Mentor Respect

Something I have been noticing a lot of lately is students getting on here and proclaiming that they run their own teams and they do everything and they are awesome and they don’t even need mentors. I have given it some serious thought and I finally decided to post about it.

There are two big issues that I want to address about this subject.

For all of the students who believe that you run your own teams: You have no idea what it means to run a team. You can say whatever you want, tell me all of the things you do, all the responsibilities you have, I still don’t believe you. I am talking to you as a former snot nosed kid who thought he knew everything. Until you graduate high school and join a team as an actual “Mentor” you have no place to say you run your team. For every hour you spend screwing pieces of your robot together, 20 hours of important stuff goes on behind your back.

Did you call the travel agency and arrange the travel plans, make sure they got the check, type up the permission slips, make sure everyone turned them in, find the teacher chaperones, order all the parts for the robot, register your team for events, order the t-shirts, get all of the students released from school, arrange transportation to and from the airport? Did you do ALL of those things? Well, someone did.

The bigger issue I have: What would your mentor say if you told them you do all of the work on the team? Do you think it makes your mentors feel respected when you say that? If I heard my kids saying that, I would leave them high and dry. I would take a year off and see how they did without me.

Someone made a simple post about how we should have a competition where the student and mentors roles were reversed and ten students wrote that nothing would change for them if we did that. For those ten people, let me tell you. You obviously have no idea what your mentors do for you!! It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized what my mentors did for me. Honestly, you get more out of it than they do, I don’t know why they stay. They only do it to watch you grow.

Start respecting your mentors more or they might just leave.

On that note I want to think my mentors from my team. They all put in a ton of effort for 2004 and I personally appreciate all the hard work that goes into making our team successful.

I was a college mentor this year but still learned so much and was able to see what my teams mentors go through for us. Our mentors are extraordinary people who are team wouldn’t survive without their dedication to the FIRST program.

Thank you.

As a side note several of our mentors were putting 40+ hours a week for our team without pay on top of 40+ hour jobs. That is impressive. If we aren’t nice they might start charging and I could only afford about 2 hours of robotics if that happened.

I agree fully. Not wanting to sound like a jerk, but some of the things you list, our team does do, but the only reason we do any of it, is because our mentor is amazing enough to allow us to. It’s part of the entire FIRST program. We operate as a business, and therefor more and more jobs are granted to the students. Those that say they run their own teams without help from their mentors should consider the fact that they have the best mentors in the world. The only reason you are doing those things is because your mentor feels you can and is allowing you to learn and grow. I’m sure there are some teams that have “below par” mentors because thats how life works. The mentors job is to teach you to a point where they aren’t needed. There are always things that are over looked by us, since we are still in the learning process, so thats what the mentors are for, to double check things, and teach us when we do mess up. Just because you are doing a job doesn’t mean you are replacing the mentor.
I respect our mentors far beyond any regular school teacher, because not only have they taught us far beyond normal and typical school requirements, they give us the freedom to go even farther, all in the name of learning and maturing; what FIRST is all about. Thats my opinion, and I hope it doesn’t clash with that of the origional poster to much.

Eric, and all of those that are underappreciated-

I think that one of the important things that I learned is that you can’t make high school students appreciate how much goes on behind the scenes. There’s just too much. You just don’t know the vastness of the behind the scenes work until you do it yourself.

It sounds like you’re suffering from something that’s very common: being underappreciated. I know of very few advisors that are truly praised enough for all that they do.

I don’t think I realized until this year that as an advisor or mentor, my job is basically that of a servent. I take my job as an advisor as the chance to make sure that the high school students get the most possible from FIRST by providing them the most opportunities. I’m here to serve them, not to be praised and have a ticker tape parade for my efforts. I’m sure it’s the same for you.

Honestly, you won’t ever be thanked enough. This is something you just need to overcome, and the best way is through the support of other mentors on your team. When you break down because you’re overworked and drastically underpaid, you need someone to encourage you to keep going. You’re not a mentor because you wanted to be thanked every day for all the hard work you do, you choose to volunteer because these high school kids need a chance to succeed in something, and you want to provide that.

