The Art Of Mentoring

At DDA, we are often given chances to do new things that require some figuring out. This will always be part of our job, as new people are hired, as the Internet continues to grow, and as software programs come out with updates.

Some recent innovations that we’ve been excited to master are new ways of doing drop down menus in Dreamweaver, using a variety of “flipbooks” to display brochures and other multi-page material on the web, and using javascript to use unique fonts on HTML pages. We are given a lot of freedom to find our own process to do these things, yet we’re also encouraged to consult with each other so that we can come up with a timely solution. DDA provides a great environment that allows autonomy along with support when we want it.

These qualities are a lot of what makes good mentoring. This is one theme I explored this weekend on a trip to Vermont to attend my friend’s graduation for a Community Nature Awareness Program. For the last year he has served as a mentor for new students.

The graduates sat around a fire along with visiting friends and family while the program leader discussed how important it is to honor our elders, because they are our mentors and how in turn, it is important for older people to take on that role, and be receptive to the youngest and their questions, because in some ways the youngest are ahead of us, just by the fact that they’ve been born into a different time, and because they aren’t as conditioned as older people in the way they see the world.

This mentoring relationship became apparent when a 6- or 7-year-old boy named Taryn took the stage with comments and questions in response to a puppet show we watched, about a mouse on a journey. Taryn asked us all what our thoughts were about the story, and in answering him, we were forced to think about things in way we hadn’t considered before.

Later in the evening, I sat with my friend while he showed Taryn how to make a wooden spoon using fire and scraping devices. I thought it went well, until speaking with my friend about it later, when he told me how he felt he made too many choices for Taryn and how Taryn seemed to become less interested and a little frustrated that the spoon wasn’t turning out like he wanted. I was touched and impressed at how seriously my friend took the role of mentor, and what an art it is.

I walked away with a deeper appreciation for mentoring, and as I reflect on the past weekend this morning, I have a renewed appreciation for the some of those qualities that I enjoy here at DDA.