It is common for many of us to mix up the terms mentoring, teaching, and coaching, but understanding the differences between each can revolutionize the way we approach journeys of learning and personal growth. Knowing the difference between these three approaches is not just valuable in the dojo or in martial arts in general; it is valuable in all aspects of life, regardless of if we are the teacher or the learner.
Everyone in our team at the Neutral Ground Grafton Martial Arts Academy is well versed in the key aspects and differences between mentoring, teaching, and coaching for kids, teens, and adults. And while our team employs all three approaches, we do place greater emphasis on being mentors to all of our students for a very good reason. Keep reading to find out why.
The Role of the Teacher
Teaching, in its basic form, involves delivering structured and planned information that allows learners to achieve a specific goal. This is the main approach used in schools and universities where groups of students have to learn a set curriculum that was designed with a goal in mind, rather than being designed based on each individual student’s needs. Teaching takes place in controlled environments where students can practice the mechanics of a certain process through trial and error until they can successfully achieve the set goal.
What sets teaching apart from mentoring and coaching is that communication between the teacher and student only focuses on specific concepts, examples, and exercises relating to the end goal. Although it can help, a teacher doesn’t need to form a close relationship with students, since the relationship is based on a structured step-by-step process on how to achieve a goal. Examples include teaching the mechanics for a specific grappling move or strike, or teaching students how to solve a mathematical equation or to play a musical instrument.
Simply put, teachers show students how to DO something.
The Role of the Coach
As opposed to teaching, coaching takes place in real-world environments where the coach relies on their own experience to help a student adjust and improve their performance based on the unique challenges that they are facing. This means that instead of relying on a designed plan and script like a teacher, a coach needs to use their own experience to improve a student’s ability at overcoming a unique obstacle or achieving a goal in the real world.
A coach’s focus is therefore both goal-oriented like a teacher, but also student-oriented.
Like teaching, communication between a coach and a student focuses on the basic concepts and key points of the process and end goal, but what sets it apart is the need to tailor lessons to the student’s personality and abilities by monitoring their performance, making custom adjustments, and reviewing any unique lessons that were learned in the process. Over time, a relationship needs to be built between the coach and learner where the coach is familiar with the specific capabilities and progress of the student for completing the set activity.
Coaching approaches are common in competitive sports and martial arts where we need experienced advice on how to become better than the competition. Life coaches are also another great example, as they are people who help others move towards specific life goals, such as improving their relationships or aspects of their careers.
Simply put, coaches help individuals get better at something by giving personalized and experienced feedback.
The Role of the Mentor
Unlike the teacher and coach who are focused on achieving student goals in a specific field, a mentor acts as a trusted advisor to a mentee. This is someone who plays a larger, overarching role in a learner’s life by helping them develop a future vision of who they wish to become while helping them to set goals and stay motivated to accomplish that vision. Mentors are also known for providing a guiding hand through the challenges and important decisions that anyone is likely to face in life.
Communication between a mentor and mentee is not planned or scripted like in the case of a teacher, and it is not restricted to just one area or goal as is the case with a coach. A mentor will actively respond to any of the mentee’s needs, and these conversations are normally led by the mentee as they ask questions and seek advice about anything that they are facing at the time. This approach is centered on helping the mentee develop confidence, self-esteem, and to learn interpersonal skills which they can take into any area of life.
Rather than focusing on a specific goal or process, a mentor focuses on and helps to develop an individual’s path to fulfillment by understanding what is important to them as individuals.
A mentor encourages mentees to talk about their personal values, and through those conversations they identify what is important to the mentee and what they may want from life. Mentors then help the mentee to find emotional balance, stability, and meaning in their life by working with them to create a vision of a better version of themselves that is attainable.
Putting It All Together
A teacher can put in the extra work to ensure that all of their students grasp a concept that will be important later on in life. A coach can guide us to become better in sports or in any other competitive environment, or they might teach us how to drive a car on the open road. A mentor, on the other hand, plays an active role in someone’s life and is a trusted advisor who helps shape the bigger picture of who they are going to become, what direction they will travel in, and how they are going to achieve their goals and overcome challenges.
We interact with teachers, mentors, and coaches throughout our lives, and these are the people who play the greatest role in shaping who we are. Our parents, close family and friends, role models, and members of the community can all serve these important roles, and it is something that we at Grafton Martial Arts strive to do for our students every day.