Hang in there buddy,


Mentors being respected is a very BIG issue. Mentors do more than many can ever imagine for our teams, even most take time off of work! The few of our kids that can truly appreciate (mostly, i don’t think i will ever fully appreciate, until i become a mentor) had to sit our team down and give them a reality check of what our adults do for us! Many of them were astonished, they don’t realize how much goes on behind the scenes to make everything happen for them. Making mentors feel appreciated is often not very complicated (correct me if i’m wrong) a card, a HUGE hug and thank-you-for-everything-you-do is often enough to put a huge smile on their face, personal things are often best. Pleases and thank-yous are often great for adults. Many students don’t realize this, little things make a big difference. All adults are underappreciated in my opinion, which is wrong, they work thier BUTTS off for us, and many people don’t think twice, well my team certainly does now ( :smiley: ) but any adults have ANY idea of what we can do to make them feel more appreciated? I know i can’t hug my mentors enough.
Again…correct me if i’m wrong about any of this, i’d like to know what other people think

God bless Eric!

Speaking as a former student and current part-time college mentor… If the fact that high-school students don’t bow down and worship you for being a mentor makes you this angry, then perhaps you should consider a different line of work. Most mentors I know are in it because they enjoy working with the kids and helping them learn about engineering. Yes, they don’t know how much time you put in, but bear in mind that they’re putting in a large amount of effort as well, and giving up an awful lot of their free time too. You do realize that they have school and homework and long nights spent building the robot, don’t you?

Also, being a mentor doesn’t instantly qualify you for the respect of the kids. Just like anything else, this respect must be earned. Just spending time around the shop isn’t going to do a lot to get you that respect. You have to be there often, working with the kids, and actually making a connection with them. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and theirs. I know. My team has had more than one “mentor” blow through, spend time working on the bot and bossing the kids around and generally totally missing the point of the endeavour.

When you get right down to it, it’s a team thing. Everyone contributes and no one’s more important than anyone else. Those who can’t understand that need to take a step back and re-evaluate their priorities.

I do realize that the students have school where they have to be at school earlier than I have to wake up to be at my college classes. I do realize that they have homework to do since I was once a middle school teacher. I do realize that the long nights spent building the robot have been cut down to just a few times a year since the adults realized that they did not serve us very well.

(Note that I am speaking as the college student here.)
That said, do you realize that some of us mentors attend the meetings with more regularity than some of our students? Do you realize that some of us give up valuable study time (or, in my case, tv viewing time :wink: to attend the meetings? Do you realize that college professors often schedule projects and exams for the same week or two not because they are callous, but simply because it is what is most convenient for them? Do you realize that some mentors have work on top of all of this?

I am lucky because my students do seem, for the most part, to know a lot of what I do for them. I do hear them say “hello” or “thank you” to me periodically.

I, in turn, am lucky enough to have a great mentor myself due to having worked on the teams I have. I also realize that I am getting a great deal out of mentoring others. Sometimes to the point that I think I am getting more than I am giving!

Keiko, I think that you have the right idea with a card or a hug or simply saying “thank you”. The big thing is to just know the personalities of your mentors. For example, I need to hear “thank you” from time to time to know that I am of value to the team. Another coach on the team can take it or leave it. If you’re unsure, err on the side of doing something that you’ve already mentioned. If you’re referring to showing appreciation at the end of the year, let me know and I’ll let you know what my teams have done over the years.


To clarify:

I am not underappreciated. Mentors in general are. I’ve never had a problem with my kids, they are great!

As a “factotum” these are the things that matter:
a quick thanks from a student, a quick thanks from a parent, a quick thanks from a teacher. Sometimes it comes with a hug, sometimes it’s just in passing, sometimes it’s an email. A returning college student said this year “now I realize why you thought ____ was important.” That meant a lot to me. I could write a lot more, but what it boils down to is a thank you. The rest is gravy.

