Nuggets of Wisdom from Mentors Around the World

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 8.24.31 PMThe lessons we learn from our mentors often remain with us long after our mentoring relationships come to a close. They leave us with priceless nuggets of wisdom that continue to guide our actions and shape the person we are today.

I believe every educator has received some piece of advice that has helped in developing skills, improving performance, or maximizing one’s potential in order to become the person they want to be.

The heart of this post will be found in the comment section allowing for co-authors all around the world to share in one space, meaningful words of wisdom that could potentially impact us all.

Please take a moment to share a remarkable “nugget of wisdom” related to any aspect of education and become a “Connected Co-writer.”

Stay connected, Shawn


  1. sblankenship said:

    My mentor would always tell me, “Excellence doesn’t happen by accident. There are no 9 to 5 jobs in education…. only opportunities to do something great!”

    Late at night when I leave my office, these very words come to mind and I can’t help but smile.

    January 28, 2014
    • Chris Smeaton said:

      When I think of my mentors, they listened more than talked and asked questions more often than gave answers. It sounds simple but honestly it has always caused me to be more reflective in what I do.

      January 30, 2014
  2. Stacie said:

    My mentor shared the value in differentiation. No single subject. She modeled what it could look like for my kiddos:)

    January 28, 2014
  3. Jeremy Dunn said:

    I’m an assistant football coach. My head football coach who I consider a mentor quoted Mike Leach once and it stuck with me. Leach wrote in his book, “You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen”. I believe the rule applies in my classroom as well. Anything that happens in my classroom is a direct result of a practice I allow or a skill/behavior that I model or teach. It’s easy to hide behind student misbehavior or apathy, but ultimately I set the standard and the tone. That is both cautionary and empowering.

    January 28, 2014
  4. You’ve proposed a great share, Shawn. Once long ago a leader challenged me by questioning a practice. I laughed it off at first and said, “That’s me!” And she responded w/support, “Not anymore.” After the initial frustration left, I thought about her remark, and realized that I valued her change for me–it was a change that would better my work. I realized that the old practice didn’t have to be me, and when we put our minds to something valuable we can change. I changed, and that created important growth with regard to my work. The leader’s kind support and acceptance, rather than punitive action, also supported this change.

    January 28, 2014
  5. “Students don’t care what we know, they care of if we care!” Hands down best advice I have ever received! It’s all about relationships, taking time to be present, to acknowledge, listen, appreciate and celebrate each and every student in your classroom!

    January 28, 2014
  6. Chris Wejr said:

    Hey Shawn, I have had (and continue to have) a number of mentors so it is hard to pick one… Here are some statements made by different people that have affected me in a number of different ways:

    “Leadership and management are the yin and yang of school administration. Management can build the house; leadership can make it a home.”

    “The tone we use can alienate those who we are trying to reach. Meet people where they are and try to gently nudge them to the next step of change.”

    “Lead with an ethic of care.”

    “Listen with your eyes”

    January 28, 2014
  7. Tim said:

    Take care to apply to only the right jobs. The wrong job can kill your career.

    January 28, 2014
  8. Stephen Boyd said:

    The Chinese have a saying, “One mentor is worth more than a thousand books.” With that said, one of the most valuable lessons a mentor taught me was, “Treat others the way you want to be treated, but don’t let them railroad you along the way.”

    January 28, 2014
  9. “When faced with a choice, ALWAYS take the path that results in the most options.”

    January 28, 2014
  10. Shelby said:

    When visiting with a mentor years ago about my desire to become an administrator, he reminded me, “It’s all about the people. Working on curriculum is great, and the big picture is energizing. But in the end, you will spend most of your time on the individuals.”

    January 28, 2014
  11. Kaarin said:

    Take time to deeply understand what you value because all of your decisions will come from there. Know that others values will be different and respect that. What people DO really shows their values, not what they SAY, so be honest with yourself. My mentor used to say, “Show me your calendar and your checkbook, and I will tell you what you value.”

