Along with our Student Spotlight, The Temple of Witchcraft felt that our Mystery School mentors deserved equal time so The Temple Bell is proud to announce our new Mentor Spotlight! To open our new series here at The Bell we find it quite fitting that the first mentor to be highlighted is one of the three founders of the Temple: Gemini Lead Minister Steve Kenson.
Student Erica Baron tells us with Steve as her mentor she “feels supported and cared for in her mentoring relationship.” She explains that “several times he has pointed out things about myself and my practice that I have missed, and has helped me go deeper and to come to more self-awareness. He has been wonderful at answering my questions and being there when things are challenging for me.”
Justin Gaudet, another student, adds that Steve gives “amazing advice” and asks “thought provoking questions. He has this remarkable ability to push me to be the best Witch that I can be, and he is also very understanding when I am at my limit and my mind cannot handle any more…He has facilitated this journey we are taking together with such grace and wisdom. His knowledge and expertise as well as his wit and humor have been so greatly appreciated…I am deeply blessed to be working with such an amazing compassionate person.”
Please share with us Steve’s take on the mentoring process for the Temple’s Mystery School.
How long have you been a mentor?
I started working with the Mystery School’s mentor program a couple of years ago, as they were looking for ministerial members of the Temple to serve as mentors along with higher level students (Witchcraft III and above), who are required to do some mentoring as part of their education. I can certainly see why, since mentoring students in the Mystery School is an education unto itself! Having to explain or answer questions about aspects of our practice and theology provides a whole new perspective.
How do you approach mentoring? Your philosophy?
I tend towards a “light touch” – In my opinion, a mentor primarily serves as a sounding-board and a source of illumination. My job is to field questions my students might have, either about the specific class material or in general, and to occasionally draw their attention to things they might otherwise not notice, providing that same new perspective that answering their questions helps to provide me. I also try to encourage students, since the online class experience can be a bit isolated compared to getting together for an in-person class. I think it’s good for them to know that someone is reading their written work and responding to it, other than just checking off that they’ve done the required assignments.
How do you know if you’ve been a successful mentor?
Well, I suppose if your students nominate you for the honor of this spotlight, that’s an indicator! In all seriousness, so long as my students are feeling supported and better able to tackle the work of the Mystery School, I feel that I’m doing my job as a mentor. I try to practice non-attachment in relation to students’ performance. I can encourage, remind, and field questions but, ultimately, their experience with the class is up to them and what they choose to put into it. So long as I give them every opportunity to give it their all, I feel that I’ve done well.
What advice would you give a new mentor?
First, that you don’t have to know it all. The process of mentoring will certainly teach and challenge you just as it teaches and challenges your students. “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” is an acceptable answer, provided that you’re willing to find out more, to reach for a better answer.
Second, realize that you’re not the teacher, although you may end up teaching a thing or two. Your job is to support the students by answering questions and using your experience and insight to gently direct them towards (or around) things they might not otherwise notice, while respecting the role of the instructor. Don’t add lessons or homework to your students’ work-load; help them deal with the work they have in front of them.
Lastly, if you’re a ministerial member of the Temple (a prior graduate of the Seminary program) and you haven’t been involved in the mentoring program, please consider it! It’s a rewarding experience, a great way to connect with the greater Temple community, and I promise it will be an education and deepening of your understanding for you just as much as the students you mentor.