Monday, July 30, 2007

The Fine Art of Mentoring

This is the speech that I gave (for the most part) at the Rose State College Radiologic Technology Graduation, July 27th, 2007. I hope you enjoy it. (The parts in red are the parts left out of the speech the night of the Graduation)

A fire started in the grasslands close to a farm. The county fire department rushed to the scene, but the fire was more than they could handle. Someone suggested calling the volunteer fire department. Despite some doubt that they would be of any assistance, they were called. The volunteers arrived in a dilapidated old fire truck. They rumbled straight towards the fire, drove right into the middle of the flames and stopped! The firefighters jumped from the truck and frantically started spraying water in all directions. Soon they had snuffed out the center of the fire and leaving two parts which were easily put out. As the farmer watched all this, he was impressed and grateful that his house and farm had been spared. He quickly got his check book and donated $1000 to the volunteer fire department. A local news reporter asked the volunteer fire captain how they planned to use the funds. The captain replied, "The first thing we're gonna do is get the brakes on our fire truck fixed!"

Good evening. I am honored by the invitation to speak to you tonight. I have had the priveledge of teaching some of you when you rotated through Mercy and I'm proud to see and hear of how far you have come in just two short years. I want to speak to you tonight about mentoring. You will soon be in the position to help others who are now, or in the future will be, in the RADIOGRAPHIC TECHNOLOGY program. Hopefully all of you have benefited while in thIS program from the help of experienced technologistS guiding you through your learning process. As new technologist you will now have the opportunity to guide and mentor others while they progress through their learning process. The definition of a mentor is to: serve as a trusted counselor or teacher, especially in occupational settings. “Mentoring is a relational experience in which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources.” Connecting; The Mentoring Relationships You Need To Succeed In Life by Paul D. Stanley and J. Robert Clinton. The basis of mentoring has to be a sound relationship between the mentor and the student or mentoree. Like any other relationship it must be based on trust.

Having students to mentor does not come naturally to everyone. When you begin to mentor you must first assess the needs and learning habits of the student you are trying to help. You must recognize at what point they are in the program, and what needs they have that must be addressed. Mentoring students is not just an intellectual venture, it is emotional as well. One of the most basic needs that many students have is a lack of confidence. Not that the student has no confidence themselves but that the technologists at the clinical sites have a lack of patience and little confidence in the students abilities. This deficiency in the technologist is projected onto the student and thereby stunts the student’s growth. This equates to moving a plant into a dark closet and being angry with the plant for not growing. As new technologists I urge you to have patience with your future students; you must allow them to make mistakes. I tell students at the beginning of the semester, upon first meeting them, “I will make you make mistakes; small mistakes that you will learn from, and I will not let you hurt any patients.”

Very early one morning in October of 1991, a first year x-ray student, on his first clinical rotation would learn a lesson that would impact other students for decades to come. This lesson had nothing to do with medicine or x-ray, but was a harsh life lesson in people relations. A technologist who had a severe dislike for students, was the epitome of everything I would strive to not become. It is the point that I was treated so harshly that made me promise myself that I would never treat another person, especially one who is trying to learn from my experience, like she treated me. I have learned to have the patience of Job and the mentoring love that Paul had for Timothy for all of my students and to respect them as fellow human beings.

Surely each of you in this auditorium can remember a superior treating you rudely. It was once said that the moral test of someone is how one treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped. Hubert H. Humphrey. Well, now it is your turn. New technologists have the uncanny knack of forgetting in just a few short months how it felt to be a student. I work with technologists every day that have forgotten that just a short time ago they were the student complaining about being treated like an inferior. You can do something about it. Much like myself, each of you can make the decision to put forth the effort to reach out to a student, and enrich their learning experience.

One of my favorite Bible verses says, Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other, Proverbs 27:17. Mentoring does not end when a student graduates the program. My co-workers and I mentor each other. We share information that is needed and we continue to mentor one another with knowledge we acquire on a daily basis. I haven’t had the opportunity to reach out to each of you graduating tonight. However, I have had the opportunity to reach a few of you. If each of you that I have reached, reaches out to future students, the student mentoring pyramid will continue exponentially. Can you imagine the quality of students, and student mentors that can be created?

All of you here tonight have gone through physics pertaining to radiology. The point of physics is to achieve the greatest effect with the least amount of effort. If you don’t sharpen your ax, it will be harder to use…... Mentoring should be like this as well. If you sharpen your ax before you chop down the tree, the job will require less effort. The best teaching style is often self-learning. To allow self learning shows the true patience of a mentor. If you allow students to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes, even though it may be painful for you to watch, you have reached the greatest potential for the student because they are not likely to forget their mistakes.I challenge you, find a student, come along side them and nurture them. Walk shoulder to shoulder with them and watch them experience the new ideas and concepts that you discovered just a few short years before.

You do not have to know all the answers. Students need someone to have patience with them; to help them to learn from their mistakes and your experience. If you Take care of a tree, you will eat its fruit. Do it with a smile, and know that I am proud of you for the effort, and the student you have helped is appreciative of your time and patience. Some people call this ‘pay if forward’ I call it mentoring and together we are training better technologists for tomorrow.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you, and congratulations.

Michael H Kerr R.T. (R)


Sue said...

Love you and I'm proud of you! MOM

Priscilla Palmer said...

Great speech BigMike! You are very much correct about helping others.

I am a firm believer that "You can only get to where you want to go, by helping enough other people get to where they want to go."