Reflections on Mentorship at St. Austin’s Academy: A Letter to All the Students

Dear Students,

The summer vacation has just ended with several memories from the various events and activities that we took part in will linger on our memories for a while. I am sure that the first days of school will sometimes be overshadowed by daydreams and slumber knocking us out in the lessons before we get back on track fully. However, I wish to inform you that the teachers at SAA have been around preparing not only for the new term but also for the whole academic year. They got you covered!

Today, the 25th of August 2023, is special and sad in my case at the same time. Special, because my mother; my chief mentor, who retired from teaching a year ago, after 39 years of service is celebrating her 61st birthday. Sad, because one of my solid mentors at grade 7 and 8(when I was 13 and 14 years old) was laid to rest after battle with illness. I converge at Mentorship which at a tender age, we never understood its value and I know you underestimate it too. Friends, I walked away from these special women not once, not twice, but on a number of occasions before I could fully comprehend their feelings and concerns for me. When I at last, did, I viewed life from a different, clearer lens and it is one of the reasons that I am your teacher at SAA today. I am glad that someone believed and never gave up on me.

In nostalgia, I remember the dining table at our home where all the talk went down regularly and every time my mother asked me to say something at the end of her talk,  what we called lectures, as teenagers, my utterance was short, “ I am sorry mama and I promise to change “.  

That short sentence was the magical spell that deflated my mother and brought total disarmament. As a young person, you sometimes do not understand the power of utterance, so please, if you can, make effort to speak positively about yourself at SAA, at home and elsewhere, and accept to make effort to change positively.

My dear students, you may call it, “what goes around comes around;” but, at the age of 33 and 34, two decades down the road, a replica of the same situation was happening to me, right here, at SAA!

A girl of fourteen, one of my good friends now, almost done with her undergraduate degree and keeps regular correspondence with me was walking away from me and answering me back in defiance whenever a serious talk about behaviour arose. In the same spirit and in acknowledgment of what I was doing at that age too, I never tired; but, kept on urging her to change her ways and view about school. When she does write to me now and I quote, “Thank you Miss for not giving up on me.

You made me turn around when I was heading to the wrong direction. Forever grateful to you my teacher of English and Literature and my class teacher that I will always remember. The A* are in my certificate but they belong to you…” Don’t we respect education and mentorship? It gives us a chance to transform into the better versions of ourselves.

Are you still reading on? I have a secret to share. Teachers are human beings and with a past too: they also had struggles, insecurities, and fears just as you do at this age.

And this includes our very own heroes here at SAA. No one in life is without blemish. Or is flawless. Nor perfect. We would term that ‘holier than thou’ and in Literature we would characterize it ‘hypocritical.’ We are your teachers; we are products of goodwill and life has given us second and even more chances. We empathize with you- our students- and are willing to travel the journey of learning with you: through thick and thin.

As you begin your new year and new term, at SAA, let us be prepared and positive.

Make use of every opportunity to become a better person. Time and tide wait for no man. Please do not be the proverbial grasshopper who played and whiled time away on his fiddle, singing and dancing in summer and autumn while the industrious ant stocked food-up for winter up the hill. When the winter came, the wind gave a cold, icy chill, snow fell, the grasshopper was cold, hungry, and embarrassed and sought refuge at the ants.

The beauty is, he learnt a great lesson that: ‘Work comes first; then, there will be time to play!’ Begin your term strongly and get your priorities right with the assurance that your teachers and mentors at SAA are in solidarity with you. If you can conquer yourself; – you- definitely, will conquer the world.

‘Aluta Continua’: the struggle continues!

Your Mentor and Tutor,

Ms. Josephine Barno.

1 Comment

  • This is real life experience which if taken seriously by learners would add value to mentorship to our young generation

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