubovic was introduced to teaching early on through different projects in the Youth Office where she worked as an educator on different projects in collaboration with Erste Bank, Jazas, Erasmus+, and many more. Her other duties included project management, marketing, peer education and mediation, and mentorship. After obtaining her master’s degree in Plant Physiology from the University of Belgrade Faculty of Biology, she started working at International school as a chemistry and biology teacher and STEAM department coordinator. As a biology teacher, Nadezda strives to make the world of this natural and experimental science relatable to students by using modern teaching methods, as well as creative experiments which serve to demonstrate the importance and wide scope of application that biology has in the real world.
Members of the human race have a biological need to be part of a group and to be seen as equals. This specific, built-in, need to seek guidance from the more experienced is an evolutionary relic. In the animal kingdom this is known as having the leader of the pact. This trait has helped us not only survive for thousands of years, but also develop the traits that make us modern humans.
As a biologist, I am aware of the connection between evolutionary relics we all carry and the actions we take as humans in the interactions with one another. The mentorship program taps into the innate trait to seek guidance and look up to those we see as more experienced and established in the population.
What is mentorship?
A true definition of the term mentorship in education can be hard to find, and in business terms, it can be described as a relationship between a more experienced mentor and a less experienced colleague, referred to as mentee. This whole construct was taken from the world of business and adapted to be applied in the educational setting. If you asked our students to describe mentoring, most of them would say that they felt like they gained an additional family member and consider us to be their older siblings. Teachers, on the other hand would say that they are a bridge connecting students to teachers and parents alike.
How is the connection established?
Like any relationship, the one between mentors and mentees has to be based on honesty and trust. Knowing teenagers and kids, and how good they are in reading non-verbal signs, honesty is essential in building trustworthy relationships. They will test your honesty; make sure not to fail this test, since once lost, trust is very hard to regain.
By basing the relationship between the mentor and mentee on honesty and trust, this habit will be transferred into the world outside the educational institution and incorporated into the relationship with your co-workers, loved ones and family members. By doing so, there will be a significant improvement in the quality of life and the connection between you and other people.
Which obstacles may I encounter?
As in any relationship, not everything will run smoothly all the time. This is where your skills as a listener come forward. It is essential to remain calm and think things through if you sense that there is a need for it. Through practicing mindfulness and being well-aware of the situation you are in, both you and your interlocutor will feel more confident and be able to see the potential obstacle even before it becomes a problem.
Moreover, you must be aware of your limitations as a mentor and ask authorised school personnel, parents and others for help if necessary.
Through all the obstacles you may encounter, you, as an educator as well as a human being will grow and develop interpersonal skills. Daily practice of solving problems is an excellent way for you to grow and it leads to an improvement, not only in the workplace but also in the domain of communication with your friends and family.
What are the benefits?
Research is mostly focused on the benefits of this program for students, but what about the ones meant for mentors?
What I have witnessed, being an active participant in this program, and seeing my colleagues do the same, is that the benefits educators reap go way beyond school and work setting.
Firstly, by relying on honesty and trust in our interactions, we become more aware of why these are beneficial and improve all our relationships. Secondly, students are very good at reading non-verbal cues, so, naturally, our senses will become sharper and we will become way better at reading these cues and acting accordingly.
Many of us are actively searching for professional development programs and webinars which will help us become better at establishing healthy relationships with our students. By building and polishing our skills, we become better educators and mentors.
Is it worth it? This question is easy to answer if you have had the honour to be a mentor. By mentoring we are fortunate to see our mentees grow and improve in terms of academic, as well as, social and emotional development. Consequently, mentors experience growth in the same fields.
It is priceless to see students who suffered from anxiety when speaking in class get onto the stage and perform. These victories will stay with us for a long time, and knowing how we helped them in their dark moments just by pointing to the light makes our hearts fill with joy. Even if they may not be aware of it, our mentees probably do as much for us, as we do for them in terms of development.
It is important to remember that both parties will have their own ups and downs. However, in the end, both will become better communicators, listeners, supporters, and maybe, most importantly, better human beings.