Why Do We Need a Mentor?

If you google the meaning of “mentorship”, you can find the literal meaning in the dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, mentorship means “the influence, guidance, or direction given by a mentor” (n.d.).  But what does this mean in practice? Why is having a mentor important? This article discusses the importance of mentorship at work, how to find a mentor, and how to maintain a healthy and successful mentorship.

What is Mentorship?

Mentorship is a relationship between two people where one person has more experience and expertise while the other is relatively inexperienced and new to a given field, like teaching. The one with more experience and expertise has the ability to guide and pass along their experience to the novice teacher, which enables the inexperienced one to quickly get on track and become ready to take the next step.

My Story: How mentorship helped me succeed in ESL teaching

I was fortunate to find a mentor who provided detailed and meaningful guidance during my time as a volunteer ESL instructor. At that time, I was equipped with theoretical teaching knowledge, but had little teaching experience. After the first class, I realized that teaching in a real classroom was totally different from microteaching in a TESOL class. I was able to sit down and talk with my mentor about the challenges I went through, and the stress I felt while teaching. Not only did she provide important information to help me solve problems, but she also provided directions to guide me planning in my future.

How to Find a Mentor?

If you are new to the ESL field and have no idea where to find a mentor, the Mentorship Pilot Program from TESL Ontario is a good resource. TESL professionals from different sectors in the ESL field are invited to offer directions, suggestions, and teaching practices to novice teachers and educators. If you are relatively new in the workplace, look for a role model.

You can also talk with your colleagues. They have plenty of experience and knowledge related to teaching and classroom management. Think about whether someone is already implicitly mentoring you. When I started a new position teaching at a LINC program, one of my colleagues spent a lot of time patiently showcasing teaching strategies, classroom management and potential challenges outside of the classroom. She may not have known it, but since then I have considered her my mentor. Whenever I had questions, she was always there to support me. So, don’t be shy and intimidated. There are many people willing to support you. 

How to Make Your Mentorship Successful?

It’s important to know your goals. What do you expect from work? What would you like to achieve in a short term? What potential challenges you would encounter during teaching? Be specific and realistic with your goals. You want to have a clear plan of where to go, so you can ask specific questions and not overwhelm your mentor. Break down large-scale ideas into achievable goals to shorten the time it takes to find success.

Mentorship is a relationship between two people. As a mentee, it is important to understand that mentoring demands effort, time, and commitment. You want to ask for support and help when you need to, but you don’t want to overwhelm your mentor. It is your responsibility to specify your goals and needs. Being specific and concise will help both you and your mentor work effectively and efficiently. Don’t bombard your mentors with millions of tedious questions. Mentors can guide you, but they can’t do your work.

Do you have any experience with mentoring?


Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Mentorship. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentorship

Hello, my name is Bei Zhang. I am delighted to be part of the team to share my ideas and experience. I am currently working at Huron University College as an English Language Learning specialist. My job there is to help international students with their academic English language skills. I also teach ESL and LINC at Thames Valley District School Board, and ESL at London Language Institute, a private language school in London. I graduated in 2018 with a master’s degree in Education Studies from Western University, focused on applied linguistics and teacher education. I also have a background in human resources management. I hope that my unique perspective of teaching ESL in different educational systems can benefit the TESL Ontario Blog and our members.


7 thoughts on “Why Do We Need a Mentor?”

  1. Thanks for the article, Bei! I would add that one should get multiple mentors. Pinpoint individuals who have specific skills you want to develop and ask them for assistance in that area. This would help to mitigate the problem you noted of bombarding one mentor with tons of questions/requests. Both parties will have a clear idea about what the parameters of the mentor/mentee relationship are.

    1. Hi Heather! Thank you so much for your comment! I 100% agree! Having multiple mentors is definitely beneficial, especially when mentees have many questions. And like what you said, it’ll help maintain a good relationship.

  2. Hello!
    I live in a rural area of Southern, Ontario and have spent quite alot of time out of ‘teaching’ ESL, EAP and LINC working different local jobs and helping raise 2 young children 🙂
    l am looking to get back into teaching & counseling, so I hope to benefit from this Mentor program 🙂
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Christopher! Thank you for the comment! Their next Mentorship Event will take place on Thursday, December 2, from 7:00 – 8:00 pm. Definitely check it out ?

  3. Hi again,
    I just read Heather’s above suggestion & l agree
    with her. For example, love been working in Mental Health Fields frontline PSW job, though l have an MA, BSW, Diploma in Heritage Conservation & Restoration & TESL Ontario/Canada Certificate. So, l think my niche could be Teaching, Training, Counseling EAP students or learners & newcomers who enrol in health care courses, such as PSW, DSW, or those with skilled trades needing to improve their English to secure a new career & life in Canada.

    1. Definitely. People would love to learn how to teach English in these areas, and would benefit from your expertise.

  4. Great article, Bei! Being a mentor is a great learning experience too. Mentees can benefit from “paying it forward” and taking on mentorship roles in the future.

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