We learn best by example

Although I am not a very skilled tennis player I really enjoy watching the elite players in this sport as they compete in the Australian Open Tennis Championships every January.

Like most patriotic Australians I revel in the success of the Aussie athletes as they take on some of the best tennis players in the world. For avid television tennis fanatics like myself, there was one young player who emerged onto the international tennis scene this year that gave us cause to sit up and pay attention. At only 18 years of age Sydney’s Alex de Minaur achieved amazing victories against a number of more highly ranked players and in doing so captured the attention of the international sporting media.

As I listened to the commentators talk about Alex and his style of play, they spoke about the striking similarities between him and former world number one ranked player and fellow Australian Lleyton Hewitt. Both players are tireless on the court with a tenacity and fighting spirit that sees them run down and return balls that other players would give up on. This resemblance is certainly no coincidence with Hewitt having taken on the role of mentor for his younger compatriot over the last couple of years. In a recent article featured in the Guardian newspaper the young player was quoted as saying this about Hewitt;

“I grew up watching him play. Something that always stood out was just his competitive spirit, his willingness not to give up, to fight every ball until the last. That’s what I want to apply to my game. That’s what I’m trying to do every day. He’s obviously helped me with different types of scenarios, tactics. Just being there in my corner. He’s been an incredible help. I couldn’t be more thankful.”

This relationship exemplifies the powerful impact that good mentors can have on an individual’s motivation, performance and achievement.

As humans we often learn best by example and having someone who is a step or two ahead of us in our journey can be a source of wisdom and encouragement as we navigate our own course through life. An effective mentor is also selfless and generous, making time for others with a willingness to listen and support without judgment.

Importantly, a mentor is someone who is prepared to make an investment in the lives of others, not for any personal gain but instead takes their reward from the knowledge that they have helped someone else to achieve success.

At Cedars we recognise the importance that mentoring plays in the professional development of our teachers and also in the academic achievements and wellbeing of our students.

Mentoring relationships form the basis of the ongoing professional learning for our teaching staff where each teacher works toward meeting individual, faculty and whole school goals linked to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Time is set aside regularly for teachers to collaborate, observe and reflect on teaching practice, and engage in professional conversations. It is exciting for us to be part of a learning community where lifelong learning and growth mindsets are valued and modelled by our teachers.

Similarly, our senior students are part of a mentoring program which sees them linked up with a member of staff to guide and support them in working toward their academic and career goals. Our Careers Advisor, Mr Andrew Gear provides individual career counselling, mentoring and support for all our students from Year 10 through to Year 12 to help prepare and equip them to be successful in their life beyond school.

The positive relationships that we have developed with the University of Wollongong and leaders in local industry have also provided valuable mentoring experiences for our students, especially in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Music.

Those of us who have been around for a few decades or more can reflect back on our own life experiences thus far and pinpoint those special people who have helped us along in our journey. Whether the person was a coach, mentor, family member or trusted friend, we recognise that our lives have been enriched all the more through these important relationships.

Similarly, through our formal and informal coaching and mentoring programs at Cedars it is our hope that every teacher and student knows how it feels to have that “someone who is there in my corner” ensuring that we all feel equipped, encouraged and supported as we too achieve amazing victories throughout our lives.