When The Student Is Ready

It's a funny thing, really, 
Not funny as in hilarious, but funny as expressed by the cliche:
You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.
What I've come to find out is that there's truth in this:

Where am I going with this, you might wonder.
As you may know, I had a lot of time to reflect yesterday as I picked the thistles and weeds out of my back yard. And with every unwanted plant I picked, I thought back over my years as a teacher.

Truthfully, it started early in life. School came fairly easily to me, but not so much to my older brother, so I helped him with his studies a lot. In first and second grade, I also got to help the other students in my class when they struggled to understand. We had a library adjacent to our classroom and I was pretty sure it was my office. In our 4-H club I often found myself helping out; on the farm as school children from town visited, I frequently gave the tours and answered their questions. Senior year in high school, I was selected to mentor at a sixth-grade camp and through college I tutored in schools and made visits to nursing homes, just for fun.

When I moved to Texas, I became a youth leader at the church and a volleyball coach, cheerleading sponsor, speech and debate coach, and softball coach at the high school where I worked. I also served as a referee for the YMCA's basketball program for a few seasons. As our own children were born, I helped coach Kaitlyn's softball teams and I took my place on a bucket behind home plate to catch for her as she learned her fast-pitch skills.

But it wasn't until today that I actually paused long enough
to think about what the mentor/teacher/coach in me got out of those mentorship opportunities. 

It was something that my friend Laura posted on Facebook, actually. I commented that she had a way of making life extraordinary and she replied that she had the best mentor ten years ago. Turns out, these mentoring opps really have created win-win situations. I was so grateful when we hired Laura as our music teacher and I gladly accepted the invitation to be her mentor. That was a no-brainer, really, because I could feel in the interview that she'd be tops at what she did and bring a certain sort of energy and flair to the hearts and minds of our little songsters. What I didn't think about is how much I'd learn from her. It was Laura who helped me rein me in and realize that it's just as important to go deeper than wider with our character education efforts. Her passion and enthusiasm are unmatched and her ability to find the positive life gains beyond the music is unparalleled. She taught me so much during her five years at our school and from her leadership in our character building.

This semester I'm mentoring a young intern at the end of her formal school counselor degree plan. And, sure enough, I'm learning from her, too. On Friday, I watched with great respect as she counseled with a first grader while her Professor observed and evaluated her. It was kind of like watching a young me ready to combat injustices and change the world, one student at a time. She rocked the session, but her Professor did remind her us to keep our focus on the client, not the tool that we choose to connect with the client. 

Truth be told, it's a whole lot easier to focus on the problems in a book we're reading, for example, than on those of the child we're reading it to. Sticking with the book is tidy, easy, safe. We can watch the character solve her problem, celebrate his/her success, and finish up giving high fives all around. We don't have to dig too deeply or feel too intensely. It took me observing my intern do what I'd taught her to do to realize that it's time 
to let go of safe, 
to go deeper, 
to let the client take us me where they want, yes, need, to go.

So just when the counselor in me needed a booster shot,
 the teacher once again appeared.

Who is a teacher, mentor, or coach 
who showed up when you were ready? 


  1. Well... If you want the honest truth: YOU have been my mentor.
    Character COUNTS a little more this year at my school because of your influence. Sometimes we need to be led by the hand. Other times, we just need a nudge in the right direction.
    You have managed to do both for me... and, always, JOYfully!

    Thanks for many things...

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. I find so much truth and inspiration in your posts. I have taken on the job of mentor here at my house, with a new pup. It's a daunting task. But I think about the joy that you find in your daily challenges and that spurs me on with JOY for mine! Thanks Ms Gruener!


I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!

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