A great mentor is above all a good role model.  Reveal the tricks of your trade – how to be a teacher, a researcher, or whatever it is you’re great at – through modeling. The best mentors also

  • show interest in mentee’s personal development
  • help mentees grow academically through constructive feedback
  • assist with goal-setting and celebrate achievements with mentees

It takes time to be a meaningful mentor. Remember that empathy is a key element to being a great listener and communicator. Actively encouraging an atmosphere of trust will help you work through potential challenges.  In the end, a mentor builds confidence and encourages you to become self-sufficient.


  1. Take a moment to consider what expectations you might have for your mentoring role.
  2. Meet with your mentee and get a feel for their expectations of this relationship.
  3. Find out more about their teaching experience and set appropriate goals for the quarter.
  4. Design a communication plan: How will you set meeting times?  How will you provide feedback and how often?  Set boundaries as appropriate.
  5. Periodically check in with your mentee to make sure this plan is working. Modify it as needed.


Great mentors are great listeners. Empathetic questioning paired with effective listening is key to a fruitful mentoring experience.  A subtle difference in the way you phrase a question or comment can mean the difference between opening up a conversation and totally shutting one down.

Listen first. Suggest second. Take every opportunity to include the TA in solution making.  If a TA presents a challenge they experienced during section, ask, “How have you tried to change that?”  The more involved TAs are in the process, the more fully committed they will be to making that change.

Show you’re listening. Some behaviors communicate serious listening.

  • Non-verbal behavior matters. Keep eye contact, smile, and nod. Oh, and stop tapping your foot…
  • Focus your comments to whatever the mentee has just said.
  • Use probing questions. (“Why do you think that is?”)
  • Validate speaker’s ideas and check for clarity through rephrasing. (“If I understand correctly, you’re saying that…”)
  • Jointly come up with a broad range of suggestions.

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