    January 28, 2014
  12. Shira Leibowitz said:

    “What is possible?” my mentor keeps asking, encouraging me to build on success and dream even bigger.

    January 28, 2014
  13. Ron said:

    My mentors continue to cause me to reflect on my own practice and not underestimate the value of self-reflection.

    January 28, 2014
  14. Todd Whitaker (Tweet) said:

    Dr. Todd Whitaker shares a “nugget” through a tweet that reads,

    @Blankenship_S U don’t have to prove who’s in charge, everybody knows who’s in charge. More u try 2 prove it more others try 2 prove u wrong

    Outstanding advice!

    January 28, 2014
  15. Pernille Ripp said:

    I have had many mentors but they all share a common thread; passion and compassion, even if that sometimes means to eat a little crow and get on with a situation.

    January 29, 2014
  16. Bettina Kates said:

    My mentor taught me that if you always do what is best for kids you won’t be loved 100% of the time by everyone. If you think you will be loved by everyone there is a difficult journey ahead and you are probably not leading in the best interest of kids.

    January 29, 2014
  17. Peter DeWitt said:

    Hi Shawn,
    Great blog, and I appreciate the comments everyone has shared. My mentor, Jim Butterworth made a simple yet difficult request. He always asked us to “go deeper,” and would often ask if we went “deep enough.” Those words stayed with me as I entered each classroom during a walkthrough, when I completed formal and informal observations, or when I connected with students. Day by day I ask myself if I have gone deep enough in my learning, relationships and career.

    January 29, 2014
  18. I will always remember this piece of advice from a mentor, “Create a circle of trust as that will be your most precious asset as you begin and continue your career in leadership.”

    January 29, 2014
  19. Melissa said:

    When I moved from being a special education teacher to an administrator, my mentor always told me to not take things personally. People will not always agree with your initiatives and may talk bad about you, but as administrators, we cannot take things personally. If we believe we are doing extraordinary things for kids, then we must believe in ourselves.

    January 29, 2014
  20. John Wink said:

    My 2 leadership mentors embraced my deep desire to experiment with new ways of doing things. Trial and failure were not only accepted but celebrated. Each time I failed they helped me dig deeper into the details to find the successes necessary to improve.

    January 29, 2014
  21. Heidi Anderson, my mentor teacher during student teaching, taught me to reflect on absolutely everything I did. And not just reflect, but pick out the three best things from the lesson as well as two things to improve on. I didn’t move on from those two improvement pieces until I felt good about them. I still think about that advice every single day.

    January 30, 2014
  22. Scott McLeod said:

    “Classroom management stems from good instruction.”

    Should be framed on every administrator’s (and teacher’s) wall!

    January 30, 2014
  23. Lisa M Dabbs said:

    I was blessed to have two mentors. As a new teacher, my principal Mr. Meyers was a good mentor. Gave me opportunities to serve as a quasi admin while I was working on my credential. The second mentor Dr. Anita Q was there to dry my tears. Told me kindly but firmly “If you want to be an admin, learn to put on your breastplate of protection and don’t take things personally.” She was so right!

    January 30, 2014
  24. Lisa Nielsen said:

    Great topic. I have many. I’ll share this:

    Lucy Calkins
    What I hear her saying: It is important to develop purposes for authentic writing/reading and model this in our own practice. It is important for teachers and students to know they are experts and help them find their motivation to read and write for authentic reasons. How are we publishing and celebrating our work?

    Some others are here

    January 30, 2014
  25. Derek McCoy said:

    I wouldn’t be anywhere without my mentors. They have pushed and supported me over the years and I am still benefiting from their advice.
    Dr Sandra DeShazier – ‘Inspect what you expect’ – This set me on my path and drive to have a heavy focus on instructional supervision
    Bill Hovious – ‘If you’re doing something in your school that isn’t benefiting kids, you’re wasting your time’ – This has helped me have change conversations with teachers and staff about what we are doing in our schools
    Dave Cassady – ‘Told does not mean taught’

    January 30, 2014
  26. Excellent post and terrific advice from people I respect in the field of education. I’d like to share two pieces of advice I’ve really valued and found useful from my mentors.

