The Magic of a Great Mentor

So a couple of weeks ago I managed to reconnect with one of my favorite people on the planet, a retired international school leader named Tony Simone. Tony was my first Principal at Jakarta International School back in 2003 when I was a young, green, and wide-eyed third grade classroom teacher, and it’s fair to say that without Tony’s guidance I wouldn’t be where I am today. That reconnection not only brought back incredible memories for me, it also gave me the chance to thank him for being so influential throughout my life and career. Tony was the one who started me on the path toward leadership, and the one who gave me the confidence and opportunity to affect change outside of my individual classroom. He was a tremendous mentor of mine and I’m grateful to him in so many ways.

That whole experience got me thinking lately about the role of mentors in our lives, and how magical these relationships can be both personally and professionally. I think it’s fair to say that anyone who has found success in life can attribute at least a part of that success to the role that a mentor has played along their journey. Good mentors are pure magic, and if you’ve had one in the past, or if you have one right now, it’s important that you seek them out and thank them for the positive influence that they’ve had on your life…do that this week!

I am acutely aware of how fortunate I have been in my life to have had more than just a few amazing mentors, both personally and professionally, who have helped me become the person and leader that I am today…my wife, my parents and siblings, a couple of coaches, and over the past 20 years or so a small group of international school leaders who have inspired me beyond measure. These are the people who believed in me, who saw something in me that I hadn’t yet recognized, and who continuously pushed me to always get better. They shared their knowledge with me, they modeled courageous behavior, they constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone, and most importantly, they gave me the honest feedback that I needed to hear in order to grow. The thing about a quality mentor is that they find ways to tell you exactly what you need to hear in a way that inspires you into action. A great mentor not only shares the truth about your strengths and your areas of growth, they listen really well and offer advice in a positive and productive way. A great mentor can also be hard to find so when you find one make sure to hang on and take advantage of the gift.

Early in my life and career great mentors just kind of fell into my lap, and for that I am truly thankful. Over time however, I’ve learned to seek out inspiring mentors and I’ve even taken jobs because of the opportunity to work with leaders who I knew could help me become a better version of myself. Everyone needs a coach or mentor in their life regardless of how successful they’ve become, so if you don’t have that person in your life right now, start actively looking. In most cases, great mentors find ways to make the relationship reciprocal, and are open and eager to learn and get better themselves…some of the best learning that I’ve ever had as a professional came out of a relationship when I was considered the mentor, but really, we were both learning from each other. That’s the beauty of these kinds of relationships…they often go both ways.

Anyway, I’m asking you to take some time this week to think about the quality mentors that you’ve had in your life, and to reach out to them…thank them, tell them how much they’ve meant to you, and then go and be that person for others. We can all be great mentors if we open ourselves up to it, and we can all be agents of positive change for a friend or for a colleague…and if you’re really lucky, you find someone like Tony Simone who will alter the course of your life in a way that you never thought possible. Thank you Tony. Have a wonderful week everyone, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives

– John F. Kennedy

Inspiring Video –

Good Neighbors

Related Articles –

8 Qualities of a Good Mentor

Be One, Get One

Why a Mentor is a Must

A Two-Way Street

We All Need Mentors

TED Talk – Margaret Heffernan

Forget the Pecking Order

TED Talk – Laura Trice

Saying Thank You

Simon Sinek on Mentoring –

Reciprocity Improves Relationships

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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