Every year around this time I have a discussion with my students about what they’ve learned in my class and why I chose such a “bootcamp” approach to teaching. I keep a little check list of skills and content with which they should be armed before they matriculate to the next level of their training or careers. At the conclusion of the semester I tell them I’m proud of their achievements and suggest areas that need work.

Often times people ask why I bother taking this extra step as a teacher and mentor. I’ve taught the content and tested the group on their mastery of the information. End of story, right? Wrong!

The bottom line is that when young people step out into the professional arena, they must demonstrate a mastery of the skills they’ve developed over time, they must test and prove their aptitudes and learn to grapple with their weaknesses through team-building, networking, etc. In doing so, they represent more than just themselves. Their actions and attitudes represent their employer as well as all the people and institutions that have helped them build on their natural skills throughout their career.

The individual’s collective identity — their schools, their community, their heritage — is constantly being assessed and challenged. They should be able to understand and respect this bond, draw strength from it, and inspire others to do the same in the future.

It’s the same level of pride and solidarity we support in our favorite sports teams….

I lend similar advice to mentors, who represent their institution, their profession, and so on. Years from the moment that a mentor provides an opinion, his/her students will remember that contribution to their lives, however great or small it may have been. Make the contribution meaningful by taking the time and energy to review their concerns and research viable solutions.

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