Cindy Says: Me a Mentor? Why yes!

Cindy Says: Me a Mentor? Why yes!

One of my greatest joys from my life-long role of being a teacher in the arts is having the privilege to work with student teachers hoping to launch their career.

I just returned from observing three of them. They all possess one quality that is almost impossible to teach - they are natural teachers. That jumpstarts my job to relatively smooth sailing. If I impart a recipe as a supportive mentor, all three of them have the basic ingredients to rock the arts world for future students.

Cindy Says

If you haven't already, consider mentoring a student of any age who wants to walk in your footsteps. The student director, student choreographer or community parent who has a background with kids, may all develop into one of your program's strongest assets. You may have developed a home-grown director for your summer program or otherwise helped guide a young person's career path. Having a mentee pushes YOU to assess your own best practices in a healthy way. The creative input from your charge might be a welcome and fresh update to your program!

Here are a five suggestions for becoming the mentor we all wish we had:

1. Build the relationship first

Newbies need a comfort level before they can ask for help. Feeling like he or she is a valued part of the team will never be forgotten. Never.

2. Pick one Goal at a time

Directing a musical is complex work. There will always be abundant skills to improve. Pick one juicy goal at a time. For example: "Create a stage picture using levels so the entire ensemble can be seen with Shrek and Fiona downstage center."

3. Use the Feedback Sandwich

You may already use this simple concept. Start with a positive comment, provide some constructive criticism and end with either another positive or a plan for moving forward.

4. Involve your mentee in all aspects of your job

That means everything from production meetings, auditions, budget decisions to manning the pizza fundraiser. Many of us are a one man band in this career. Help a young person understand the full and realistic possibility of that role.

5. Allow a mentee an opportunity to be creative

You may have your "ideal" artistic vision, but he might be able to shake it up a little and enrich that vision.

If we do our job well as teachers, our students become our teachers. Yes, I do beam a little when I look at all the students and teachers I have mentored and admire the magnificent paths they are building for kids. A treasure I cherish forever! CR

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