men·tor (-ter) noun
1. A wise and trusted counsellor or teacher
2. (in Homer’s The Odyssey) A loyal advisor of Odysseus entrusted with the care and education of his son Telemachus
The word “mentor” comes from the Indo-European root men, meaning “to think”. The word is generally accepted as having its roots in Greek Mythology, which may be appropriate because it probably meant “advisor” in Greek.
The word “mentor” is a good example of the way in which great works of literature live on through the evolution of language. In Homer’s great epic The Odyssey, Odysseus leaves his trusted friend Mentor in charge of his household during his absence. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, disguises herself as Mentor to guide Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, on a journey to find his father. On this journey Telemachus is able to learn, mature and find his own identity.
Over the centuries, many writers have used the Mentor character in Greek mythology to portray the “guide” or “teacher”. In 1669, François Fénelon, who was appointed by King Louis XIV as tutor of his grandson, wrote the very popular epic of the time, Les Aventures de Télémaque. The story is an obvious imitation of Homer’s Odyssey, but the role of Mentor (the goddess Minerva) as a teacher is more well-defined. The lessons taught by Fénelon’s Mentor are more educational than those taught by Homer’s Mentor. The emphasis is on Mentor the “teacher” and Télémaque the “student”.
Many other stories and myths exist about the ancient origins of the word mentor. These are two other stories:
In ancient Africa , prior to the time of the Greek and Roman invasions, when a child was born, each village shared the responsibility for raising and educating the child to the customs and traditions associated with that village. While the child had contact with every member of the village, there was always one older child (not a family member) who would be assigned the responsibility to ask questions and listen carefully to the younger child. In Swahili (one of the oldest languages on our planet), this questioning person was called, “Habari gani menta” which, in English, means, the person who asks “What’s happening?”
La Grotte de Niaux is a prehistoric cave located high in the Pyrenees in southern France . After walking through the silent and womb-like stillness, a visitor emerges into a large, domed space filled with ceiling paintings, estimated to have been created somewhere between 12,000 and 9,000 BC. While most of the paintings depict horses and bison, there is one theme that is repeated in many places. This painting shows a group of men taking children to what at that time was considered the edge or end of their physical world. The men exhort the children to be brave and expand their reach beyond the borders of the present world. Some believe that the origin of the term “mentor” comes from what has been loosely translated in these ancient depictions as “men” taking children on a “tour.”
The modern definition of the word mentor is wise counsellor.
The staff at Mentor College are devoted to providing the students with the educational support and encouragement to help them succeed. They are teachers, counsellors and friends. Mentor students, past and present, show incredible talents, confidence and ambition.
At Mentor College the journey for students is much like that of Telemachus. They are on a journey to learn, mature and develop their own identities and we are here to help guide them in the right direction.