My favorite elementary school teacher, I’ll call her Miss Judy, taught 4th grade Reading. Miss Judy had long wild hair, wore flowing clothes (ok, it was the 70s), and had a huge, wide smile. I longed to just hang out with her.
She introduced us to linking verbs as ‘weird verbs’ instead. We were permitted to yell, “Be, am, is, are, was, were, been” in escalating sound levels until we all fell over laughing. Miss Judy made us participants in her lessons, rather than just recipients of them.
I was glad my last name (at the time) started with a B. I got a front row seat in her class every day.
Miss Judy took us to the library frequently (the REAL one, not the school one). It was during those trips with her that I began to love books – the smell of them, the weight of them, and the way that Laura Ingalls Wilder books crinkled when opened. I loved that I didn’t understand all the words in A Wrinkle in Time, and had to go look them up (in a DICTIONARY – remember those?).
Miss Judy frequently asked me how many books I’d read lately, and waved her arms in dramatic surprise when I told her how many. Every. Single. Time.
She made me believe I was smart – that I really ‘got’ this language thing.
Years ago, I found her contact info and sent her a book of poetry I wrote and published. The card she sent back was just like her. She’d made it herself, violets from her garden pressed on the front. Her note was brief, sincere, loving, and memorable. I was touched by the care she took in creating it. She was mentoring me even still.
One thing we know about great mentors is this: They don’t tell us what to do, they show us by example. And in the meantime, they magically unveil our strengths to us as if they’ve known them all along.
Miss Judy also taught me is this: you are always mentoring someone.
Even when you’re just doing your job well. Especially when you’re doing your job well.
Whether you know it or not, whether you intend to or not, someone is looking to you, yes you, for guidance.
Inspire them. Infuse them with encouragement. You can even wave your arms in dramatic surprise when they do something well!
See who they are, and help them clear away the clutter that’s distracting them from being that person you see inside. Doesn’t everyone need someone who can see them that way?
Being a mentor may even be accidental; sometimes you don’t know who looks up to you. But why not make it intentional? Why not support someone in honor of your best mentors? Why not change a life?
And if you feel especially grateful, send a note (or this article!) to someone who has been this person for you, someone who may not realize the impact they’ve had on your life.
How cool will that be for them?
Pass it on.