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Why We All Need Mentors

I have been thinking a lot lately about a phrase I read recently: "Walk long enough and we all trade places'. It has particular meaning to me because I have been reflecting on my life and career as I start a 'second' act. When I began in the early childhood field many years ago, I had passion and energy but not the wisdom that comes from experience and challenges. I was lucky to have several mentors who guided me and are still part of my circle of influence and experience today.

The word 'mentor' has interesting origins. In Greek mythology, Mentor was an old friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of Odysseus' son Telemachus when Odysseus went off to the Trojan War. Mentoring implies coaching and guiding from someone older and wiser to someone younger and less experienced.

In my life and work, I was mentored and then, I also became a mentor to others. I officially mentor instructors in an online education program which lets me share my own experiences as well as research and resources with new instructors. But past that, I have had opportunities over the years to 'trade places' and guide others in early childhood whose paths crossed mine. Trading places seems to me to be a responsibility to return the favors we've been given, to 'pay it forward', to give back.

We all have heard about the attrition in teaching, the child care deserts, the high turnover in the field. Many states have mentoring programs to support teachers and providers, but beyond that, I think we can all be part of a mentoring movement. If you need support, ask someone you trust to mentor you. If you have some experience and wisdom to share, make yourself available to others around you.

I am still mentored and coached in the new directions of my life, while I am also able to mentor in places I have already been. Yes, walk long enough and we all trade places...make that meaningful in your life, in your relationships. Keep passing it on.

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