    1. Treat every child like they are your own, and make all your decisions on that premise. I try to live by this, believing that every child craves love, attention, compassion, discipline, respect and trust.

    2. Find ways to say yes – most often it is human instinct, especially in the administrative world, to balk at requests. If your initial premise is yes, you will find that people work harder WITH you to find a solution to make it happen.

    January 30, 2014
  27. When I first started the journey to becoming a connected educator I was plagued with feelings of inadequacy. How could I ever be or do the things the educators I was connecting with were able to do? Advice from mentors like Doug Johnson, Gwyneth Jones and others was all the same; NEVER give up- Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle (

    I also learned from my PLN, not from words but actions, to connect, share, collaborate & support others along the journey. We are all in this together.

    January 31, 2014
  28. Sue Dunlop said:

    Great idea for a post! I love reading what resonates for people. I, too, have had the privilege of talented mentors. I have many ideas. Here are two:

    “Most decisions don’t need to be made immediately. Take some time and reflect.”

    “What you ignore, you permit. What you permit, you condone.”

    January 31, 2014
  29. Kenny Kaye Hudson said:

    One of the best things I have heard in a while……don’t focus so much on WHAT you are doing. Spend your energy on the WHY!

    February 1, 2014
  30. Scott Shaw said:

    Thanks for providing this springboard Shawn.

    The common threads that permeate so many of the “nuggets” of advice my many mentors have shared are learning is messy, building relationships is priority, and focusing on purpose is essential. The following is not my phrase, but I repeat it daily: Fail Up!

    February 1, 2014
  31. Lyn Hilt said:

    I remember thinking my mentor aimlessly wandered the halls and just popped into classrooms because he had nothing better to do. Now i know that he just needed to escape the drudgery of the principal’s office and spend important time in classrooms with teachers and kids. He was so visible and always upbeat and positive. And one time he opened his briefcase and a whole bunch of mints fell out, and I thought it was the greatest thing ever, and he is the reason I became a principal.

    February 5, 2014
  32. Michael McNeff said:

    I heard this about a year ago from a superintendent that I respect. It makes sense. “If you’re not taking flak, you aren’t on target.”

    February 7, 2014
  33. Monica Ready said:

    Nugget from a mentor: “Kids are waiting.” Always motivates me to have tough conversations.

    February 8, 2014
  34. Don Miller said:

    My father was my first teacher and he would always tell me to “be a leader and not a follower”. Being a leader can often be lonely, scary and dangerous, because you never know where you might be heading and you cannot guaruntee that anyone will follow. However, if you have done your homework and you are sure of the WHY behind what you are doing then you cannot wait for someone else. You must trust in yourself and believe what you are doing and move forward with confidence, strength and courage. As they say courage is not the absense of fear, it is being afraid and moving forward anyhow. In the end if everything I do is focused on helping my students and my children succeed, then no matter what the outcome I can always hold my head high and be proud of what I have done and who I am as a leader and a father.

    February 10, 2014
  35. Jethro jones said:

    A consultant told me, “Don’t ever blame the district for why you say no to something.” Own your No’s and Yes’s.

    June 1, 2014
  36. Barry L. Davis said:

    I have often shared this one with my fellow administrators and faculty. “When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.” It can relate to many issues, and those suffering never deserve it.

    June 2, 2014
  37. Peter Burnside said:

    “Step 1 in designing a master schedule: Get your story straight!”

    This comes from Richard Dewey who teachers the master(ful) scheduling course at The University of Minnesota. He urges us to be clear about what the priorities are before allocating resources.

    June 2, 2014
  38. Someone very clever once told me to use this question when dealing with really tough situations – Do you want me to be really polite or really honest? As they said and as I agree, no-one yet has asked for politeness. It opens the situation to its reality and saves a whole lot of pussy-footing around the real issue. Thanks Nigel Latta…

    June 3, 2014

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