If you want to learn more and solidify your knowledge, become a mentor. Teaching others is one of the best ways to help ourselves on the learning journey.
It is a Win – Win situation!
You can help someone who needs it; while, at the same time, increasing and deepening your understanding of the material – whatever it is. By taking the time to explain the procedures, concepts, themes, steps, and so on to someone else, you need to re-explain everything to yourself – often in a variety of ways. A new learner, or less experienced person, will require a careful, methodical approach. As you go through the mentoring, you will rediscover but also discover new thoughts and ideas for the first time. Whenever you readdress material, you see new things or new methods.
You might have had this experience if you have ever re-read a book or re-watched a movie. You see something new or interpret events or characters in an alternative way.
But I’m not an expert
Don’t worry. You do not need to be an expert. You simply need to know something that the other person doesn’t. You can begin helping others long before you become an expert.
In fact, my argument here is that mentoring will help you become that expert, or as close to it as you wish.
It is possible that the person you mentor might be your mentor in another discipline.
For example, you might be very good at writing essays, but lousy at algebra. You can help Timmy learn the essay writing steps while Timmy mentors you in algebra.
In all cases, if you are open to it, you will learn from others. This is important, so be open.
Many people are afraid to mentor others because they might make mistakes.
Make mistakes. That’s how we all learn. Don’t cover up mistakes or ignore them. Some of the greatest thinkers made the biggest mistakes. Why? Because they were actually out there trying. The only way to not make a mistake would be to do nothing. Oh, and that would be a mistake – so no avoiding it.
Tell your learner that you goofed and show him or her how and why you made the mistake – how you discovered it and what to do to correct it and/or avoid similar mistakes in the future. This is all part of the learning process.
Mentoring someone feels good. I’m sure that whenever you have given a gift or done someone a favour, you have had that satisfaction and pleasure. Well, mentoring someone provides a similar feeling. In fact, it lasts longer because when you give someone knowledge they have it forever.
Okay, the literalists and philosophers out there might correctly argue that “forever” piece, but I am using the term colloquially as in “Nobody can take your knowledge from you.” Again, this works both for you and the person you mentor.
Nobody to Mentor!
Sometimes, you will be studying a course or a section of a course, and there is not anyone to mentor at that point. While not quite as good, use your imagination. “Teach” your dog, your turtle, a picture on your wall – mentor them. It sounds strange (because it is), but it still works. If you take the time to explain carefully, to show the steps, to argue the theories, and so on, you will gain much of the same benefits as you would with someone real to mentor. Of course, there are drawbacks. You won’t have the questions or new insights that another person would provide. (I find dogs and turtles don’t respond like people.) Still, you can ask yourself questions as you rehash the material. Plus, this practice will prepare you to be an even better mentor when you have the chance.
Don’t be afraid. Jump in and be a mentor. You will soon start reaping all the benefits, including becoming a far better student yourself!
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