Speaking from the mentor side, I am not expecting thanks but it is great when it comes. There is no big, tangible payoff being a volunteer in any group but there is a payoff just the same. In Eagle Scout ceremonies there is usually a referenece to “today being payday”. That reference means that as adult volunteers we see a young man reach a goal he set for himself sometimes years earlier. In FIRST, my payoff comes when a student tells me she has picked out a college to attend or he is returning to the team next year. There is payoff in something as little as a student picking up a soldering iron or drill and use it for the first time. Payday occurs for me almost every day, whether it is just that little glimmer of understanding starting to pop through or a parent staring in wonder as their child wields a pop rivet tool like a pro. Big paydays occur at regionals and nationals when pit crew has become so confidant in what they are able to do, mentors can walk away and meet other teams and help where needed. It is that beaming smile when students from a different team come and present a special team award to our students. Payday comes when a mentored student can discuss in technical terms, robot function with members of other teams or when a student asks me to go look at team XXX because they have such a great looking robot.

I believe you don’t really understand what it’s like to be a mentor until you become one yourself. When robotics stops being fun and you’re doing it like a second job. The most important thing is to keep a fun atmosphere between the mentors. They are the support structure you need to keep running when your batteries get low. Kids come and go, but the mentors usually stick with it. Don’t let the kids get the best of you, they’ll thank you a couple years from now. The students may think they can do it themselves, but every mentor knows it’s just the teenager superman effect coming into play.

This looks like a good time to thank my high school mentors, #175 Buzz Robotics, thanks :smiley:

I’d like to say that there are mentor positions that are very difficult, very stressfull, extreemly important

and these are the people who NEVER get any award, there is no joy in the job they do

but if something goes wrong, WhoooBoy! everyone is miserable!

Im talking about the people who arrange the transportation, the meals, and the lodging for the team - FIRST teams tend to go through these people like paper through a shredder - they seldom last more than one year, and very often it ends up being someones mom or dad who takes on this thankless responsibility.

We call ours the ‘Empress of Nourishment and Lodging’ (its been students mom’s for the last two years).

Imagine what it would be like if you are all at your HS on Wed afternoon, all your stuff and suitcases piled up in the parking lot, 40 students and mentors waiting for the bus - and a 20 passenger window van shows up instead of a tourist coach?

or you get to your hotel at 10:30 that night, and the clerk says "the computer shows you have 12 rooms reserved in Cleveland New Mexico, not Cleveland Ohio! :ahh:

(Im not saying these things have happened, I saying these are the kinds of disasters that could happen if these jobs are not done 100% right).

with all the other magic that has to happen for a team to be a part of FIRST - without basic things like FOOD and a good place to sleep at night, your team would be miserable - it takes a lot of work to coordinate all that, and to get the best prices, and to haggle with the school over how many students you MUST stuff into each room

a heartfelt thanks to all the invisible FIRST heros who make it happen behind the scenes!

Why do I mentor? Not because of thanks I get. Not because of the awards I get. Not for finacial gain. Why then you ask? I was a leader in a boys group for many years. I continued plugging along and sometimes asked myself the same questions without any answers. About 10 years after I passed my responsibilities along to a younger, more energetic, in touch guy, I found out. It semed as on queue different kids that had gone through our program came up to me and told me how much I influenced their lives. I was deeply touched. They didn’t have to and I wasn’t looking for it. Sometimes the seeds that we sow take time to grow. By the time some of the seeds start to sprout we are not around. That does mean that they haven’t been nourished and fed.

I find that now I mentor because I know that somewhere, sometime that the time I spend will help one to ? kids change their outlook on life and that the time spent will multiply to the rest of society as these kids grow. Do I need a thanks now? No but yes it is nice. Do I expect that what I do will be noticed? No but when it is I know that the kids are growing. If I have a problem with serving then all I need to do is look back on what others did for me. To sum it all up I will resort to a movie title that says it all - Pay It Forward

We have several mom’s in particular who have been involved since nearly our beginning back in 1996 and do so without complaint. Every year at Nationals they wake up early in the AM to make all the lunches for everyone on the team. I saw them at work early Saturday morning in one of the hotel rooms and there was an assembly like no other. They handle all the travel and lodging for all our trips and deal with chaos that is collecting money from team members (both students and mentors). This year they arranged for the charter bus down to Atlanta. Without them…well I don’t want to think what that might be.

