As a high school student, you’ve probably been told that you have your whole life ahead of you. And while you may not know what you’re going to major in, much less what type of job you want after graduation, it’s important to think about how your current academic and extracurricular goals relate to lifelong career and personal goals.
The good news? You don’t have figure it out alone. There’s a resource who happens to be standing right in front of you: your teacher!
The benefit of having a teacher who is a mentor
By building strong connections with teachers during high school, you can form a lifelong mentorship that can help you far beyond your school walls. Specifically, building a strong student-teacher relationship can help you with:
- The college application process. Teachers know and understand your strengths. They can help you figure out what colleges may be a good fit for you and can even connect you with students who currently attend those schools. They can review your college application and essays, as well as provide letters of recommendation.
- Scholarship help. When you’re applying for scholarships, you may also need a letter of recommendation. If you have a good relationship with your teacher, he can help complete this step. Teachers can also help you find scholarships — they may know about specific scholarships for your town or school, or that previous students have applied for (and maybe received!).
- Networking for jobs or internships. Your teachers might know employers that hire high school students or may be able to connect you with former students who work in various industries and need student employees.
- Building confidence. For college and life, it’s important to be confident when speaking one-on-one with adults. “Learning how to communicate confidently with adults is an important skill. It translates to being able to talk with a boss or another mentor later,” says high school history teacher Nick Mangum, of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Tips to foster a strong teacher mentorship
Start fostering your student-teacher mentorship early this school year, so you can build the relationship all year. Here are some ideas:
- Be friendly. A strong mentor-mentee relationship can start with a simple conversation, says Mangum. That can be a quick “have a nice day,” or an invitation to one of your extracurricular activities, whether it’s a state championship football game or a debate team tournament. “Once you have a conversation with someone, the next conversations get easier and easier to have,” says Mangum.
- Be mindful of your teacher’s time. If you ask a teacher to meet during her free period or after school, think about what you want to discuss in advance and be prepared. Teachers have lives, too, and may not be able to accommodate a longer discussion without advance notice.
- Talk about the class. An easy starting conversation can be about your teacher’s class and your participation in it. Talk to your teacher about your goals for the class, as well as the future. A teacher will appreciate a proactive approach, so he can help you formulate a plan to reach these goals.
- Be honest. Your teachers want to help you. Don’t be afraid to share what you like and dislike about your classes. Loving English but struggling through biology? This could be helpful to determine what you study in college. They’ll be able to point you toward clubs and extracurricular activities focused on certain subjects that you enjoy, ultimately leading you toward a dream college major and job.
- Most important, remember that teachers want to help. They’re teaching so they can help you as you find your passions. You shouldn’t hesitate to go to teachers for advice, says Mangum. “Teachers get into the occupation to help students grow in order to succeed in every aspect of life.”
- But also be on the lookout for negative power dynamics. Be smart about which teachers you approach. Although it’s rare, you never want to get yourself in a situation where teachers are asking you for favors or something in exchange for a recommendation letter or help with essays.
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