In this day and age, we are often blinded as students by the all too common “overly attached girlfriend” meme. Is this a fun way to poke at social norms and exaggerated relationship problems? Sure. In all of its entirety, the situation may seem innocent from a variety of perspectives. Let’s take a step back though. What happens if this relationship is not between two students, but instead between a student and their mentor? In instances such as this, an invisible (but immense) barrier exists.
Mentors present themselves in all shapes and sizes. From “bigs and littles” to buddy systems, this dynamic scenario reaches far and wide in the realm of the modern day educational system. Teachers, administrators, and students alike know the importance of supplemental instruction in classes many deem difficult. Whether it be your inability to comprehend grammatical rules in another language or correctly derive equations in calculus, chances are, tutors will also be available to you. This is where a problem may arise. Picture this scene.
Two students. An age difference of one or two years. Private instruction, mentoring, and advisement in general. Innocent? Maybe. In reality though, this may be the prime breeding ground in which the overly attachment student will start to “appreciate” their tutor a little too much. A naive individual will claim this scenario is impossible, but this is truly a possible script. This phenomenon is indeed common within high schools throughout the nation. Let’s dive right into the various dynamics of this relationship.
Attachment. A student may find solace in their mentee’s ability to comfort the individual. After a while, the relationship between the two people may or may not inevitably grow in terms of both professional and personal development. What does this mean? This means that the all too common “clingy” attitude begins to blossom, emerge, and characteristically hinder the relationship between the two.
Friendship. There are certain boundaries one must keep in mind when developing a certain kind of relationship with a mentor. Mentee’s and mentors alike must remember to keep it strictly professional in a variety of cases in order to prevent any missteps that may occur if an inappropriate friendship were to occur. If she teaches you calculus on the daily, then it is probably not appropriate to hang out at a party on a Friday night.
Personal Space. This is an important one! Remember this whenever you two are alone. Whether it be learning about the mysteries of human physiology all the way to the standard deviation of a set of points, boredom can be detrimental to the relationship between a mentor and the mentee. Both of these cause a risky popping of the personal space “bubble.” The source of the needle ranges from numerous possibilities including asking each other thought-provoking life questions.
Human Nature. Don’t be too hard on yourself! If you begin to find yourself in a bind, remember that it is completely normal to have feelings for another human being. Remember that it isn’t the end of the world. Remember that you don’t have to act on those feelings. Remember to always evaluate the relationship characteristic you share between one another and the importance of keeping it professional.
The mentor-mentee relationship is one which has a delicate past. All too often the perfection and benefit of a mentor is destroyed with the addition of unnecessary and inappropriate relationships. Looking at the larger picture, there are tons of fish in the ocean. If he or she is the one, then you probably should stop considering them your mentor. The two dynamics are entirely different and compromising at the same time. Check out this OP-Ed article on relationships for more in-depth coverage on the topic. Overall, consider your mentor as someone you should learn from. Someone who will propel you to high levels of academic honor and intelligence.