The Japanese believe that ‘one day with a great teacher is better than a thousand years of diligent studies’. This idea emphasizes the invaluable role that mentorship plays in the lives of people.’ A mentor can be described as someone with a relatively higher experience or wisdom that shares insights or tutors a less experience person often called a mentee or protégé. The relevance of this institution is well appreciated from the Greek epic ’Odyssey’. In the story, King Odysseus placed his son Telemachus under the care, guidance, leadership and tutelage of his friend Mentor when he the king had to go for the protracted Trojan War.
The concept is even captured more when the goddess of wisdom, Athena had to disguise herself to assume the personality of Mentor each time she came to visit Telemachus. The all important role of Athena as Mentor in providing plans for Telemachus on how he will deal with personal dilemmas made the personal name Mentor to be gradually adapted as a term in the English language to describe someone who impacts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced person.
The role of Mentor as a person to Telemachus can be expanded to appreciate the critical role that mentors contribute to the life of a person:
1. Relevant Experience: A person can benefit from the many years of learning and experiences of an accomplished person. One does not have to re-invent the wheel to know what works and what does not work.
2. Reduces the Learning Curve: The term Learning Curve originally adapted from the Psychologist, Herman Ebbinghaus in 1885 is used to represent the increase of learning with experience. The concept fundamentally captures the rate of a person’s progress or improvement in learning new skills, acquiring new experiences and or performing new function over time. Basically it explains that, the more a person does something, the better the one becomes. A mentor has often travelled the path that a person wants to assume and one is better off learning from someone who has been where they are yet to be.
3.Minimizes Errors: Attributed to Lloyd Morgan, the term ‘Trial and Error’ describes the instance where success is achieved after several trials. This concept is closely related to the idea captured before this point. It says that one may have to do something continually before achieving perfection. The point is even clearer when we get to know that several trials mean that one has bounced from repetitive failed attempts. It was Thorndike who explained in his ‘Law of Effect’ that learning is promoted by positive results. In other words failed attempts (in as much as we do not want them to) tend to discourage many from making their dreams happen. What a mentor des here is therefore irreplaceable as they help one to avoid potential pitfalls.
4.Direction: The term ‘direction’ is used to represent where things are in relation to others. The function of the word can be appreciated from a number of perspectives; position and movement. Where a person sits in relation to another is the direction of the person. In the sentence ‘Telemachus sits at the right side of Mentor’, the direction of Telemachus is to the right side of Mentor. In other words if you want to paint a picture or if you may, direct someone to where Telemachus is seated you would have to make reference to his position to mentor. The other is movement. Telemachus can walk forward or backwards and he can turn right or left. Each movement therefore of Telemachus represents his direction. Predominantly a mentor can influence your position-that is, where you sit, and your Movement-the path you take.
– By Samuel Agyeman-Prempeh