All I really hope to get from being a mentor is that I possibly changed someones life for the better and that someday they will think back and realize what the mentors did and do the same when they grow older. I never really had any kids personally thank me this year either, but I know how kids are and it doesn’t really bother me, I was a kid once to. I put in over 400 hours of my own time, hours and hours away from my own kids, my job suffered from phone and emails arranging hotels, meetings, travel, payments, spent my own money on things and stressed my whole family, not to mention my knees and feet hurt for a week after the championship…but you know what, I’m already itching to go for next year. It’s just something about FIRST. I love it. :slight_smile:

Since this has turned into a “why I am a mentor” thread:

My “payday” is how their eyes light up when of one of the students I work with do something they didn’t think they could - and the occasional bonus of a parent coming up to tell me how much their student valued the help I gave. No one could pay me as much in money as that is worth to me.

Respect is nice, too, but optional. I’d rather be convinced by a student that their way is better!

I couldn’t even comprehend the ammount of work that goes into running a team until I started one this year (They tried to tell me, but it didn’t sink in), especially since I’m the only mentor on our team (of course I don’t regret a minute of it). And it’s really cool because I can go back home to 226, and technically I’m a mentor, but I’m still learning too. I can’t put into words how much respect I have for the teachers and engineers on 226 (well, all teams really, but 226 I see firsthand) for working a full 40 hour week and then spending at least that much time working for the team.


I think, as students, we have a (very very small) idea of the committment our mentors give us. I obviously don’t know first-hand and don’t claim to, but you slowly begin to realize just how much of a time committment a FIRST team really is. Our faculty advisor needs to be with us in the shop every day until 5:00. And the further we get from kick-off, the later that time becomes. I won’t do the math, but that is a LOT of time. This same faculty member is a teacher of mine who just recently organized a class trip- he has been trying to get all the permission and logistics worked out with the district for weeks now, and just yesterday he was able to give out the permission slips.

Our mentors love what they do. The college kids who come back to our school on weekends just love FIRST and really like mentoring their underclassmen friends from previous years. The adults are even more amazing. Not that college students don’t have lives :D, but the adult mentors are taking time away from jobs and family. It’s amazing that they have the patience to sit there and explain to me the most basic things.

From a student point of view, I think mentors do far more than teach us. They give us such an amazing sense of self. Our students and mentors have friendly relationships, and it’s great to know that these professional adults treat you as an equal. It’s great to know that you can have inside jokes with them. (OK, even if they are geeky inside jokes about hammers and quality control. :p) But even more importantly, it’s great to know that the guy helping you wire your robot’s RC or trace the pneumatic circuits is in many cases an expert in his field. Who is not only willing to devote time and energy to teaching you what he knows, but who respects and values you and your opinion. There’s nothing better to boost your ego than to make some comment or suggestion that your mentor greets with, “Oh! Good idea.” That kind of thing has happened to me several times and it feels great.

So yes I respect my mentors, but it’s not in a very direct and forward, “Wow you must do a lot of work for us” kind of way. It’s a much more subtle admiration that probably can’t be expressed in words. (But we do try. :))

i don’t think i can every thank our mentor on my team enough–they do sooo much for us-- get us food, place to stay–teach us everything they know–and always want to help us in any way— they are really cool people— dillard, warren, james, gary jones, mr. higgin, mrs. carey-- well the list goes on and on-- we have many adults-- and well they are gonna be givign us soem of the responsiliblity next year–so the team won’t be run on only students or mentors— pretty evened out–well it’s suppose to sort of work that way-- all well-- but to all the mentors out there you guys are soooo awesome and keep up the good work-- don’t leave FIRST!!!