This week I found myself incredibly satisfied with my advisors mentoring. I know, that’s so rare for so many students. I often feel like many graduate students get a laundry list of tasks to complete with no actual instruction from their advisor. That’s how my master’s advisor “mentored”. But this method leaves students with a learning curve for so many things, particularly if the student has been instructed to do something that is completely foreign to them.
I know advisors were in our shoes at one point in their lives, how could they possibly have forgotten so quickly how much they struggled with what seems like everyday tasks for them now. I like to believe that maybe they are just really smart and never went through these struggles. But there is also the possibility that they remember and they know that they learned the most when they struggled. Or worse, they know and don’t want to take the time to do some real mentoring.
Let’s go back to that part about advisors being really smart and not knowing that their students struggle sometimes. Do these people make the best mentors? In my experience, the answer is no. They also make the worst professors. These people also seem to be the norm in academia. What are us laypeople to do!? The best mentors I have had in college/grad school are honestly those that have been doing their job for the shortest period of time and are the least far removed from the learning portion of their lives. I have occasionally had a professor that has admitted to struggling with material and found a way to teach it that is not confusing. I have also had professors that have taken the time to make a nice lesson plan.
That’s it, that’s the key to being incredibly smart and being a good mentor/teacher. Taking the time to consider how their teaching methods come across to their students and acting on it. But many professors are lazy when it comes to teaching and would rather be doing research. This is such a backward thought to me. I feel like if you take the time to engage students in class and ensure that you have reached them, then they are more likely to go to graduate school. Once the student is in graduate school, they will be happier if their advisor takes the time to teach them good research practices, valuable resources, and doesn’t make them feel like they are always behind by not taking the time to teach the proper methods.